By Michael Valanzano
Only 64 out of the original 468 were still left bowling at the mammoth 82 lane center known as Carolier Lanes in North Brunswick, NJ. This years USBC Masters has been far from dull, and the excitement just kept coming today with the match play portion of the tournament. What makes the Masters such a unique tournament is that the field bowls 15 games to qualify, then the top 63 plus the defending champion (Mike Fagan) are seeded into a bracket, and its double elimination. Oh yea, I forgot to mention, all the pins you got during qualifying, they are gone. Everyone is at al equal playing field, just like you were when you started on Tuesday. So in a 3 game match, anyone can beat anyone, and anything can happen!!
In the opening round, we saw a couple upsets. We saw local amateur Dan Dunleavy beating former Masters champion, Mika, 719-682. Tour veteran Eugene McCune upsetting #2 qualifier Todd Book 710-641. Then came the unknowns beating the giants of this sport. Tyson Branagan’s 696 beat the reigning PBA Player of the Year Sean Rash’s 696-685. Then Manuel Otalora defeated Chris Barnes 723-719. Manuel Otalora? Tyson Branagan? Who are these guys??? That is the beauty of the Masters, David can beat Goliath and knock them right into the losers bracket and make the trip to the telecast pure hell. Once you get into that loser’s bracket, it is pure hell, and you don’t get a break.
In the 2nd round of the winners bracket, I think everyone in the building were behind lanes 71-72. On the pair, a battle of PBA Hall of Famers, between the 2 of them, 69 career national titles. This was the match I predicted as the match for the title on ESPN Sunday. Pete Weber vs Parker Bohn III. I swear, the entire center was behind this pair. It is a shame the bracket ended up like this, and that the hall of famers had to meet so early in match play. Unfortunately, Pete Weber was on the short end of the stick. He tried to play out, and I mean right up 2 board, and struggled. By the time Pete moved in, Parker was not going to stop striking. Parker ended up beating Pete 725-651. While this match was going on, Stuart Williams from England, well he stuck a lot as well in his match with Adam Chase. Stu only shot 832, shake it off. Then my main man, Mr. Manuel Otalora taking down 2time Masters champion, former PBA Player of the Year, and 2013 PBA Hall of Fame Inductee Doug Kent 643-598!! Who is this guy, first he beat Barnes, now Doug Kent!! Better test him for steroids!!
3rd round of the winners bracket: The featured match was Parker against fellow lefty and recent king of the USBC Nationals, Matt McNeil. Well this match was another nail biter. Parker gave Matt a chance to win the match, he needed the 1st hit in the 10th frame to send Parker down to the losers bracket, Matt rang a 7, and Parker was able to go home early, 700-688. My man Mr. Otalora was at it AGAIN!!! Who is this guy?!?!?! Scott Norton, one of the best lefties on tour, you can go to the losers bracket, 639-618. Then the match of the winners bracket I think was between Tyson Branagan and Mike Machuga. They were on 35-36, and this pair was UGLY!!!! After 2, Branagan had the lead by about 20 or so going into game 3. Mind you, he only had about 350 for 2games, like I said, this pair was UGLY!!! Machuga got up needing to throw ALL 3 in the 10th for 180, and to win by a stick. Oh yea, not to mention in the entire game, neither bowler threw a strike on lane 36. Well that was until Machuga threw all 3 in the 10th to win the match.
So the final 8 left in the winners bracket will bowl tomorrow morning. Here are the matchups: Wes Malott will square off against my man Otalora. John Janawicz faces off against Stu Williams. Brian Kretzer bowls Mike Machuga, and in a rematch of the title match of the World Championship, Jason Belmonte will try to get revenge on reigning World Champion Parker Bohn. In this bowlers opinion, I think the final 4 of the winners bracket will be Malott, Janawicz, Machuga, Bohn III. I think the only one that can stop the Malott train is John Janawicz. Wes only averaged 249 for his 3 matches today. And honestly, I think the winner of this bracket is going to be Parker. He is in his backyard. He is home, and has the hometown fans behind him, and with the reaction he has, I would not be surprised if Parker is bowling 1 game on Sunday for his 2nd Masters title!
Round 1 Losers Bracket: We saw the elimination of the great Pete Weber. Jason Sterner sent Pete packing 683-591. The journey for Pete to complete the Super Slam will have to wait until next year. This round also saw local league bowler Dan Dunleavy get eliminated. Nice run Dan, see you around at the next county tournament. Great week though, my hat is off to him. This round also saw names like Barnes, Ciminelli, Jones and Mika get rolling.
Round 2 Losers Bracket: Barnes, Ciminelli, Jones, and Mika all advance. Also in the mix is upcoming Hall of Famer Doug Kent. Doug ended up needing a mark in the 10th frame of his match to advance. And like the Hall of Famer that he is, he went X 9/ and eliminated Allen Rice II.
Round 3 Losers Bracket: Match of the round was between Sean Rash and Matt McNeil. Rash was up 3 after the first 2 games. Game 3, they were going strike for strike. Rash was out for 258 going into the 9th, McNeil was out for 279. Sean got up left a 10pin, made the spare, then holed in the 10th, McNeil advances, and now his matchup doesn’t get any easier. He will be facing the living legend, 2 time Masters winner Walter Ray Williams Jr who disposed of DJ Archer by about 200 pins. Other winners in this round included Ciminelli, who is now going to face Tommy Jones. In a battle that has been going on for a long time now, lefty “hater” Major Mika will face off against 2 time runner up in the Masters Patrick Allen. Barnes will face off against a new face to the winner’s circle on tour Tom Daugherty. We also said goodbye to retired player Doug Kent, thank you Patrick Allen. Doug, you are a great player, and still can bowl out here. It was great to see you this week. Congrats on the Hall of Fame calling!!
There are 16 bowlers left from a field of 468. Who is going to win? I still stand by what I said in the beginning of the week, I like Parker in the title match Sunday. I also think the lefties “may” have a little better look on the lanes than the righties do. But that does not mean the lefties are going to run away with the title. Out of the 16 left, here is my NEW prediction for my final 5 for the live ESPN telecast:
From the USBC Masters at Carolier Lanes, we will see you tomorrow night bowling fans
Mike Valanzano, 29 from NJ. Bowled for Morehead State University and has competed and had success at all levels of this game, he is the holder of 21 300 games, 10 800 series, with a high of 856 (with an open frame). Mike is married to his wonderful wife Lynda and have a baby girl, Daniella. Some of Mike’s interests, he’s a HUGE New York Mets fan, he loves poker, traveling, and fine dining. He is also a big advocate of zumba classes. Mike has one of the largest video collections of old bowling shows anywhere. He has every amateur bowling show ever aired and has a wide collection of numerous PBA, Sr PBA, LPBT shows from the 1950’s thru today.