Recently, I’ve been participating in the ABT (Amateur Bowling Tour). I’m a member of the Philadelphia chapter, and they host 1-2 tournaments a week at various alleys throughout the Philly Tri-State area (South Jersey, Philly, and Delaware). Generally, I only go to the ones in Pennsylvania, as the NJ and DE ones are an hour or more away. I’d say I’ve participated in 5-6 in the past year, with most of those being in the past 3 months.
A few months ago, I finished 5th in a tournament. Last week, I was 1 pin away from qualifying for the finals. This week’s tournament was in Delaware, but my father and I went down to it anyway because it was a “major”. The ABTs normal tournaments generally give $1000 for 1st place; the majors are either $5000 or $10,000. And the normal tournaments draw 50-70 people, this weekend’s had a little over 400.
The tournaments are broken down into 2 divisions; Classic and Masters. Classic is an open division, for anyone with a 189 or lower average. Masters is for 190+. The 2 divisions qualify separately, have separate semi-finals, and separate finals. The only time they compete against each other is for the overall tournament championship; masters winner vs classic winner. I’m in Masters, while roughly 60% of all entrants are Classic.
It’s hard to describe the shot that was laid out for this weekend’s tournament. It was even across the lanes, and seemed to break down very quickly; the play changed drastically between qualifying and the finals. Overall, it was very dry on the back-end, giving a very quick snap, while the front of the lane was quite wet. The result was that your ball would move, but you had to put it in a good spot, or you’d be in trouble. Too far outside, it wouldn’t recover and you’d leave a wash out… too far inside, and you’d go through the nose or cross over.
It cost me $75 to enter the tournament, another $33 for sidepots (high game, clean set, strike pot, and bonus bucks), $25 for scratch pot, and I entered 8 brackets ($40). I thought I was in trouble at the start; I was playing a straight-up inside line, and was having a lot of trouble keeping it consistent. Compound that with 2 pocket 7-pin hits following stikes and 2 chops of spares… I was sure I was done after 1 game. Pulled out a double in the 10th to finished with a 170 scratch (192 with handicap, good for a -8). The second game wasn’t looking much better, as I was all over the place… but I managed 4 straight 9-spares to start the game. Then I decided to make a drastic move; instead of playing straight-up 10, I moved left to 5 and dropped my ball speed a bit. First ball I threw was a pocket 7-10. But then things changed and I finished the game with 6 in a row and another pocket 7-10, good for a 231 scratch (+53 for the game)… which was the highest score for anyone that game, getting me $70 in the high game pot and securing me births in the finals of any bracket I was still alive in (I didn’t think there would be many, given my crappy 1st game). The 3rd game was up and down, with a double followed by a 6-out followed by a turkey; finished with a 203 (+25). Overall, 604 scratch and +70. Turns out this was good enough to qualify me 4th out of 31 who made it in my division, and 6th place for scratch ($140). I managed to survive the 1st game in 4 of my 8 brackets, and won all 4, for another $100.
Next up was the semi-finals. I put in another $6 for high game pots and entered 10 more brackets ($50). Total money I put up: $229. I played the same line throughout the semis, starting off strongly in-spite of a few splits (double-split-5 in a row-split). 217 final score (+39). The 2nd game was a disaster; I couldn’t do anything right on the left lane, hitting the head pin only once in 5 frames. I fought back, with another double in the 10th, for a paltry 166 (-12 for the game, +27 through 2). The top 8 out of 31 would make the finals and the cut through 2 games was announced at +29. I buckled down in the 3rd game, re-focusing, and shot a very consistent 216 (599 scratch series, +65). It was then a waiting game to see whether that would be good enough to qualify for the finals. After what had to have been at least a half hour, it was announced that the Masters cut was +29 and my +65 was good for 3rd. I survived 8/10 brackets through game 1, but my awful game 2 left me with only 1 in the finals, which I won for $25.
The format for the finals was a bracket. 8 people drew random numbers for lane assignments, then played 1 vs 1 with the winners moving on. I got lucky and drew against the guy who qualified 8th. We both struggled on a pair of lanes that were much drier than we were used to, and I eeked out a victory 184 to 168 scratch (I was only giving him 2 pins of handicap). We then re-drew lane assignments and I was slotted against the lone woman in Masters, who had shot a 217 in her 1st round match. Luckily for me, we were back on a pair of lanes that wasn’t super dry, and I had my best game of the day. I started off with a turkey, then alternated 7-pin spare / strike for the rest of the game, with every ball buried… just getting no carry on the left lane. She struggled and I won 217 to 165 (with me giving her 1 pin of handicap). With that, I was off to the finals of the Masters division. And I was lost all game. Couldn’t find a shot on the left lane, couldn’t keep the ball on the left side of the lane on the right lane… and my opponent had 5 in a row early. He coasted to beat me 223 to 164. I was given a check for $1000 for finishing tied for 3rd (1st place was $10,000, 2nd $3750).
It was an exhausting day, waking up at 8am. We reached the alley around 10, but didn’t start bowling until close to 1pm. My final game ended around 7pm. And I was starving, having eaten only a breakfast sandwich and donut from Dunkin’ Donuts and 1 bottle of water. I treated my father to dinner at a local Brazilian steakhouse then was home by 9:15, asleep by 10. Total earnings: $1335 for a profit of just over $1100 (about $1000 after dinner). Not bad for a single day… definitely makes my lifetime ABT revenue greater than my lifetime outlays. Next tournament I’ll enter is at my home lanes, Thunderbird Warminster, at the end of July.