It was a year when familiar names and faces made bowling news locally and nationally, and some new faces made their mark in 2019, too.
Even though he won his first George A. Obenauer Masters in 1999, was runner-up in 1994 and led qualifying twice in the 1990s, Jack Jurek of Lackawanna had not won the premier local bowling event this century.
In May, with his 86-year-old mother, Eileen, watching, Jurek defeated Mike Zarcone in the Obie finals at AMF Lancaster Lanes in Depew. He had been runner-up to Dana Voytovich last year.
"I know I hadn’t won in 20 years and I wasn’t as loose as I wanted to be," Jurek said. "Funny, the pins seem to know when you’re not quite as loose as you want to be."
Jurek missed winning his fifth Pete Parisi Award as the top qualifier by 24 pins. He finished second to Tom Sorce of Blasdell, who led the field with 1,754, including a 936 in the first four-game qualifying block.
Younger generation bowlers such as Voytovich, 2017 champion Kevin Bienko, Joshua Large and Branden Simone had their moments in the tournament. So did veterans Mike Hanes, a three-time past winner, and Bill Truman, who was the runner-up in 1982. Hanes and Truman had a sentimental following during the tournament before they ran out of steam.
Zarcone missed winning his second Obenauer, but the six-time Greater Buffalo USBC Bowler of the Year, had a hugely successful City Open. Zarcone teamed with Matt Zasowski to win the handicap and scratch doubles titles, and won the scratch singles with 816 and the six-game combine with 1,567 ,and took fourth in scratch all-events.
Kristina Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda was the dominant bowler in the City Women's Championship. She won scratch and handicap all-events with 2,175, teamed with Daemen College women's bowling coach Carrie Racsumberger to win scratch doubles, and bowled on the winning CPMK scratch championship team. The only scratch title that escaped her was singles, which went to Sarah Germano with a 708.
Szczerbinski led the qualifying for the Western New York Queens Tournament at Allie Brandt Lanes in Lockport with a 727 but lost in the Division 1 championship match to Nicole Bongiovanni.
Eric Maundrell of Buffalo defeated 2020 State Bowling Hall of Fame inductee Pat Brick to win his first Tri-City Masters title at Manor Lanes in the Town of Tonawanda.
Though they are young, Michael E. Weber Jr., Ryan Reese, Joshua Large and Dominic Germano have become familiar names locally because they keep winning local, regional and state youth team championships.
The Fab Four formed the corps of the last four GBUSBC youth team winners. This year, the same four won their second consecutive regional and state youth team titles in their last season together.
Weber, a St. Joe’s junior, was the top qualifier and won the final stepladder match in the state Catholic high school championship in Babylon on Long Island.
Continuing on the subject of youth, Section VI bowlers had much success in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships in Syracuse.
Led by Section VI individual champion Jon Kurdziel's 1,334 for six games, Tonawanda finished second in the Division 2 competition. Dylan Devoe of Iroquois led the Section VI team to fifth place.
WNY girls teams had the most success, however. With a lineup of Rachel Glowniak, Makayla Pasierb, Mariah Glowniak, Olivia Corbett and Hannah Ellman, Dunkirk won the Division 2 team title.
Sarah Radt shot an individual high 1,358 for the tournament to pace Orchard Park to third place in Division 1.
The Section VI girls won the intersectional competition as Melissa Large (Tonawanda), Cameron Spring (Allegany-Limestone), eighth-grader Kaelynn Weber (Kenmore East), Makenzie Yesis (Frontier), Section VI individual champion Sarah D'Angelo (Clarence) and Rachel Wagner (Depew) all averaged 199 or better for the tournament.
Orchard Park teams won both the boys and girls team titles in Division 1 of the Section VI championships at AMF Airport Lanes. In Division 2, Tonawanda won the boys title and Dunkirk won the girls crown.
Two important figures in local bowling died in the last year. John L. Fonagy Jr., who was a local teenage phenom in the 1960s, and longtime Canisius High coach Pat Kwiatkowski were among those the bowling community lost.
There was no shortage of Professional Bowlers Association news. The Bowlero Corp. purchased the PBA from a group of Microsoft executives who bought the organization in 2000.
Jason Belmonte completed a record-setting season. He won the Tournament of Champions for a record-tying 10th PBA major title, then defended his PBA World Championship title for a record 11th major victory. Also, he was second in the PBA Players Championship and fourth in the U.S. Open. He easily won his fifth Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year Award.
Two-hander Anthony Simonsen became the youngest to win two majors at age 22 when he defeated Belmonte in the championship match of the PBA Players Championship in Columbus, Ohio. He had won the 2016 USBC Masters at age 19.
Weeks shy of his 55th birthday, PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., won the Go Bowling Indianapolis Open and Go Bowling Jonesboro Open back-to-back to become the oldest to win consecutive tour titles. That increased his career total to 40, third all-time behind Walter Ray Williams Jr. with 47 and Earl Anthony with 43.
Canada’s Francois Lavoie, 26, defeated 14-time PBA Tour champion and top qualifier Sean Rash, 221-172, to become the 12th bowler in history to win the U.S. Open more than once. In 2016, Lavoie became the first Canadian to win the U.S. Open.
Niagara Falls native Liz Johnson, now living in Palatine, Ill., had moderate success in the fifth season of the Professional Women's Bowlers Association tour. She was fourth in points, tied for first with 13 cashes, third with three TV appearances, sixth in earnings ($31,500) and 11th in average (210.15).
Former Rochester resident Shannon O'Keefe won five PWBA Tour events, including the PWBA Tour championship in September.
Cheektowaga's Ryan Ciminelli, now bowling out of Strikers Family Sportscenter in Rock Hill, S.C., was the only local male who was a regular participant on the PBA Tour. Ciminelli was third in the World Bowling Tour Thailand and won his eighth career tour title and first since 2016 when he defeated Tom Daugherty, 217-209, in the Gene Carter Pro Shop Open in Middletown, Del. He also was a member of the Portland (Maine) Lumberjacks Elias Cup championship team.
Brad Angelo of Lockport won one title on the PBA Regional Tour when in June he captured the Elkhart Central/Midwest Open presented by 900 Global in Indiana. His best showing in an individual event on the PBA Tour was 12th in the Cheetah Championship of the PBA World Series of Bowling.
Buffalo native Tom Baker still campaigned on the PBA50 Tour, and in August won a PBA50 Regional event, the Sky Lanes Asheville South Open in North Carolina, near his present home in King, N.C.
There's much to look forward to in 2020. The 57th edition of the Obenauer Masters is headed for Kenmore Lanes May 12-17. AMF Lancaster Lanes in Depew will be home to the City Open and Women's Championships starting in late April. Also, the 2020 Hall of Fame class of the Greater Buffalo USBC Association will be elected for the biennial induction in November.