Local bowler gets call, takes lead at 2018 USBC Open Championships

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Bill Michalski of Syracuse, New York, thought his bowling season was over, but a series of unexpected events put him back on the lanes and into the lead in Classified All-Events at the 2018 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

After bowling in the team event three weeks ago, Michalski didn't have a spot for doubles and singles, but he waited patiently, realizing that thousands of teams still were scheduled to compete at the Oncenter Convention Center, and a spot may open up before the tournament's July 8 conclusion.

The 66-year-old left-hander got the call he was waiting for and took advantage of the opportunity Wednesday. He vaulted into the top spot in Classified All-Events with a 1,693 total, which included a 582 series in doubles and 554 effort in singles, to go along with the 557 set he posted during his team event April 18.

Wayne Kommalan of Perryville, Maryland, previously held the lead in Classified All-Events with 1,594.

"I'm really excited and shocked at the same time," said Michalski, who made his fourth USBC Open Championships appearance overall, and first since 2004. "I haven't bowled in a month. At this time of the year, my bowling balls usually are in my basement by now."

In addition to taking the all-events lead, Michalski and George VonPless of Kirkville, New York, moved into third place in Classified Doubles with a 1,053 total. VonPless contributed a 471 series to the performance. Jennifer Geimer of Miami Shores, Florida, and her brother Doug Romanik of Miami lead Classified Doubles with 1,077.

Michalski officially made his way to the top of the leaderboard with a strike in the sixth frame of his final game, and he added three strikes in the 10th frame for good measure.

Michalski's wife of 31 years, Cheryl, was in the stands to cheer him on.

This season, Michalski only bowled every other week in a mixed league at Flamingo Bowl in Liverpool, New York, which hosted the 2017 U.S. Open.

"I can throw the ball hard, and I think that's better on this condition," Michalski said. "It's a tough shot out there. I tried to keep the ball in play and make my spares. If you can make spares here, you are doing real well."

Michalski initially bowled at the 2018 Open Championships on a team he organized. When none of his teammates showed interest in bowling doubles and singles, he put his name on the on-site sub board.

"I shouldn't even be in doubles and singles," Michalski said. "All my teammates backed out. I didn't know what to do, so I put my name down as a sub. It just so happened that a gentleman from Ohio got my name off the sub board and called me to bowl."

Michalski's tournament journey took another unusual turn, however.

Ed Chapman of Sandusky, Ohio, was the one who enlisted Michalski's services for doubles and singles, but, earlier this week, Chapman smashed the ring finger on his bowling hand in his hotel room door, and he was forced to withdraw, leaving Michalski without a doubles partner yet again.

"I felt bad for Ed because he came all this way, then ends up getting hurt a day before the tournament," Michalski said. "I scrambled to find someone to bowl with, and I called George. Fortunately, he was able to do it, otherwise, I wouldn't be bowling."

That call to VonPless, his friend of 50 years, was made less than 24 hours before Michalski was scheduled to bowl, but VonPless was able to clear his schedule.

"We were right there to take the lead in doubles, too," Michalski said. "He had a couple bad frames, and I had a couple bad frames. I had 160 in that second game, so really, it's my fault."

Classified Doubles includes pairs with combined entering averages of 360 and below, while Classified Singles and Classified All-Events include bowlers with entering averages of 180 and below.

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