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Somberly, 2022 a year like no other for our 11thFrame.com group at the USBC Open Championships

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2022 8:00 am
Somberly, 2022 a year like no other for our 11thFrame.com group at the USBC Open Championships
Our original 10-man group that bowled together from 1998 through 2009 as seen in 1999 in Syracuse. Back, left to right: Brian Thyes, Steve Richter, Tom Howery, John Wittkowske, Dan Goepfert. Front, left to right: Marc McDowell, Mike Shady, Jeff Richgels, Gail Myers Jr., Bret Faulkner. Photo by ABC Tournament.

Considering what has happened on our way to South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas this week, I won’t be shocked if something more happens to our 11thFrame.com teams between the posting of this story and our team event at 2 p.m. Friday.

Assuming nothing more happens, we will compete without five of the players we competed with in the 2021 Open Championships.

John Wittkowske knew he was going to miss this year with us because one of his daughters is graduating from TCU this weekend, and he and Bret Faulkner competed last month with what we call the “Wittkowske family teams.” Those two teams plan to be back to make us a 4-team group again in 2023, which will more than double our fun and might require Reno to add more craps tables downtown!

We couldn’t switch our dates earlier because Marc McDowell turns 60 on Thursday and that means he loses his status as a PBA Tour champion, enabling him to return to our group to bowl with our first team and doubles with Mike Shady again. And we weren’t switching our dates later, because almost no one in our group wants to bowl later than mid-May. 

Mac being eligible to return meant that at one time we were expecting to have 11 bowlers for 10 spots and facing a difficult decision. Our decisions soon switched to finding enough bowlers.

Mike Walters tore his bicep during last year’s tournament and after barely finishing doubles, he skipped singles. Wally rested for months, tried to bowl and couldn’t, and has repeated that multiple times since. Eventually, he bowed out for this year to avoid possibly leaving us hanging, which he would have as he still hasn’t been able to bowl.

While Wally was figuring out whether he could bowl, Steve Richter informed us that he was getting married on Friday, May 13 in Sheboygan and wouldn’t be able to bowl. Their first thought had been getting married in Vegas as part of the Open Championships trip, but having family that couldn’t travel vetoed that idea. Then trying to schedule something that worked with an available church in a post-pandemic world where church weddings have been backed up massively led to May 13 or many months later.

We told Steve and Kristin to go for it, and we’ll be at the party they are planning for July to celebrate.

The biggest and saddest blow came in the last couple of weeks as Mike Shady’s dad began slipping away in hospice. Shades decided only in the last couple of days that he couldn’t make it to Vegas to bowl with us.

We also almost lost Tom Howery, as he ended up in the emergency room in March with a herniated disk in his neck. After spending a considerable amount of time off work and not doing anything physical, Tommy has made it back to work and bowling, with our fingers crossed that he will hold up in Vegas as well as he did at State a couple of weekends ago, where he led our group in team.

The good news for our group is that we were able to fill our holes with some great additions: Scott Baker, father of team 1 member Broc Baker and a PBA50 member, and Doug Buehrer and Larry Stepp, long-time close friends and multi-time PBA Regional champions from years ago when we spent so many weekends competing on the lanes and partying off.

Before Shady had to cancel, we had planned to line up this way:
TEAM 1 = Marc McDowell, Dan Goepfert, Broc Baker, Gail Myers Jr., Mike Shady
TEAM 2 = Scott Baker, Tom Howery, Doug Buehrer, Larry Stepp, Jeff Richgels
DOUBLES = McDowell-Shady, Goepfert-Myers, Baker-Baker, Howery-Richgels, Buehrer-Stepp

When it became clear we might lose Shady, I reached out to a few touring pros, but they were either already bowling or unable to make it on such short notice. We also seriously considered an Eagle winner who is not bowling this year.

But we ultimately decided on a simple move that will enable that Eagle winner to possibly bowl later in the tournament with Shady, Richter, Richter’s son Crosby and whoever else they can get. That would give them a chance to get their year in, maybe make a run at some Eagles, and give Crosby some experience before he possibly joins our group next year.

Our new player is Doug’s wife Brandi, a solid 200-plus average bowler who I know will fit in great with our group.

Our line-ups now are:
TEAM 1 = Marc McDowell, Dan Goepfert, Broc Baker, Gail Myers Jr., Jeff Richgels
TEAM 2 = Scott Baker, Tom Howery, Brandi Buehrer, Doug Buehrer, Larry Stepp
DOUBLES = Baker-Baker, McDowell-Richgels, Goepfert-Myers, Howery-Stepp, Buehrer-Buehrer

We bowl team at 2 p.m. Friday on lanes 29-30 at South Point Bowling Plaza and minors at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on lanes 55-60.

This is going to be a weird Open Championships for us, with sadness overhanging it. But with the great friendships we have, we will make the best of it.

On the lanes, the high scores this year and lane play we have seen in USBC highlight videos make it clear that you can play things straightforward: start to the right with some surface, ball down and stay right or chase it in, let the lanes be your guide, and strike as much as you can.

