RENO, Nev. - Michael Henry of Brunswick, Ohio, was calm and comfortable when he took to the lanes at the National Bowling Stadium for the 2013 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, despite significant changes to the event's schedule, format and lane conditions.
The 63-year-old left-hander, a winner on the Professional Bowlers Association's PBA50 Tour, relied on decades of bowling experience to help him navigate the two Sport Bowling-certified lane conditions at this year's event, and he landed at the top of the leaderboard in Regular All-Events with a 1,948 total Saturday morning.
"I was comfortable from the beginning," said Henry, who made his 22nd USBC Open Championships appearance and shot 680 in team, 649 in singles and 619 in doubles. "I got lined up last night and just had to make a small move today because the doubles and singles pattern was a little drier for me."
This year marks the first time in the tournament's 110-year history that two different lane conditions are being used - one for team competition and another for doubles and singles, and Henry was able to develop a plan of attack simply by reading the graphs of the patterns posted in the scale room.
"I looked at the buff area and the volume, and it gave me a good indication of where I could play," said Henry, whose highest all-events total entering this year was 1,881 at the 1999 event in Syracuse, N.Y. "The six minutes of practice for doubles and singles, instead of just two balls on each lane, really helped me. I took a guess for the first ball on each lane, and I was able to find the right spot after a quick move."
Also new in 2013, there now are six bowlers on each set of lanes for doubles and singles, compared to four in the past, and all six games are bowled on the same pair.
It's easy to be intimidated by all of the changes, and Henry even admits he was a little apprehensive about not switching lanes between doubles and singles, but he stuck to his game plan of staying focused and making the best shots he could, and it paid off.
Henry did have the opportunity to test his strategies by utilizing the new 900 Global Showcase Lanes for a practice session on the team pattern, or by competing in the on-site Storm Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC, being contested on the doubles and singles pattern, but he opted to rely on his experience and knowledge this time around. He did watch some bowlers at the Bowlers Journal Championships to see how they were playing the lanes, but none were left-handed.
"It feels good to be in this position, but I know it's early in the tournament and a lot of good bowlers will come through with the same motivation and same opportunities I had," Henry said. "If I had it to do over again, I'd probably do both (Showcase Lanes session and bowl in the Bowlers Journal), but right now, I'm satisfied with how it went and excited about my first 1,900."
Later on Saturday, one of the teams that did take advantage of the Showcase Lanes, Sport Bowl Pro Shop of Middleton, Wis., surged into the Regular Team lead with a 3,038 total. Custom Decks of Northfield, Ohio, previously held the lead with 2,733.
Richard Thomas fired a 737 series for Sport Bowl Pro Shop and was joined by Joe Kick (633), Jacob Thomas (605), Richard D. Thomas (571) and Chad Kuehmichel (492).
"We came in last night for a practice session downstairs just to get a feel for the shot and see what it was like," said Richard Thomas, who made his 23rd tournament appearance. "We all agreed that it played somewhat different upstairs, but it was similar enough to give us an idea of what we wanted to do, where we wanted to play and how we wanted to approach the pattern. We have no expectations with our score. There are going to be some big numbers."
Presenting sponsors for the 2013 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.