BATON ROUGE, La. - When Matthew Tuckfield of Miami was a youth bowler, he admired all of his current Jr. Team USA Support teammates as they struck their way through the youth, collegiate, adult and professional ranks.
The 23-year-old right-hander gave them a reason to return the admiration as he rolled the third perfect game of the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships on Sunday.
Tuckfield started doubles with a disappointing 169 game but turned what could have been a subpar performance into the moment of a lifetime by rolling 12 consecutive strikes in the next game. He started the finale with four more strikes before a 9 pin ended his quest to join 2003 Regular Singles champion Ron Bahr as the only bowlers to record back-to-back 300s at the USBC Open Championships.
Tuckfield finished with a 233 game for a 702 series and teamed with former Team USA member Amanda Vermilyea of Mansfield, Texas, who added games of 219, 224 and 153 for 596 and a 1,298 total. Ryan Whitney of Lewisville, Texas, and Chris Hans of Rocky Mount, N.C., lead Regular Doubles with 1,420.
Tuckfield, who is no stranger to pressure situations, rolled a 300 game at the 2010 USBC Team USA Trials and called upon that experience during his attempt at perfection at the Baton Rouge River Center.
"I shot 300 at the Team Trials, so I've had that feeling before," said Tuckfield, who made his third Open Championships appearance. "But bowling it in a team-type event, and bowling with people I enjoy bowling with, was something special. It's something most people don't get a chance to do, so I feel really good about it."
After a tough start, Tuckfield did not want to disappoint his partner, so he quickly regained focus.
"I was bowling with Amanda, and I really didn't want to let her down," said Tuckfield, who bowled collegiately at the University of Central Florida. "She was throwing the ball really well. I told her before the game started it was going to be a guaranteed 240. My look was a lot better than the first game. I just threw the last three shots that game really badly. But, once it got going, it felt right. I got breaks in the ninth and the second shot in the 10th, and the pins just kind of fell for me."
Tuckfield's perfect game capped off an exciting weekend for Jr. Team USA Support 1 and 2 of Mansfield, Texas. The two teams, made up of former Team USA and Junior Team USA members and collegiate stars, cracked the top 10 in Regular Team, Regular Doubles and Team All-Events.
Along with many spectators and fans watching in person, thousands of viewers across the globe had the chance to see how both teams fared on the challenging lane condition as their team event was broadcast live on BowlTV on Saturday night.
Jr. Team USA Support 1 started slowly with games of 959 and 991 before an explosive 1,220 finish, the highest team game of this year's event, landed the group in third place with a 3,170 total. Jr. Team USA Support 2 was not far behind and settled into eighth place with games of 1,058, 1,117 and 952 for 3,127. Nicholas J's Pro Shop 2 of LaCrosse, Wis., leads with 3,401.
Both teams also made a valiant run in Team All-Events, but ultimately settled for third (9,505) and fourth place (9,487), respectively. Legend of Dung Ho of Cerritos, Calif., leads with 9,666.
Tuckfield led the way for Jr. Team USA Support 1 with a 1,991 all-events effort and was followed by former Team USA member Erik Vermilyea (1,957), Steve Novak, a two-time national champion with Saginaw Valley State University (1,931), three-time Team USA member Amanda Vermilyea (1,813) and two-time Junior Team USA member Jeffrey Mersch (1,813). Vermilyea and Mersch are tied for fourth in Regular Doubles with 1,363.
Jr. Team USA Support 2 was led by 2007 Team USA Trials champion David O'Sullivan with 2,003. He was followed by former Team USA member Ronnie Sparks Jr. (1,922), two-time Junior Team USA member Clay Herrbach (1,908), former Professional Bowlers Association exempt player P.J. Haggerty (1,864) and former Junior Team USA member Shawn Ryan (1,790).
"It was a great team weekend," said Erik Vermilyea, who is the team captain and a two-time All-American at the University of Nebraska. "We've had the same core team now for eight years. We're real comfortable with each other, and we have a great time together. Team started off a little iffy yesterday, but we just kept fighting and hanging in there. Then, it started to click. We made the right moves, made the good shots and finished strong with 1,220, which was really, really cool. Going into today, we knew we needed some big scores. We came up a few pins short, but it was a great team weekend. We had a blast."
Sponsors for the 2012 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno. Other sponsors include the Belle of Baton Rouge, official brackets sponsor; Kegel, official lane maintenance provider; Humana, official registration sponsor; Bud Light and Budweiser, official beer sponsors; The Advocate, official publication sponsor; Brunswick, official lane provider; Steltronic, official scoring system; Storm Bowling Products and Nationwide Insurance.