California team makes statement at 2016 USBC Open

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RENO, Nev. - Despite the temporary closure of their home bowling center, the members of Yeah Spare IV of Sacramento, California, have been able to remain sharp and focused, and they found their way to the top of the Classified Team standings Saturday at the 2016 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

The group got off to a hot start, opening with a 950 game at the National Bowling Stadium, and then it was just a matter of staying calm and clean. They added games of 882 and 824 for a 2,656 total, edging past T-Rays of Jamestown, North Dakota, which previously held the lead with 2,607.

Ben Robertson of Lemoore, California, the veteran of Yeah Spare IV with three USBC Open Championships appearances, led the way Saturday with a 576 series and was followed by Matthew Lopes (566), Kevin Lin (541), his father Douglas Robertson (501) and first-time participant Tristan Bannister (472).

"We had a great start, but as the lanes started to break down, our focus was on leaving makeable spares and getting everything we could," Ben Robertson said. "We had an idea what we needed the last game, and we were very nervous. We're just glad we were able to hold it together at the end."

Yeah Spare IV is part of a four-team group, and four members of the team are current or past members of the bowling team at the University of California - Davis.

As college students with limited time and resources, having a bowling center on campus makes preparing for events like the Open Championships much easier. Even if they didn't have the time to commit to a full league, they were able to have regular group practices.

In the past, their connection to the UC Davis Memorial Games Area gave them the chance to practice more often, and for a reasonable cost, along with having some influence on the lane conditions.

Because of an ongoing renovation, the Memorial Union Renewal Project, the Memorial Games Area has been closed, forcing Robertson and his teammates to venture out to a nearby bowling establishment to stay game-ready for the Open Championships.

In the long run, the renovation project is supposed to enhance the environment and experience at the Memorial Union, which students call the living room of the campus, and Robertson wants to make sure bowling continues to be a part of the UC Davis culture. He hopes their success at the NBS this weekend will remind the leadership of their presence and determination.

"It's nice to come out here and have our area and school represented again," Robertson said. "During the collegiate season, we tend to get overlooked, but this will help show we know how to bowl and that bowling is a priority for us."

Another former UC Davis bowler, Trevor Silva of Castro Valley, California, saw improvement in his game thanks to his time with the Aggies in the collegiate ranks, and he found success at the Open Championships in 2014 when he claimed the Classified All-Events title with a 1,855 total.

As much as the group would like to continue the UC Davis legacy on the biggest stage in bowling, they also try to stay focused on having a good time.

"We're definitely here to have fun, and it's a good way to get to know people," Robertson said. "When you have fun, you seem to relax and bowl better. We did that the first game, but once we realized we had a chance, we got nervous, and we got frustrated when we missed. At the end, once I knew we had the lead, I just wanted to get as many pins as I could because there's still a long way to go in the tournament."

Robertson and his teammates must wait nearly three months to see if they can join Silva in the tournament record books. The 2016 Open Championships kicked off March 5 and will run for 129 consecutive days until July 11.

Yeah Spare IV's companion team, Yeah Spare III, also bowled well Saturday at the NBS and settled into third place in Classified Team with a 2,555 total.

Yeah Spare III had games of 907, 785 and 863.

Nick Jones led the way with a 595 series and was joined by Ben Jones (572), Jesse Anzelc (554), Taryn Kirkwood Jones (456) and Mallory Khamchanh (378).

The Classified Division is for teams with a combined entering average of 900 or less.

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