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Bowling News USA - March 2, 2011 The Schlemer Report - U.S Open

In the famous words of the late great baseball broadcaster Harry Caray, “Holy Cow, is what I believe best describes what happened at this year’s U.S. Open. I mean not in a million years could anyone have imagined that two of the PBA’s top players would make such costly mistakes at such critical times. The fortunate thing was that the Storm Nation was on the winning end of both miscues, thus proving that you are never out of a match until it is completely over. We will get more into that a little later, but first I would like to recap the events that led up to Norm Duke’s 34th title.

Rewind back to the beginning of the week. This year’s U.S. Open started with a total of 383 entrants from around the globe. The condition was a new and improved version of the U.S. Open pattern that has been used for the past couple years. The pattern was still 42 feet in length; the modification was in the volume of oil. Two years ago when we were last at Carolier Lanes for the U.S. Open, the volume in the heads measured 65 units; this year it was 100 units. This adjustment was made in hopes of the pattern holding up longer and not breaking down so quickly. Thus forcing the right handed power players to loft the left gutter and obtain an unfair advantage over those who do not have the rev rate or that ability. All in all I believe the modification proved to be a good one and thus made it fairer for all styles of bowlers. There was definitely still great emphasis on shot making.

Throughout the week we used all levels of the product line. From the new super aggressive Virtual Gravity Nano all the way down to the less aggressive Tropical Heat. There wasn’t one particular ball that matched up for everyone, but the Marvel and Hy-Road seemed to get the most action of all the balls in the product line. It wasn’t until later in the week that the mass bias balls such as the Virtual Gravity Nano and the Anarchy became better options as the lanes started to build some memory of the condition being applied two times a day.

For Ryan Shafer his ball choices were the most of any staffer. He used three Marvels, three Hy-Roads, two 2Fasts, two Virtual Gravity Nanos, and two 2Furious balls. He would shuffle through these 12 balls depending on which end of the bowling center he was in and whom he was following. Meaning it all depended on who bowled on the lanes ahead of him and how many games had been bowled. All week Ryan never played right of third arrow. He played deep inside and adjusted accordingly. Some pairs he could keep moving deeper while other pairs he could only move so far and then he would have to change to weaker balls in order to maintain hitting the pocket. The key to the U.S. Open is to fill frames and keep the ball in the pocket the best you can. The U.S. Open is always a grind and Ryan Shafer is one of the best at doing so. He has made the televised finals in 13 major tournaments. Not too many players have accomplished that.

After match play was done and we knew that Ryan had to bowl on the late live show Saturday night, we discussed his ball options on how the lanes could possibly play since those pairs had not been bowled on since Friday during the cashers round. As we expected the lanes were a little tighter and the Virtual Gravity Nano was good on the left lane, but too much on the right lane. The Marvel was definitely the best option on the right lane. However, it didn’t matter which ball Ryan would have tossed those first five frames of that final match against O’Neill; he would have thrown his spare ball Brooklyn. A combination of nerves and fatigue best describe how he bowled to start that match. He just got lazy with his push-away, which in turn caused him to cut off his backswing. That is what I explained to him during the commercial break when he came off to the side looking for another ball option. I will tell you that in practice before the show and during his eight shots prior to his match, he never missed the pocket on either lane. After our little pow-wow, he focused on his push-away and he never missed the pocket the rest of the match. Not to mention he stepped up in the tenth, made a ten board move to the left and flushed three shots in a row to force his opponent to show up in the tenth. Then as fate would have it, O’Neill failed to mark in the tenth frame, giving Ryan the win and the fourth and final spot on Sunday’s show.

Heading into Sunday, we knew the lanes might also be different since they were going to be stripped and re-oiled again. So I went ahead and drilled him another Virtual Gravity Nano with the pin up and no extra hole. That ball proved to be the best choice in practice on the right lane while the same pin down Virtual Gravity Nano from the Saturday night show he used on the left lane was still good. Overall, Ryan bowled a good game against Mika; unfortunately, he left the 7-10 late, which cost him a chance to move on. There was no doubt if he could have won that match he would have bowled Duke for the title. Instead, he finished fourth on his 13th career major show and is still awaiting that elusive first major title.

While Shafer still waits to win his fifth career title, fellow staffer Norm Duke was given his 34th career title while sitting on the bench. Like I said to start, words were hard to describe what happened Sunday after what had occurred less than 24 hours earlier on the Saturday night show. Throughout the week Norm bowled great and used only a handful of balls to keep him near the top of the leaderboard. His arsenal consisted of a Second Dimension, Marvel, and Reign Supreme. A few other balls went down the lane here and there on fill balls, but these three balls had game action. After a rough second round of match play, I convinced Norm to drill another Marvel for the final round. I told him a fresh cover would be a good option to have in case the lanes were a little different like they had been each and every round. So we drilled another Marvel that was only used on certain lanes during the final round if the Marvel he had been using was a little too early. After grinding his way back into the lead with one game to go and then magically playing fall back from fifth arrow to beat Tommy Jones to claim the number one seed on Sunday’s show, we knew we needed another ball option. After some discussion, we decided a Prodigy with the similar drilling to his Marvels would be a good ‘go-to’ option in case the lanes started to hook early in the title match. I guess to say that it worked out as we had hoped would be an understatement.

From the beginning of practice on the show, I knew the lanes could get ugly and that I didn’t want Norm to feel as though he had no options as he did a couple years ago in that same position against Mike Scroggins. So about half way through practice on the TV pair, I ran to the locker room and grabbed Norm’s Virtual Gravity Nano he had in the bag that didn’t see any action all week. I told him to play right around second arrow and try and build a little spot he could go to in case the lanes got ugly from inside. He liked the idea and proceeded to do so. Like I said, based on where Shafer and the other bowlers warmed up, the lanes were not going to get any better from inside and straighter was definitely going to be better. I really believe that Duke using the Virtual Gravity Nano near the track was responsible for Mika’s ball leaving the ten pins throughout the show.

We knew that inside was not an option and that the lane looked pretty good from where we opened it up before the show. The Prodigy we drilled was better than the Marvel. The Marvel just wanted to roll up too early and it left a 10-pin on both lanes; we both decided that it would not cut it. In his eight shots prior to the title match, Duke changed and adjusted his tape every shot. Norm was shaking like a leaf and his hand was going up and down; nerves definitely had the upper hand. Ultimately, I thought it was over on the chopped spare in which the ball came off his hand. Mentally I knew Norm could rebound, but physically having the tape issues he did, I was concerned. I don’t know why, but once he finally got it worked out and got a good feel, he left that pesky 8-pin. But as all great professionals do, he regrouped and threw four of the best shots he could to force his opponent to show up in the tenth; just as fellow staffer Ryan Shafer did the night before. And as you are already aware, it is not over until it’s over. I have to share that words cannot describe the crowd reaction on the set when Mika missed that spare, thus handing the title to Duke as he sat and watched. Utter amazement and shock I think describe my reaction. When all was said and done, Norm came over and gave me a hug; he said all he could think about was stepping up in the tenth to throw all three like Ryan did the night before. The rest as they say is history.

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March, 2011