Experienced players who return to a specific baseball field, golf course or bowling center are always prepared to deal with the unique playing surfaces or scoring environment of the host facility.
That conclusion applies to the field of Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) and international players who are about to descend on South Point Bowling Center in Las Vegas for the 2011 renewal of the PBA World Series of Bowling, which gets underway Friday.
For bowlers who competed in the WSOB a year ago at South Point, the expectation is “friction.” In bowling context, that means lane surfaces combined with high-performance bowling balls will result in lots of hook. Even with a unique application of lane conditioner freshly applied to the lanes for every squad, every day, the heavy traffic of more than 200 bowlers bowling lots of games will result in more and more ball movement as each round progresses.
Developing strategies for attacking the variety of lane conditioning patterns and the transition of oil as the day moves along are critical aspects of professional bowling. Every experienced player will arrive at South Point with an arsenal of bowling balls designed to react differently, depending upon the lane conditioning pattern, angle of attack and how much the various “lane oil” patterns will change as each round progresses. It’s always a guessing game, but at the professional level, the bowler who makes the best educated decisions usually comes out ahead of the curve.
While format changes for this year’s World Series have been modified so that all events will be contested on freshly-oiled lanes, and fewer games per day are involved, the fundamental challenges from a year ago remain in place.
What did returning players learn about South Point a year ago that is helping them prepare for 2011?
● “The one thing I remember from last year is that South Point hooks,” said 16-time PBA Tour title winner Jason Couch of Clermont, FL. “I have drilled some weaker balls to combat the friction.”
● “There seemed to be more friction (at South Point) than I would have thought, so I'm hoping to have a little different arsenal with me that will hopefully make me much more competitive this time around,” said two-time PBA Tour winner Jack Jurek of Lackawanna, NY. “I wasn't bowling well coming into the World Series last year and so far I feel a little better about my game than I did last year at this time.”
● “South Point last year had a lot of friction, but every year the patterns are a little different and the field of players is different and normally better prepared as well,” said Sean Rash of Montgomery, IL, a four-time PBA Tour title winner who made two WSOB finals in 2010. “Knowing that I had a lot of success last year in that building will help me. I also have been bowling all over the world to prepare myself for the WSOB and when I’m home, I practice shooting a lot of spares and using different hand positions to be able to play every part of the lane.”
● “Unfortunately I didn't take notes last year,” said 2010 PBA World Champion Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, MI. “Pair to pair they were pretty different, so Team Brunswick is getting there a few days early and we WILL be taking notes on every pair we bowl on.”
● “Every time I've been out on Tour I've learned a lot,” said Sweden’s Martin Larsen, a first-time PBA Tour exempt player. “It’s tough to point at one or two things, but the lanes at South Point got very dry last year. If that happens again, I hope I can do better in the late games.”
● “The one thing I learned was if you find a ball layout that will work on one of the patterns, then more than likely it will work on all of them,” said Canadian citizen Dan MacLelland, who made two WSOB TV finals in 2010 in his quest for his first PBA Tour title. “The lanes are going to hook, so we also have to prepare ourselves for playing deep and lofting the ball.”
● “I became more comfortable with the lanes and how they played. I had a good reaction most of the time last year, and my carry was good,” said Chris Loschetter of Avon, Ohio. “All I have to do is keep an eye on who I'm following and make good decisions.”
● “I'm hoping to start strong with patterns that suit my game, like the Viper and Chameleon,” said Colombia’s Andres Gomez, “and then make the right adjustments for the last two patterns (Scorpion and Shark) where last year I didn't show my best game. We all know how much friction there is. I certainly wouldn't mind if the lanes hook a lot!”
● “I plan on doing the same thing I did last year: grind out the tough pairs and hammer the pairs that give me a little something,” said three-time PBA Tour winner Bill O’Neill. “I learned that after a few games, using a lot of angle through the front worked out pretty good. That has been a part of my game that has improved tremendously over the past couple of years. Hopefully for me that house tendency continues.”
● “I didn’t really bowl very well last year, so hopefully I will make much better shots and make better decisions on how to play the lanes,” said PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Ocala, FL.
● “Last year I definitely learned the way the house wants to play the pattern and I will be using that knowledge to my advantage,” said Scott Norton of Costa Mesa, CA, who won his first title in the Chameleon Open on his way to winning PBA Rookie of the Year honors. “But I fully expect everyone else to have learned as well. The fields continue to get stronger as people adapt and learn with each new experience, so it makes winning not only that much harder, but that much more rewarding when it happens.”
● “Most people are just trying to not get mauled by the format,” said Dick Allen of Columbia, SC. “If you are a bowler, it doesn’t matter. Over preparing and trying to do more than you are capable of will usually get you in trouble physically. Once you get in trouble (at South Point), it goes to your head, so I probably won’t bowl for two weeks before we start. I’ll just wing it when I get there.”
● “What I learned from last year's competition is to stay healthy and fit,” said Dino Castillo, Carrollton, Texas. “Endurance is what you need when bowling that many games in such a short time. Concentration is a big factor. Make sure you focus on the patterns. With so many different (lane conditioning) patterns, it can boggle the mind.”
● “I learned I’ll need to play farther to the right, and make one shot at a time,” said first-year PBA Tour exempt player Johnathan Bower of Middletown, PA. “And I learned to make sure to never give up.”
● “Last year was a grind,” said Wayne Garber of Modest, CA. “Bowling one squad per day is a relief. Bowling more on fresh oil will be better for me. I’ve had some success at South Point in PBA regional tournament, but I’m oh-for the past two World Series in making cuts, so that's my number one goal. You gotta walk before you can run.”
● “What I focus on are the things I can control and the knowledge that regardless of the format, bowling is the same everywhere: 10 pins up, my job is to knock them down,” said two-time PBA Tour titlist Mike DeVaney of Murrieta, CA. “Simplify the game and your chances at success are vastly increased. What I learned at South Point last year is knowledge I plan to use to my advantage and not something that needs to be made public. I have no interest in sharing any information with the competition.”
● “Speed rules at the South Point,” said PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke. “Because of the extra friction in the front part of the lane, balls tend to slow down quicker than normal and it’s the players who can get good movement on their shots while keeping their speed up that will do well because speed keeps the pins lively and the carry percentage is better.”
The third annual PBA World Series of Bowling gets underway Friday with an eight-player, winner-take-all $45,000 BowlersDeals.com All-In Showdown that will be webcast live on pba.com’s exclusive online bowling channel, Xtra Frame. Participants will include Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas; Chris Warren, Grants Pass, OR; Joe Paluszek, Bensalem, PA; Brian Himmler, Cincinnati; Ronnie Russell, Indianapolis; Bill O’Neill, Southampton, PA; Sean Rash, Montgomery, Il, and Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, SC.
Qualifying in the Bayer Viper Open, the first of eight events that will award PBA Tour titles during the two-week festival, gets underway on Saturday, Nov. 5. For a complete World Series schedule, visit pba.com.
Xtra Frame will provide more than 100 hours of exclusive live online coverage during the World Series. For subscription information, including special one-day and WSOB packages, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo.