California bowler sets pace in Classified Singles at 2019 USBC Open Championships

LAS VEGAS - The United States Bowling Congress Open Championships forever will be a special place for Paul Westerhold of La Habra, California, who met his wife, Sharon, on the tournament lanes during his debut in 2012.

It likely would be impossible to top that career highlight, but adding an Eagle to their family might rank a close second.

After a career-best performance Monday at the South Point Bowling Plaza, the idea of a title at the USBC Open Championships now is an unexpected reality for the 42-year-old right-hander, whose 606 series landed him atop the standings in Classified Singles.

"I felt like I was struggling to find anything on the lane, and it was playing a lot differently than what I'm used to at home or during previous years at this tournament," said Westerhold, who made his eighth consecutive Open Championships appearance. "I ended up playing more inside than I'm used to, but everything came together."

Westerhold's improvement of more than 100 pins from doubles to singles also was due in part to some sound advice from his wife, who still joins him on the tournament lanes each year.

His trusty spare ball also earned some of the credit Monday as he posted singles games of 210, 206 and 190. He had 488 in doubles and 463 in team, and he finished his 2019 tournament campaign with a 1,557 all-events total, also a personal-best at the Open Championships.

"My wife gave me some advice that really helped, and I ended up looking about three feet farther down the lane to get my ball to go longer," Westerhold said. "That made it easier to hit the pocket, and I was able to leave makeable spares. I started using a spare ball about three weeks ago, and I definitely think that was the difference today."

In seven previous Open Championships appearances, Westerhold averaged 153.3, with a high series of 574, which came in Reno, Nevada, in 2013.

His main goal coming into the 2019 event in Las Vegas was to roll a 200 game. He accomplished that, followed it with another and then found himself on pace for a third.

Leaving, and failing to convert, a 3-10 split in his final frame left him shy of another 200, but his temporary disappointment quickly was replaced with new emotions.

He looked up at the scoreboard and realized he'd just recorded the first 600 of his tournament career, but the idea of taking the lead never crossed his mind.

"I knew I ended up falling off the pace of another 200, and I was mad at myself for not getting the third, but I still was happy about achieving my goal, not once, but twice," Westerhold said. "I had no idea what the top score was at the time. I was just trying to keep myself in check after the first two 200s."

Westerhold now will experience something else for the first time, too, as he begins the nervous scoreboard watch all tournament leaders must endure. His memorable performance came on just the third day of this year's 122-day event, which will conclude July 8.

But, win or lose, Westerhold is grateful he was able to share the day with his wife and their friends and family.

Their annual visit to the Open Championships is a tradition and family reunion of sorts, and one of Westerhold's most vocal supporters Monday was his mother-in-law, Toni.

Initially, Westerhold was invited to the tournament by Sharon's brother, but he said he and his future bride were inseparable the whole time they were bowling. Then, after a brief long-distance relationship, Westerhold moved to California.

They'll soon be celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary, and what would be a better symbol of their love than a shiny Open Championships Eagle trophy?

The Classified Division is for bowlers with entering tournament averages of 155 and below.

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