LAS VEGAS –Team NABR of Fairport, New York, prides itself on its team chemistry, camaraderie and communication on the lanes, and that combination has helped the group find continued success at the United States Bowling Open Championships.
Leadoff bowler Adam Barta considers the team more of a family, and when one of the team members suffered a loss this week, a day before hitting the lanes at the South Point Bowling Plaza for the 2017 USBC Open Championships, it didn’t divert their focus, it brought them closer together.
Team NABR rallied around Mike Rose Jr., whose sister Shelly Rose Stein lost her battle with cancer Wednesday morning, and put on another inspirational performance on the biggest stage in bowling, closing with the fourth-highest game of the year to soar into the top spot in Regular Team with a 3,266 total.
The group was consistent individually on the way to games of 1,023 and 1,082, and a familiar clutch final frame helped them to a 1,161 finish. All five players struck in the 10th frame, with three delivering doubles, to lift them past HoF Silver Lanes 1 of New Hartford, Connecticut, which previously held the lead with 3,239.
“To have been able to do this once was an amazing accomplishment, but once you do it, all eyes are on you, and the expectations are high every year,” said Barta, who made his 16th Open Championships appearance. “To be sitting in the lead and knowing how tough the lanes are, we think this could be a score that wins. It’s always an unbelievable feeling. We really came together this week and did what we could to keep Mike’s mind off things at home. We truly felt like his sister was watching over us, and this was one final gift to us before she went to heaven.”
Former Team USA member Scott Pohl, who rolled a perfect game in the team event at the 2013 Open Championships, led the way for Team NABR this year with a 694 series. He was followed by first-year team member Anthony Pepe (675), Brian Waliczek (655), Barta (640) and Rose, the 2007 Regular All-Events champion (602).
Pepe, also the owner of a 300 on the tournament lanes (2011), stepped in for Rob Gotchall, who anchored Team NABR to the Regular Team title at the 2015 tournament in El Paso, Texas. That year, Waliczek, Rose and Gotchall all doubled in the final frame to sneak into the lead by a nine-pin margin.
A titlist on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour, Pepe last competed at the Open Championships in 2014. While it could’ve taken some time to gel with his new team, he immediately recognized what a tight-knit and special group he now is a part of, and he seamlessly was welcomed in.
“It is pretty overwhelming, but it makes it really relaxing when you know everybody, and you are best friends,” said Pepe, an eight-time Open Championships participant. “The first few shots, I couldn’t even feel my knees. Thankfully, as the night went on, it got a lot better. My look got a lot better, too, and that will always loosen up your arm swing. These guys are great. I really enjoyed bowling with them tonight, and the next thing I know, we’re taking the lead.”
The two-team group, which includes Strike Synergy of Honeoye Falls, New York (2,816), is scheduled to bowl doubles and singles Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern, but Rose and Pohl will not be with them.
Rose headed straight to the airport after Thursday’s team event, so he could be with his family in New York. He and Pohl will bowl doubles and singles May 6, hopefully with a chance for a run at Team All-Events as well.
“I do not even know what to say, as it almost brings me to tears just thinking about it all,” said Rose, who made his 18th Open Championships appearance. “Taking the lead again this year with these guys, plus the addition of Anthony Pepe, is so overwhelming. I have so much going through my head, and I’m leaving here to catch a red eye back home. To be here with the guys and take the lead with everything going on is just unbelievable. They’ve been incredibly supportive all week, and this means so much.”
There also was some excitement Thursday in Standard and Classified Team.
Chris’ Boys of Livingston, Montana, made a run at the lead in the new Standard Division, before settling into second place with a 2,778 total on games of 953, 973 and 852. Minnesota Select Sires 1 of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, leads with 2,922.
Robert Curry led the way for Chris’ Boys with a 664 total and was joined by Doug Lindstrom (573), Logan Hicks (542), Leslie Hicks (500) and Kaleb Smith (499).
The group’s companion team, Wags N Whiskers, also from Livingston, moved into fifth place in Classified Team with a 2,436 effort, which included games of 782, 842 and 812. Scotty’s 8 of Alexandria, Minnesota, leads with 2,569.
Nick Stenberg set the pace for Wags N Whiskers with a 553 series and was joined by John Perry (521), Tyson Nead (476), Sheldon Smith (461) and Thomas Wilkerson (425).
The Regular Division is for teams with combined entering averages of 1,046 and above, the Standard Division includes teams from 901-1,045 and Classified teams have combined entering averages of 900 and below.
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