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Milt Northrop’s Bowling: Buffalo Tour exceeding expectations

Two thirds of the way through the schedule, the Greater Buffalo Bowlers Tour’s first season seems a qualified success.

Charlie Zmozynski went out on the limb creating a series of events that addressed what many saw as a void in the schedule that forced the local elite players to have to travel outside the region or even the state to find top-flight competition.

The bi-weekly series opened in February. The next Tour stop will be April 17 at Kenmore Lanes. The last regular stop will be May 1 at Island Lanes.

The Tour will wrap up with a Tournament of Champions on May 8 at Brad Angelo Lanes in Lockport.

“I’m happy with the Tour and more than pleased with the support we’ve had,” Zmozynski said Friday.

That doesn’t mean Zmozynski is totally satisfied.

“I’m open to suggestions to how we can make it better,” he said. “Every stop we’ve made we’re looking for ideas from the establishments and the bowlers themselves.”

A total of 137 individuals have competed in the four events that have been held on the GBB Tour so far. Seventy bowlers started out in last Sunday’s stop at South Buffalo Bowling Center, down about a dozen from participation the week before.

“When we started we were aiming for 60 bowlers an event and we’ve had more than that,” Zmozynski said.

What the Tour is missing is sponsorship money that would sweeten the purses each event and draw even more bowlers.

Most of the entrants are from the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area, but Sam Capizzi Jr. of Rochester was last week’s winner and there are three loyal entrants from Canada – Chris Moxley, Jordan Klassan and Miranda Panas.

Of the 137 bowlers who have joined the Tour, 16 have competed in all four events.

Dave Guindon, Pete Zmozynski, Steve Dorobiala and Capizzi have been the individual winners. They automatically will qualify for the 16-bowler Tournament of Champions as long as they compete in a minimum of three tournaments. The rest of the field will come from the top 16 on the series points list.

Peter Zmozynski leads the points race with 21. He’s followed by Ray Richards and Steve Kosut with 16, Capizzzi and Curtis Foss with 13, and Dana Voytovich, Moxley, Dan Melidona, Chris Bardol and Kristina Szczerbinski with 11. Nate Johnson, Tony Dolan, Klassan, Bob Wiley, Guindon and Dorobiala round out the top 16 with 10 points each.

The Tournament of Champions will consist of two-game, total-pinfall matches in a double-elimination format.

The bowling capacity of the establishment on the Tour stops vary, but Zmozynski said no bowler has been turned away for lack of space. There was one scare at Abbott Lanes when the house inadvertently scheduled two birthday parties on the day of the tournament. Zmozynski and the Abbott management worked around the problem.

“We were able to get in 99 bowlers across 12 lanes,” Zmozynski said.

Zmozynski is already going ahead planning for the Tour next year. It will be a series of bi-weekly tournaments starting after the NFL season in February and finishing before the week of the Greater Buffalo USBC Association George A. Obenauer Masters in May.

‘BTC’ update

Dan Melidona of Williamsville defeated former winner Tony Dolan of West Seneca, 246-236, and reigns on the WBBZ-TV Beat the Champ show at 4 p.m. Saturday (reshowing at 11 p.m. on Sunday.

Saturday’s event, the second show from Lucky Lanes in Fredonia, will find Melidona facing challengers Brad Bixby of Fredonia, Matt Zasowski of Tonawanda and Geoff Martin of Frisco, Texas. It will be Zasowski’s third Beat the Champ appearance.

No champion was able to last long last week. Returning champ Chad Mee of Hamburg lost to left-hander Justin Zimmerman of Cheektowaga, 182-166, in the first game. Zimmerman was unseated by another lefty, Dolan, 227-179, in the second game.

Over the hump

After his triumph on Wednesday in the PBA Maine Shootout at Bayside Bowl in Portland, Maine, Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga claimed that he had come close to quitting the PBA Tour because of a loss of confidence. He’s won three events since then and a third-place finish in the Rolltech PBA World Championship. He finished a close second to Jason Belmonte of Australia in the PBA Player of the Year voting.

On the way to the championship match, Ciminelli defeated Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, 2-1 (198-182, 247-268, 235-167). In the round before, Malott bowled a 300 game in the finale for a 2-1 victory over Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams.

Ciminelli defeated Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., 255-213 and 225-203.

Ciminelli’s triumph came over a top field that included Williams, Norm Duke, Chris Barnes, Dom Barrett and reigning Player of the Year Belmonte.

“I caught these guys at the right time on the right pairs of lanes,” Ciminelli said. “For once, everything fell in place for me. I didn’t think I had a chance to win this tournament, but I kept my head down and kept fighting.

“My confidence is going up with every event,” he said. “You’re not going to win every tournament you bowl, but you have to keep knocking on the door.”

Pin chasers

• The Canisius College Graduate Sports Administration Program will hold its 13th annual Bowl N’Blast at 1 p.m. April 24 at AMF Airport Lanes to benefit Special Olympics of Western New York. Tickets at $20 per person for pre-registration includes two hours of bowling, shoes, pizza, fries and soda on each lane. Also, autographed Sabres merchandise will be raffled off throughout the event.

• Greater Buffalo USBC Association president Greg Merkle was on hand Thursday night to present a 100-year membership placque to the South Buffalo Church League, which bowls at Wimbledon Lanes in West Seneca.

• Wimbledon will be the venue next weekend for the GBUSBC Stan Kowalski Senior Singles Championship. Competition will be in six age divisions.