The popular belief is that things get tougher as the bowling continues. But that theory found no verification in the third block of yesterday's opening round of the Professional Bowlers Association National Championship at Southwyck Lanes.
Four bowlers in the final block moved to the top of the 131-man field, led by Bryon Smith's masterful 1,905, a 238.13 average. He was at plus 305, or 305 pins better than a 200-pin average per game.
Dennis Horan was next at plus 271, Brian Himmler checked in at plus 263, and Parker Bohn III moved into a tie with Tim Criss at plus 257. Horan and Bohn are lefties.
Rounding out the top 10 were Dave Arnold and Darren Wong (plus 254), Steve Jaros, David Beres and Tommy Delutz Jr. Defending champ Norm Duke was 14th at plus 192.
Some local bowlers also got off to good starts. Toledoan Kevin Taber was 15th at plus 183, Sandusky's Jeff Lizzi was 28th at plus 123, Chris Hayward of Sylvania was 38th at plus 109 and Maumee's Jeffry Kwiatkowski was at plus 108.
“I like to see the hook when the lanes burn up,” said Smith, 27, of Roseburg, Ore.
“My ball goes through the lane so easily. It really pushes through the front (oil). So when they're hooking in the front, it's kind of an advantage for me.
“I found a really good rhythm and had my ball reacting like I like to see. I just fell into my game.”
His scores backed it up. Smith opened with 256 and followed with 239, 213, 257, 247, 245, 224 and 224.
“Luckily, I made the right adjustments off the first shot in each game. Fortunately, I threw really good shots, so I got a good read on each first shot.”
Horan, 35, of Temecula, Calif., posted two sub-200 scores but countered with 266, 256, 254 and 243 games.
“I got off to a quick start my first game and it kind of relaxed me a little bit,” he said. “I followed with a couple 230 games and that was it. I just kind of kept riding it.”
That was after Criss lit up the B squad by knocking down 1,857 pins, a 232.13 average, to wrest the lead from first-block leader Wong by three pins.
“I don't want to talk too soon because I remember last year when I was leading after the first round (his block) and ended up 41st,” said Criss, 34, of Bel Air, Md., who won the tournament in 1999.
“But I feel real good with the way I'm throwing it right now. So, hopefully, I can maintain it.”
Criss said he didn't find a comfortable hand position until his fourth game. He finished with scores of 258, 239, 236, 257 and 237.
“The last five games I just started feeling really confident,” he said. “Once I got my hand in the right spot, I started striking a lot.
The big thing, said Wong, 29, of San Jose, Calif., is that “I shot pretty good right out of the gate (267). The next game I lost it a little bit (190), but I didn't panic because I knew I had some cushion in my score.”
Wong, in his fifth season on tour, was 39th on the PBA season money list coming into this tourney and was 62nd last year. He has bowled fairly well in Toledo, he said, in each of the last three seasons. He made the 32-man cut last year.
Yesterday, Wong rolled just one game under 200. He also had a 268 in game 4 and closed with 240, 228 and 248.
“I was pretty confident with how I had to play them. Early on, I had good ball reaction from outside. I moved inside after a couple games, and from that point on I didn't move very much at all and stuck with one ball.
“The more you like the way your ball is moving down the lane, the easier it is to get comfortable with how you're throwing and stay loose.”
The key for Arnold, who just missed last week's finals, was playing things straight up, though he had trouble carrying strikes.
“I had three big games and anytime you start with big games, it helps,” he said. “But with these conditions, if you don't have things right, it's gonna be pretty tough to carry.”
The tournament continues today with its 131 bowlers competing in eight-game blocks again at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6 o'clock. Yesterday's A squad bowls at 6 p.m. today, the B squad at 11 and the C squad at 2:30.