Classified leaderboards shaken up at 2016 USBC Open

By Matt Cannizzaro and Jessica Gilgor
USBC Communications

RENO, Nev. -
Prior to making his first appearance at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, the only time David Hjelm of Wheaton, Minnesota, had seen the National Bowling Stadium was in the movie "Kingpin."

The 42-year-old right-hander turned in his own McCracken-esque performance Thursday at the NBS and made his way to the top of the leaderboard in Classified Doubles and All-Events.

Hjelm rolled sets of 587 in singles, 586 in doubles and 540 in team to finish his USBC Open Championships debut with a 1,713 all-events total. David Kettell of Lindenhurst, New York, previously held the lead with 1,661.

"It really hasn't sunk in yet," said Hjelm, who bowls regularly at Shoreline Restaurant Bar and Bowl in Battle Lake, Minnesota. "I know there's a lot of time left in the tournament, but it's great. I just bowl to have fun. That's what this sport is for me, but this was a great experience."

HjelmSundby2016OCForWeb250x140In addition to his individual success, Hjelm teamed with Gary Sundby Jr. of Dalton, Minnesota, to take over the top spot in Classified Doubles with a 1,155 total. Sundby contributed a 569 series to help them past Randy Robinson and Crystal Forkner, both of Higginsville, Missouri, who previously held the lead with 1,118.

Hjelm's delayed first appearance at the Open Championships came four years after his return to the lanes following a 20-year hiatus.

"I bowled the last three years of high school and then went straight into the military," said Hjelm, a former Army cavalry scout. "I wish I would have bowled league overseas and stayed with it, but nobody really told me about coming to Nationals. I thought you had to be at a certain level to be invited. I kick myself for not coming sooner, but I can see myself going every year now. It's a fun thing."

Sundby also performed consistently at the 2016 tournament and finished his ninth Open Championships in fifth place in Classified All-Events with 1,653. Hjelm's singles effort also was good enough for sixth place in Classified Singles. Kettell leads with 644.

Ten lanes away, during the same squad Thursday, Eric Douglass of Goldfield, Iowa, found himself in familiar territory as he made his own run at the top spot in both Classified Doubles and All-Events.

Douglass, a member of the 2006 Classified Team champion, had a 570 series in singles, 562 in doubles and 539 in team to land just behind Hjelm in the standings with a 1,671 all-events total.

Douglass' partner, Mike Thielen of Eagle Grove, Iowa, the runner-up in Classified All-Events at the 2015 tournament in El Paso, Texas, added a 585 set in doubles for a 1,147 total, good enough for second place behind Hjelm and Sundby.ThielenDouglass2016OCForWeb250x140

"I knew I had a chance," said Douglass, a 40-year-old right-hander who made his 14th Open Championships appearance. "But I started struggling in the end and just had to take some deep breaths. Mike actually was a big influence. He helps me calm down."

The Classified Division is for individual bowlers with entering averages of 180 and below. Classified Doubles is for bowlers with combined entering averages of 360 and below.

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