I brought just six balls (no shipping), with no short pins or control drillings.

We’re again part of Don Amorosi’s large squad, which also was Lenny Frost’s squad before his death last summer. It’s great to see Don continuing on and our four teams will be staying with him next year and beyond.

This will be my 40th year, and it could have been my 43rd had I not missed 1988, 1989 and 1990 because of being on the PBA Tour in 1987 and 1988 (you had to wait two years to become eligible again back then). And, of course, we all missed 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Needless to say, our focus is on next year when I’ll have turned 60 and we can put our Eagle-winning team (McDowell, Richter, Richgels, Myers, Shady) back together for the first time since 2016. (Assuming there are no more rules changes that would keep us from reuniting. The applicable rules for 2023 are attached to the bottom of this story from this PDF.)

Obviously, it would be a giant thrill to recapture some old magic and make another run at an Eagle – winning would give me an Eagle in five different decades, which I believe would be a record. (Steve Fehr has won USBC titles in five decades counting his 1994 Masters title.)

Our second team for next year is somewhat up in the air, with Howery, Faulkner and Wittkowske are looking to bowl with the Wittkowske family teams.

Goepfert will be part of it as he was for years. The Bakers want to stay with us. We’re hoping Wally can return. And Crosby Richter might be a fit.

But much of this TBD, and we might end up asking Doug and Larry to bowl again. 

Obviously, the older you get, the less certainty there can be year to year.

We went from 1998-2009 with the same 10 guys, then made one change and continued with that group until USBC “enhancements” (ha!) made it so Shades, Mac and I had to be on separate teams and we expanded to four teams in 2019.

Assuming I can stay above ground and healthy, I’d like to get to 50 years and do it with the most pins, then get to 100,000 pins in the fewest years ever.  Both of those records obviously won’t last, but it would be cool to set them.

Currently, Rick Minier is the only player with more years than me and a higher average, according to USBC records.

I’ve always been a bowling junkie who enjoys things like Open Championships records and lifetime averages, which allow you to see how much higher the scoring pace is now than back in my first decade-plus as urethane and reactive resin were invented.

If I am fortunate enough to set either or both of those records, I’ll look forward to guys like Shades and Matt McNiel breaking them.

Divisions for team and doubles events will be based on a composite of the competitors’ averages.
Regular – 876 and above...........Standard – 776-875...........Classified – 775 and below
Regular – 351 and above............Standard – 311-350..........Classified – 310 and below
Regular – 176 and above.........Standard – 156-175........Classified – 155 and below|
A. Regular Division bowlers (entering averages of 176 and above) may not compete in Classified Team or Classified Doubles, regardless of composite average.
B. Teams in the Standard Division may have no more than two (2) bowlers with an average of 176 or higher.
C. Teams in the Classified Division may have no more than two (2) bowlers with an average between 156 and 175
D. Teams with any roster member defined as a professional bowler, collegiate bowler or member of a national bowling team will be eligible to compete ONLY in the Regular Division.
E. A team may contain only one (1) bowler under the age of 60 who is a past champion of any of the following, with no additional bowlers classified as a professional bowler, collegiate bowler, or member of a national bowling team.
1) A PBA or PWBA national title
2) A USBC Masters or U.S. Open title.
3) A USBC Queens or U.S. Women’s Open title from 2003 to 2014.
Doubles pairings may have only one bowler defined as a professional bowler, past champion, collegiate bowler or past or present member of Team USA, Junior Team USA, or other national bowling team and may compete only in the Regular Division.
Each such player defined as a professional bowler, past champion, collegiate bowler or member of a national team shall be eligible to enter singles and all-events only in the Regular Division.
Note: See Rule 21 for definition of professional bowler, past champion, collegiate bowler or national team member.

A. For the purpose of participation in the Open Championships, PROFESSIONAL BOWLERS are defined as: Any bowler, regardless of age, having applied for membership or held membership in ANY professional bowling organization during the calendar year (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2022) preceding the event, and or up through their dates of their competition in 2023.
B. For the purpose of participation in the Open Championships, PAST CHAMPIONS defined as any bowler under the age of 60 who has won any of the following:
1) A PBA or PWBA national title regardless of professional status at the time of the win
2) A USBC Masters title or U.S. Open title.
3) A USBC Queens or U.S. Women’s Open title from 2003 to 2014
C. For the purpose of participation in the Open Championships, COLLEGIATE BOWLERS are defined as: any bowler currently holding a collegiate bowling membership (from the 2022-2023 bowling season) and or one who has been a member of any college bowling program/team/club during the calendar year (Jan.1 – Dec. 31, 2022).
D. For the purpose of participation in the Open Championships, MEMBERS OF A NATIONAL BOWLING TEAM are defined as: any past member of Team USA, Junior Team USA or any other national bowling team, under the age of 60.
E. Professional bowlers, past champions, collegiate bowlers and members of a national bowling team (as defined above) will be eligible to compete ONLY in the REGULAR DIVISION subject to the following guidelines:
a. A team may only have one past champion. If a team has a bowler who meets the criteria as defined in item 21-B, the team may NOT also have a bowler who meets the criteria in 21-A, 21-B, 21-C, or 21-D.
b. A team may be comprised of any combination of two (2), but no more than two, players defined as a professional bowler, collegiate bowler, or member of a national bowling team – items 21 – A, C and D.
There may not be more than ONE bowler identified in 21-A, 21-B, 21-C, or 21-D per doubles team.
Each such player identified in 21-A, 21-B, 21-C or 21-D as a professional shall be eligible to enter singles and all-events only in the Regular Division.
Each such player identified in 21-A, 21-B, 21-C or 21-D are eligible for daily and yearlong brackets products in the Regular Division only, regardless of whether they fit the average criteria for another division. They also are eligible for any age-based products for which they qualify.

