Youth prevails on opening day of 2019 USBC Team USA Trials


The 2019 United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials truly is a who's who of young talent, and Andrew Hall of Westborough, Massachusetts, made a huge step toward making a name for himself as the men's leader after the opening day of competition.

Caitlyn Johnson of Beaumont, Texas, is the women's Day 1 leader and one of the 23 members of the 2018 edition of Junior Team USA on the lanes this week at the Gold Coast Bowling Center. She's very motivated to regain her place on the team.

The field also includes 11 women and five men from the adult edition of Team USA 2018 and all four members (two girls and two boys) of the U15 Developmental Team.

Hall, a 20-year-old right-hander, averaged more than 246 during his six-game block Thursday to pace the sold-out field of 175 men with a 1,478 total, while Johnson closed with games of 279 and 266 for a 1,449 total, a 241.5 average.

Jacob Nimtz of Loves Park, Illinois, finished second on the men's side with 1,468 and was followed by pair of 2018 Junior Team USA members, Anthony Neuer of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (1,466), and Wesley Low Jr. of Palmdale, California (1,462). Zachary Singer of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, rounded out the top five with 1,452.

Defending champion Shannon O'Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois, finished second in the women's standings with 1,385 and was followed by fellow 2018 Team USA members Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York (1,354), and Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey (1,348). Past Junior Team USA member Gazmine Mason of Cranston, Rhode Island, was fifth with 1,346.

The 36-foot oil pattern, the first of five lane conditions the competitors will face in this week's test of endurance, allowed Hall to remain in his comfort zone, which is utilizing the part of the lane closest to the gutter.

The "little something" he thought he found during the official practice session turned into one of the best days of his young career. His high game Thursday was 265, and his low game was 225.

Hall's goal now is to maintain the early momentum, while also putting Thursday's success behind him. That logic is necessary because the USBC Team USA Trials champions are determined by ranking points earned over the event's five rounds.

The top bowler of the round earns one ranking point, second place earns two points, etc. - with the lowest total of ranking points after five rounds determining the men's and women's winners. Champions earn automatic spots on Team USA for 2019 and the opportunity to represent the United States at the QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup.

"Today was an awesome day, and I had great ball reaction," said Hall, who bowled collegiately for Arizona State University last season and now has transferred to St. John's. "I knew during the practice session I had a little something, but I never expected this. This is one of the best blocks I've ever had in my life. I'm very confident going into tomorrow, but I also want to make sure I stay focused on the new day and pattern. I just want to stick to my process and not let the ups and downs get to me."

Hall speaks as a Team USA Trials veteran, having made his debut at the 2016 event, also held at the Gold Coast Bowling Center. His best finish (tied for 50th) came the following year, just a few months before he finished 68th at the Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite.

The Junior Gold Championships is held each summer and offers the initial opportunity for young bowlers to qualify for Junior Team USA.

JohnsonCaitlyn2019TeamTrialsForWeb250x140After a disappointing ending to her 2018 Junior Gold Championships, Johnson had the opportunity to represent the United States at the World Bowling Youth Championships, where she claimed a pair of medals - gold in the team event and silver in singles.

Both experiences have added to the 20-year-old right-hander's motivation heading into this week's Team USA Trials.

"I absolutely love being on Team USA, and not making it at Junior Gold really crushed me," Johnson said. "It really upset me, so coming into this week I'm very prepared. I've worked on every part of my game over the last three or four months. The preparation makes me feel extremely confident about this week."

But, like Hall, Johnson knows not to get ahead of herself or rest on Thursday's early success.

"I'm here to bowl my way back onto the team, and my mindset is to make good shots and do the absolute best I can this week to get there," Johnson said. "Leading Day 1 is really good and really good points, but I still have a job to do, and I'm focused on what's to come."

Competition at the 2019 Team USA Trials resumes Friday with squads at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern. The record 152-player women's field will hit the lanes in the morning, and the sold-out 175-player men's field will bowl in the afternoon.

All rounds of competition will be broadcast live on BowlTV.

The top four men and top four women at the 2019 Team USA Trials, based on ranking points, will earn automatic spots on Team USA, while two additional men and two additional women will be selected by the National Selection Committee from the pool of players that competed during the week at the Gold Coast Bowling Center.

The National Selection Committee also will select a maximum of five men and five women for the team based on submitted resumes. Those applicants must have been Team USA or Junior Team USA members within the last 10 years or among the top 25 in earnings during the 2018 PBA Tour season or top 25 in points during the 2018 PWBA Tour season.

After the final qualifying round at the Team Trials, the top three amateur men and top three amateur women will advance to a stepladder to determine the U.S. Amateur champions. Both winners will earn spots on Team USA.

If the U.S. Amateur champion already has earned a spot on the team, the spot will be awarded to the next-highest Team USA Trials qualifier based on ranking points.

To be eligible for this year's U.S. Amateur, a bowler must not hold or have held a professional membership (PBA or PWBA) in 2018. Also, anyone who has won a professional title (regional, national or senior) as a professional is not eligible to compete as an amateur.

For youth competitors, the top four boys and top four girls, based on ranking points, automatically will earn spots on Junior Team USA 2019. Two additional boys and two additional girls also will be selected by the National Selection Committee based on performances from either the 2019 Team USA Trials or 2018 Junior Gold Championships.

They will join the youth competitors who already earned their spots on Junior Team USA 2019 through qualifying at the 2018 Junior Gold Championships.'s BowlTV will provide wire-to-wire coverage of the events, including the announcement of Team USA and Junior Team USA 2019.