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Milt Northrop’s Bowling: Why the Tri-City Masters is expanding its field

A new wrinkle designed to increase participation has been added to the Tri-City Masters Championship next weekend at Classic Lanes in the Town of Tonawanda. The Tri-City, one of the highlight events of the Western New York bowling season, will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

The tournament, sponsored by the Tonawandas, Niagara Falls and Lockport USBC asssociations, has opened its entry to bowlers who compete outside those three organizations. It used to be restricted to bowlers who participated in leagues in the three associations.

“If you averaged 165 or better and you’re not a PBA or WPBA member or haven’t won in the last 10 years, you now can bowl in it,” said Gary Kinyon of Lockport, one of the co-chairmen for this year’s tournament. “We’ve done it to try and increase entries. We were getting fewer and fewer ones.”

Whether the new policy is paying off isn’t certain right now. Past experience is that 70 percent of the Tri-City entries come in the last five days before the closing date. Closing date this year is next Thursday.

“Bowlers are just wait-to-the-last-minute type of people,” Kinyon said.

Such factors as uncertainty about work schedules causes potential entrants to wait until the last minute to commit.

Jason Ciliberto of Gasport was the 2015 winner. Brandon Digati of Grand Island was the runner-up. Keith Oswald led the qualifier. All three are new names on the list of Tri-City notables.

Kinyon, himself, has won the tournament three times (2000, 2011 and 2012), been runner-up three times and the top qualifier three times.

Now 65 and retired from Catholic Health Systems, Kinyon will be entered again this year. Still a five-nights-a-week bowler, he says:

“In the last week I bowled 694, 741 and 734. I feel I’m peaking at the right time.”

Kinyon has made some basic changes in his game and feels they have “taken time to evolve.” He shortened his span and grip on the ball and stands straighter. Now he’s trying to develop consistency.

“Bowling is all about consistency, doing the same things each time.”

PBA Tour pro Jack Jurek won the first four Tri-City Masters (1992-95) and added a fifth in 1998. Mike Hanes, a former pro and another veteran campaigner, has won only one Tri-City, but he’s been runner-up four times in the last six years.

Kinyon said he’s looking forward to competing again with Hanes, whom he twice has defeated in the Tri-City final.

Kinyon’s brother Carl was top qualifier for the Tri-City once and, like Gary, a past runner-up in the Obenauer Masters. Gary’s son, Dan, also led the qualifying for the Tri-City in 2011 and his daughter Jennifer coaches the women’s team at Daemen College.

The Tri-City will be bowled on a USBC Open Team Championship oil pattern for the eighth year in a row.

“It’s a challenging shot but not impossible,” Kinyon said. “We did a survey after last year’s tournament and asked if bowlers would prefer the USBC shot or something easier. By 44-8 they said they wanted the more challenging shot. We found that quite interesting.”

The change to the USBC shot was made for the 2009 tournament. “Before that the lanes decided what pattern to put out. We were getting such high scores the guys were complaining about it,” Kinyon said. “Now we tell them what we want them to put out.”

The year before the USBC pattern was used, the top qualifier shot a plus-105 (over 200 average) for the six games. For the next six years the top qualifier scores ranged from plus-28 to minus-46. Last year it soared to plus-127, but tournament officials are expecting lower scores again this year.

Entry fee for the Tri-City is $100. Late entry is $125.

Besides an overall champion, a winner for each of the three associations will be determined and win $300. A bowler would have to bowl a minimum of 21 games in a member association to be eligible. Last year, Ciliberto was the Lockport winner, Digati the Tonawandas winner and Stephano Cirrito the Niagara Falls winner. The overall champion collected $850.

The Tri-City used to be a two-weekend event. Now it’s completed over two days in one weekend. Qualifying will be next Saturday, with match play on Sunday.

Dolan is ‘Champ’

Left-hander Tony Dolan, the 2015 George A. Obenauer Masters winner, is the reigning champion heading into the Week Six showing of “Beat the Champ” on WBBZ-TV at 4 pm. Saturday and 11 p.m. Sunday.

In last week’s show, returning champion Greg Voytovich of Cheektowaga defeated Mike Nowak of Lancaster, 216-189, but was unseated by Dolan, 235-180. Dolan went on to defeat Joe Rubrecht of Kenmore, 214-181.

This week, Dolan leads a field of challengers that includes Shawn Bender of Tonawanda, Mike Mallwitz of Grand Island and Brandon Korczykowski of East Amherst.

Mavs finish third

Medaille’s women’s team finished third in last weekend’s Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Tournament held at Classic Lanes. The highlight for the Mavericks was a 782-760 victory over Mount Aloysius in a Baker match, the only loss the eventual champions suffered in the tournament.

Mount Aloysius went 7-1 on the weekend. Penn State Altoona (5-3) finished second by virtue of a 799-757 win over Medaille.

Medaille senior Tallie Papke (Lake Shore) made the all-tournament team with a 157.25 average in traditional rounds and as the anchor for Baker matches. Senior teammate Gabrielle Kuzara (JFK) averaged 162.

Earlier last week, Daemen’s first-year team defeated Medaille, 2-1, at Classic Lanes in their second dual encounter of the season. The teams split two traditional games and Daemen triumphed, 792-755, in a Baker game. Julie Mitchell averaged 177.5 for the Wildcats, including a 197 in a losing cause in the second traditional game.

Daemen this weekend bowled in the Golden Bear Classic hosted by Kutztown University at Berks Lanes in Reading, Pa. Coming up in March is the East Coast Conference Tournament, also in Reading.