Connecticut team surges into lead at 2017 Open Championships

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LAS VEGAS - A combination of talent and communication helped HoF Silver Lanes 1 of New Hartford, Connecticut, catapult into the Regular Team lead Thursday at the 2017 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

Led by Jon Wilbur's 746 series, HoF Silver Lanes 1 rolled games of 1,001, 1,131 and 1,107 to become the first team to surpass the 3,200 barrier at the 2017 event, finishing with 3,239. Kruse's Pro Shop of Fargo, North Dakota, previously held the lead with 3,198.

Wilbur was joined at the South Point Bowling Plaza by Todd Lathrop (676), Tony Reynaud (622), Jon Matunas (610) and Scott Widmer (585).

Although the team consists of players from Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts, they connected at the nearby South Point Bowling Center to take advantage of the team practice session opportunity to develop their game plan.

"The practice sessions really helped a lot, and I think we were able to figure out where our break points needed to be," said Wilbur, who teamed with Lathrop to win Open Doubles at the 2015 Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC. "This group only has been together for two years. I thought we came together pretty well last year, and even better this year. We really paid attention to what was happening on the lanes, and it was a total team effort."

The team effort also included their crossing team, HoF Silver Lanes 2, which moved into sixth place in Regular Team after games of 961, 958 and 1,184 for a 3,103 total. The final game by HoF Silver 2 is the highest of the 2017 Open Championships.

John Kirker's 665 series led the effort by HoF Silver Lanes 2. The team also included John Ferraro (639), Tommy Tkacz (632), Michael Zarnick (604) and David Meyer (563).

"That final game was something I've never experienced, especially on this stage," said Wilbur, a member of the Vermont State USBC Hall of Fame. "The adrenaline was pumping, and it was pretty cool to have everybody come together like that. I know I was getting a little jittery, and my knees were shaking in the 10th frame. I'm sure the other guys felt that way, too."

Moving into the lead also gives the group the chance to reflect on the effort and work they put in individually before heading to the Open Championships each year, knowing it paid off with a spot at the top of the standings in 2017.

"Even though we're from all over the Northeast, we get to see each other and compete in NEBA (New England Bowlers Association) events, so we are able to sharpen our skills there," Wilbur said. "Then, we do our best to work together when we get out here. We definitely had to work as a team to accomplish this. Even if you do everything right, you need to have a few breaks on your side, too. I feel pretty good about our number. Nobody had gotten to 3,200 yet, so it's something tough to accomplish, but we know there are a lot of good bowlers on their way to Las Vegas. We hope it holds up."

Both teams will return to the lanes for doubles and singles at 4 p.m. Eastern on Friday.

Teams in the Regular Division include five players with a combined entering average of 1,046 and above.

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