Texas teammates battle for doubles lead at 2017 USBC Open Championships

LAS VEGAS - It may be NASCAR weekend in Las Vegas, but there also was an exciting race Sunday morning at the South Point Bowling Plaza as two sets of teammates battled for the Regular Doubles lead at the 2017 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

Both pairs got off to a hot start and lost some momentum down the stretch, but reigning Professional Bowlers Association Southwest Region Bowler of the Year Chris Hibbitts II of Keller, Texas, used an 10-strike final game to cruise into the lead with Clint Dacy, also from Keller.

Hibbitts, a 45-year-old right-hander, opened the final game with five consecutive strikes and closed with five more to cap off a 252 game and 695 series. Dacy failed to double in the finale but contributed a 625 set to the leading 1,320 effort. Lennie Boresch Jr. and his son, Jacob, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, previously held the lead with 1,289.

"We've never made it to the lead before, and it's one of those things you always think would be pretty cool," said Dacy, a 42-year-old right-hander who made his 18th USBC Open Championships appearance. "We usually bowl in June, and making the web page at that point usually means a really good score with a chance to win. In March, it may not last through the weekend, but it was a lot of fun."

The other doubles contenders Sunday were USBC Hall of Famer Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, also from Keller, and former Team USA member Steve Smith of San Diego.

Dorin-Ballard started the day with a 290 effort, and she and Smith held a 20-pin advantage over Hibbitts and Dacy going into the last game. The two ran out of gas and settled into fourth place overall with a 1,273 total. Dorin-Ballard led the way with a 704 set, while Smith added 569.

Smith and Hibbitts are familiar with the excitement of making a run at the lead on the championship lanes, having gotten close during the 2013 Open Championships in Reno, Nevada.

That year, the two helped their Ballard's Bowling Solutions 2 team to a sixth-place performance, just a few marks and 67 pins from a Regular Team title.

There is no denying they are part of a talented group, as their accolades speak for themselves, but they also attribute their continued success over the years to great teamwork and communication.

"The biggest part about today was playing off each other fairly well and setting up the lanes in a way that worked well for us," said Hibbitts, who made his 12th trip to the Open Championships. "The teamwork and communication were great, and that's something we've been doing together for a few years.

This year's edition of the Ballard's Bowling Academy group again found success in the team event, moving into second and fifth place.

Hibbitts shot 614 in team and helped Ballard's Bowling Academy 2 to games of 935, 1,068 and 1,056 for a 3,059 total. He was joined by Eric Cox (649), Brandon Martin (621), Roger Petrin (603) and Cole Copeland (572).

Smith set the pace for Ballard's Bowling Academy 1 with a 681 series and was joined by Chris Lucas (610), Dacy (588), Jonathan Merriman (582) and Dorin-Ballard (575). The group had games of 953, 1,031 and 1,052 for a 3,036 total.

Classic Lanes Raisins of Milwaukee leads Regular Team with 3,158.

Individually, Hibbitts added a 651 singles set and moved into sixth place in Regular All-Events with a 1,960 total. Smith wasn't far behind with 1,926, Dorin-Ballard finished with 1,888 and Dacy had 1,785. The rest of the group was scheduled for the 1 p.m. doubles and singles squad Sunday.

To kick off the late doubles and singles squad, Standard Doubles also got new leaders as Jeff Kusnerick and Duane Kruger of Streator, Illinois, surged to the top of the leaderboard with a 1,174 total.

Kusnerick led the way with a 596 series, and Kruger had 578. The two passed brothers Stephen and John Schipper of Botkins, Ohio, who previously held the lead with 1,131. 

The Regular Division at the 2017 Open Championships is for teams with combined entering averages of 1,046 or higher, combined doubles averages of 419 and above and individual averages of 210 and higher.

The new Standard Division includes teams with combined entering averages of 901-1,045, doubles teams from 361-418 and individuals with entering averages from 181-209. 

For more information on the Open Championships, visit BOWL.com/OpenChamp.

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