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Milt Northrop’s Bowling: Top local bowlers soon will have their own tour

Nature abhors a vacuum. However, a vacuum that has existed on the Western New York bowling scene for too long, is about to be filled this season.

It’s the new Greater Buffalo Bowlers Tour, which will begin a seven-event schedule on Feb. 21 at Broadway Sports Center.

The organizer is Charlie Zmozynski, one of the three bowling brothers from Depew. For almost a year, Zmozynski has been exploring the idea of a local tour for avid local bowlers looking for top competition without having to travel out of the area, out of the state or even out of the country.

Zmozynski found that Buffalo bowlers had grown weary of having to travel to Rochester, the Finger Lakes and Canada for the closest scratch tournaments. The nearest event is usually the popular Mount Morris Tournament nearly two hours away.

Zmozynski’s research and inquiries told him the interest here is great is enough for a Greater Buffalo Tour to be successful.

“I couldn’t believe the interest I got,” said Zmozynski, 28, a corrections officer at the Wende Corrections Facility in Alden.

Among those Zmozynski sought out were organizers of similar tours in Canada, Pennsylvania and Texas. And there were a lot of conversations with accomplished local bowlers. He also gathered helpful information from Greater Buffalo Hall of Famer and former Obenauer Masters winner Mike Faliero, the manager at Broadway, Jon Kroll of the Edge as well as his brothers Peter and Richard.

“In Texas they have a huge tour. They average about 400 bowlers a tournament,” Zmozynski said. “They started out with 45 the first week.”

Input and support came from many sources.

“I went to league bowlers between my travel league and Friday night league at Broadway,” Zmozynski said.”The thing I got back is a lot of them love bowling but are not willing to travel. Some said they were interested in going out and giving it a shot but can’t afford to do the PBA regionals. If you’re not a member it costs $300-500 to enter.”

What Zmozynski ended up with is a six-stop regular tournament tour with a Tournament of Champions to wrap up the season. Tournament of Champions entrants will involve the winners of the six previous events plus the top 10 points leaders in a scoring system the rewards a maximum eight points for a winning a tournament and a single point each time a bowler participate in an event. If there is a repeat winner or two, it will open another slot from the points list.

There will be two four-game qualifying squads at each event, the first at 10 a.m. and the second at 1 p.m. Following the B Squad, the top 16 bowlers will engage in single elimination match play. One match-play berth is reserved for the top senior/female scorer in qualifying. The top four scorers in A Squad are guaranteed a match-play berth. The format roughly follows the PBA Regional Tour.

Match play will be held across four different pairs.

There will be a dress code which will give the competition a professional look and the modified house shot or Sport Bowling shot will be used.

Zmozynski thinks the opportunity for youth bowlers to get a taste of good competition under challenging lane conditions can only enhance their chances for success in school and college bowling.

“We are SMART approved,” Zmozynski pointed out. SMART pools scholarship money amateur youth bowlers accumulate for future use in paying for college tuition.

The Greater Buffalo Tour will be for amateurs. PBA or PWBA Tour members are not eligible and bowlers who have won on the pro tours in the last 10 years are not eligible.

“Nothing personal. The local pros have been very understanding,” Zmozynski said. “They understand we are trying to create something to encourage people to come out and bowl in good competition.”

Zmozynski sought sponsorship for the tour and has received some support from JAR Trophies in Cheektowaga, Brunswick Corp. through its representatives Chuck Gardner, Jordan Vanover and Nick Smith, and National Bowling Store of North Tonawanda and Airport Lanes.

Entry fee for each tournament is $50. First place will be a $1,000 guaranteed if there is a minimum of 50 entries. Also there is a $15 tour membership fee which will be directed toward guaranteed $600 prize for the Tournament of Champions.

It was decided that Sunday was the best day to hold the tournament. Lanes availability was one consideration. Also, it was decided not to try to compete with Bills games and NFL football.

Here is the Tour schedule after the opening event:

March 6 - at The Edge; 20, at Abbott Lanes.

April 3, South Buffalo Bowling Center (formerly Recckios); 17, Kenmore Lanes.

May 1, Island Lanes; 8, Tournament of Champions, Brad Angelo Lanes, lockport.

Belmonte on top

Jason Belmonte of Australia won his third consecutive GEICO Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year award, announced on Wednesday. In a very close vote, Belmonte edged Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga by receiving 47.36 percent of the vote cast by fellow PBA members and members of the bowling news media. Ciminelli received 43.22 percent. Parker Bohn III was a distant third with 2.99 percent.

Belmonte won a third straight USBC Masters and the Tournament of Champions for the second year in a row. He joined Walter Ray Williams, Jr., Mark Roth and Earl Anthony as three-time winners of the Schenkel Award.

Jesper Svensson of Sweden won the Harry Golden Rookie of the Year, Josh Blanchard will receive the Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award and Ed Godbout was selected for the Tony Reyes/PBA Community Service Award.

Pin chasers

• The Greater Buffalo USBC Association still is accepting for its 2016 Hall of Fame class. Visit the gbusbc website or call 668-4222 for information. The Hall of Fame enshrinement dinner is scheduled for Nov. 26.

• John Szcerbinski ended up fourth in the Japan Cup which wound up 10 days ago in Tokyo. The fourth qualifier, Szczerbinski, was eliminated in the second stepladder final match by defending champion Chris Barnes, 245-201. The North Tonawanda bowler collected $8,100 for finishing fourth. Amleto Monacelli, the veteran pro from Venezuela, won the $40,000 top prize after he defeated Barnes, 255-233, in the final match. Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga earned $2,160 for her 18th place finish while Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga took home $2,120 for finishing 19th. The finals of the Japan Cup will be shown on ESPN at 1 p.m. on Jan. 31.