HENDERSON, Nev. - Venezuela's Amleto Monacelli took the lead after the first round of qualifying Tuesday at the 2012 Alka Seltzer Plus Liquid Gels United States Bowling Congress Masters by averaging 247.8 over the opening five games.
Monacelli, a 19-time Professional Bowlers Association champion, fired 1,239 in the opening round to lead a field of 305 of the top bowlers in the country vying for a piece of the $250,000 prize fund at Sunset Station's Strike Zone Bowling Center. The finals of the event will be broadcast live on ESPN on Jan. 29 at 12:30 p.m. Eastern.
Fueled by a 298 finish, Monacelli, 50, surged into the lead in the final game of the day. He began the opening round with games of 255, 226, 215 and 245. Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, sits in second with 1,225.
"This morning when I was working out something came to my mind that I wanted to change in my game today," said Monacelli, who will be inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame this April. "I wanted to accelerate a little more toward the release. That's something I thought had been hurting me a little bit."
Another key to Monacelli's success Tuesday was his ability to maintain a strong mental game, which is another area he has spent time working on lately.
"I've been working really hard to get my mental game back," said Monacelli, whose last PBA title came nearly seven years ago when he won the PBA Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Open in 2005. "I have to keep my mind clean without thoughts of the past or future. I also am trying to keep my wishes and desires out of my body, and that has helped keep my anxiety down a lot."
Rick Steelsmith of Wichita, Kan., rounded out the top three with 1,206, while Alex Aguiar of North Dartmouth, Mass., was the high non-professional in the field in fourth place with 1,179.
After struggling in the Masters in the past, Aguiar was pleased to get off to a stellar start at the event. He's never made the cut at the Masters and put himself in good position to do so with Tuesday's opening round total.
"This tournament has been a disaster for me in the past," said Aguiar, who won a Professional Bowlers Association member/non-member doubles event in January with USBC Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III. "This is one of those tournaments where things haven't gone very well for me. It's very satisfying to come out and not have to press to knock down pins in the second round that you didn't get in the first round."
All 305 players will return Wednesday for five additional games of qualifying before the field is cut to the top 77 for five final games of qualifying Thursday morning. The top 63 players plus defending champion Tom Hess of Urbandale, Iowa, will move on to the double-elimination match-play bracket Thursday afternoon.
The USBC Masters is a major on the PBA Tour, and the champion of the event will earn $50,000 for first place. The final four players who survive bracket play will advance to the nationally televised championship round.
For more information on the USBC Masters, visit BOWL.com/masters.