South Point Bowling Plaza, Las Vegas
(as of May 10, 2022)
1, Storm Products Inc. 1 (Matthew McNiel, Jon Rakoski, Justin Veitch, David Langer, Ronald Mohr), Alva, Fla., 3,486. 2, DiLaura Brothers 1, Clinton Township, Mich., 3,468. 3, Ballard’s Bowling Academy #3, Keller, Texas, 3,426. 4, Ten Pin Alley 300, Fitchburg, Wis., 3,403. 5, Supreme Deck, Grand Haven, Mich., 3,372. 6, Next Gen Pro Shop 1, Chillicothe, Ohio, 3,358. 7, S.W.O.R.D., Rochester, N.Y., 3,357. 8, Maximum Potential Pro Shop, Baldwinsville, N.Y., 3,335. 9, Big O Tires, Oakley, Calif., 3,329. 10, Enhance That #1, Allen, Texas, 3,326.
1, Nick Powanda, San Diego/Tony Odom, Palm Springs, Calif., 1,518. 2, David Jecko, Whitesboro, N.Y./Steven Arehart, Holland Patent, N.Y., 1,485. 3, Chris Barnes, Denton, Texas/Billy Rogers, Denison, Texas, 1,479. 4, Jay Lang, Sterling Heights, Mich./Ronnie Sparks Jr., Redford, Mich., 1,455. 5, Brett Cunningham, Clay, N.Y./Michael Tryniski, Fulton, N.Y., 1,440. 6(tie), Andrew Carson, York, Pa./Scott Kinkaid, Elizabethtown, Pa., and Brandon St. Onge/Drew Markwardt, Zephyrhills, Fla., 1,433. 8, Perry Crowell IV, St. Clair Shores, Mich./Jeffrey Mastny, Arlington, Neb., 1,431. 9, Trevor Yonan, Sheboygan, Wis./Rob Warren, Antigo, Wis., 1,425. 10, Gerald Johnson, Taylor, Mich./Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 1,424.
1, David Jecko, Whitesboro, N.Y., 788. 2, Steven Arehart, Holland Patent, N.Y., 787. 3, Brandon St. Onge, Zephyrhills, Fla., 781. 4, DJ Archer, Simpsonville, S.C., 778. 5, Sam Cantrell, Roseville, Calif., 777. 6, Robert Rose Jr., Melvindale, Mich., 775. 7, Jeff Carroll, Missoula, Mont., 773. 8, Ryan Schlotfeld, Lincoln, Neb., 772. 9, Ronnie Sparks Jr., Redford, Mich., 771. 10, Ryan VanHecke, Chesterfield Township, Mich., 770.
1, Brett Cunningham, Clay, N.Y., 2,220. 2, David Jecko, Whitesboro, N.Y., 2,212. 3, Ronnie Sparks Jr., Redford, Mich., 2,201. 4(tie), Perry Crowell IV, St. Clair Shores, Mich., and Chris Barnes, Denton, Texas, 2,197. 6, Ryan Volcko, Liverpool, N.Y., 2,181. 7, Jon Breckel, Mandan, N.D., 2,177. 8, Aaron Pawloski, Brentwood, Calif., 2,171. 9, Jay Lang, Sterling Heights, Mich., 2,167. 10, Kai Pedro, Tacoma, Wash., 2,163.
1, DiLaura Brothers 1, (Jay Lang, John Buffa, Ryan VanHecke, John Kelley, Ronnie Sparks Jr.), Clinton Township, Mich., 10,585. 2, Mento Produce, Baldwinsville, N.Y., 10,444. 3, Maximum Potential Pro Shop, Baldwinsville, N.Y., 10,140. 4, Him Bowling Team 14, Chula Vista, Calif., 10,057. 5, Big O Tires, Oakley, Calif., 9,981. 6, Supreme Deck, Grand Haven, Mich., 9,917. 7, Nicholas J’s Pro Shop 2, La Crosse, Wis., 9,888. 8, Fran’s Pro Shop #3, Waterloo, Iowa, 9,879. 9, Storm Products Inc. 1, Alva, Fla., 9,859. 10(tie), Upper Lip Surprise, St. Clair Shores, Mich., and Ansara Restaurant Group 2, Farmington Hills, Mich., 9,804.