The Bud Light Challenge is one of my favorite weekends of the year! It’s hosted by some great people in Kelvin Parker, Dave Werner, and the rest of their team. This event is so special is because they run it like true professionals. They hold a Friday doubles tournament on the main event shot with the winning team receiving $1500. On Saturday is the Main Event held on a VERY demanding shot, with the winner in this taking home $5000. Sunday is an eliminator style tournament where they use a different oil pattern, and it pays out $2000 to the winner.
I rode up to Buffalo, NY with Dan Higgins, who would also be my doubles partner for Friday. Last year we won the doubles event and we were returning to defend out title. Knowing the shot before hand was a heavy volume pattern that was 39 ft. and almost a flat ratio, I had brought some strong symmetrical balls to combat this. A Smack Down, Oath, Pursuit-S, Eruption Pro, 400A SE, Gamebreaker, and my trusty Jet Black Taboo were the balls of choice.
Friday did not go as planned. From the beginning, we just didn’t find the right match up for the 3 game set, but I was able to shoot a 235 that was good enough to win a nice jackpot. The doubles was won by Brian Dennis, who had beaten me the previous year in the Sunday Eliminator, and his partner Bryson Rogers. Dan and I spent the rest of the night talking over dinner with Adam Barta and Tony Carson about the best way to tackle the Main Event pattern for Saturday.
I woke up Saturday and felt great about my game plan! Depending on whether the backends were tighter or the same as the night before, I would throw the Oath or the Smack Down, respectively. I actually started throwing the pin down Oath and stuck with that for the first 2-3 games. After that, the Oath wasn’t finishing as hard, so I went to my pin up Pursuit-S that was still as strong in the mid-lane, but reacted a bit more down lane. This ball allowed me to move in deeper and not worry about getting the ball back to the pocket.
I didn’t have any trouble until game 5. I was even going into that game sitting comfortably in the cut and I thought I had a good idea at how the pattern was transitioning. Then we made the turn from the high end to the low end. I couldn’t figure out where the oil shim or the hook was. I also didn’t execute very well at all that game. It was like I completely forget how to bowl! I limped my way to an agonizing 134 game. I was so deflated. In a tournament like this with the type of shot they put out, any pair can give you as much trouble as I had during that game. I knew if I regrouped the next game and threw 10 good shot, I would make the cut. I did just that, trusting all of my moves and popped off a 255 game to jump into the cut. I also have to give credit to Dan for keeping me focused and giving me a small suggestion on where to adjust. The cut ended up being a tie at minus 34, with Jackie Carbonetto striking in the 10th to win the roll off against Matt O’Grady.
The way match play works is the top 31 make the cut with the leader getting a one round bye. Positions 2-31 randomly draw their matches each round, no bracket style play. My first match was against Tim Pfeifer, who struggled to find any groove during our 2-game total pins match, and I moved on the next round. I then drew Tony Carson, who had an issue of getting the ball to push down lane as the lanes were really drying up. After grinding through that match, in the round of 8 I got matched up with Brian Walizcek, who had been on fire during his first 2 matches. I had less than a 20 pin deficit going in to the second game, as I had left a split in the 9th frame while working on a double during the first game. Through the first half of the second game, I had all but eliminated the deficit, actually taking a slight lead at one point. However, fate would not be kind as I must have missed an adjustment and again split in the 9th on a double. This would prove costly as Walizcek would step up in the 10th and get the first strike in the 10th to shut me out. He would then go on to finish 2nd as Vernon Peterson would eventually take the win and $5000. The remaining finishers were Mike Chontos in 3rd and Jeff Fehr in 4th.
What makes this weekend different from others is that it is an event and compared to being just a tournament. Not only do they have the 3 separate tournaments, but they also hold their infamous after party on Saturday night at the bowl. There are drinks to be had, great comradery, karaoke, a fund dice game called “Left, Right, Center”, and much more. There’s usually the inevitable pot game bowled, but that’s what happens when you get that many of the top amateurs in one place at one time.
Sunday for some reason seem to go my way. Since I had a few drinks on Saturday night, I had bowled the first squad on Sunday to get all of the cobwebs out. They way the Sunday eliminator works is they run 2 qualifying squads and take 1 in 6 off of each squad. After I re-entered and made the finals off of the second squad, I joined the field of 18 bowlers to bowl in the elimination finals. The finals involved 1 game rounds that cut the field in half each time (18 to 10 to 5 to 3 to 1). The first round I comfortably made it through. The next rounds, however, were a different story. I had put myself in a position each time to make it through I just needed some help from the other bowlers so that my score would allow me to make it in the following round. It must have been my lucky day as, I did make it through and was determined to take advantage of my luck in the final match…and take advantage of it I did!
Since scores were so low, all I tried to do was stay clean and maybe catch a lucky double somewhere to beat my fellow finalist, Jacob Kent and Steve Novak. Going into the 10th frame, all I needed was a mark to take the title…and then, it happened! I had thrown what I thought was a perfect shot, and the ball hit like it was a 6 lbs ball, leaving a flat pocket 4-10 split. I made sure to get one for count and hope that my luck hadn’t run out. When Novak failed to strike in his first shot, I knew I had secured the victory and the honor of being the only bowler to win the Sunday event twice, as I my previous 2 attempts had garnered a 1st place and 2nd place, respectively.
I feel that the event was an overall success for me! As always, Kelvin Parker, David Werner, and the rest of their team put on a spectacular event. The event was run smooth and with the amount of side action they had, there were no hiccups in that at all! Every tournament should take note in what they do as they should be the model of success for how events should run.
On to next week in Detroit where I’m bowling an event run by Brian Regan. There is where I will continue with my goal of Furthering The Lanes!