Butturff motivated heading into 2019 U.S. Open

ARLINGTON, Texas - No matter the context, 1,169 of anything is a lot.

For seven-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour champion Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Arizona, that number has been a source of some self-doubt, a few sleepless nights, questions, criticism and speculation.

Those negatives quickly passed, however, and he has used that figure - the combined number of pins he's led by at the last two editions of the U.S. Open - as motivation.

While his performance in those events earned him the top seed for the stepladder finals, he fell short in both opportunities. He's now two weeks away from another run at the major title and coveted green jacket.

While some may further analyze the amazing four-digit figure or its components for special meaning, Butturff isn't worried about things beyond his control.

"Because the last two years have been so successful, I'm excited to get back out there and give it my best once again," Butturff said. "It's a marathon. After 114 games, I have two second-place finishes, which is special. Yes, there was some disappointment, but to perform like that against such a talented field that includes many of the bowlers I watched when I was younger, feels incredible."

Butturff will be among the 144 competitors at the upcoming 2019 event, which will take place at Victory Lanes in Mooresville, North Carolina, from Oct. 23-30.

A pre-tournament qualifier will be held Oct. 23, and the three days of U.S. Open qualifying will begin Oct. 25. The tournament will conclude live on CBS Sports Network on Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Yes, Butturff thinks about the single-pin loss he suffered to England's Dom Barrett last Halloween in the title match of the 2018 U.S. Open, but he hasn't been haunted by it.Dom2018USOForWeb637x359

Yes, he thinks of his falling short a year earlier against fellow left-hander Rhino Page, but he knows Page simply bowled a better game.

As easy as it would've been to let the frustration of either loss define him, especially as he considered all the places he could've found one more pin against Barrett, he remained strong for reasons beyond bowling and focused only on the positive vibes from family members, fans and friends.

When he sat at dinner following last year's event, he understandably was filled with emotion and admitted to a building waterfall of tears trying to break free.

During that meal, though, and on the trip home from Wichita, Kansas, to Arizona, Butturff was joined by his mother, Bridget, whose presence alone provided him immeasurable serenity.

Her ongoing fight with lung cancer has given Butturff a different perspective in many aspects of his life.

"Because my mom doesn't get to watch me as much as we'd like, I always try to keep my emotions in check because I don't want to disappoint her," Butturff said. "Yes, I wanted to ball my eyes out at dinner and on the plane last year, but I wanted to be strong for her. The one thing I try to do with my bowling is keep her spirits up. I know she'll be proud no matter what, but it motivates me even more."

Despite the disappointing end to the 2018 season and a frustrating start to 2019, where spare-shooting trouble on TV cost him a win in the season-opening PBA Hall of Fame Classic, Butturff has taken a light-hearted approach to such blunders and not let them affect him from one week to the next.

He's now nearing the end of the most successful season of his five-year PBA Tour career and hoping another run on the U.S. Open stage might give him a chance at being the 2019 PBA Player of the Year.

His season includes three Tour titles, one of which came at the United States Bowling Congress Masters for the first major victory of his career.

The 25-year-old southpaw also had the opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2019 Pan American Games, where he broke three scoring records and teamed with Nick Pate for the doubles gold medal.

Butturff has earned a reputation as one of the most compassionate bowlers around, often being generous with his words and his time.

And, while it also could be said that he wears his heart on his sleeve, the timeless cliché literally is illustrated on his forearm, which is tattooed with a tribute to his grandfather, who died almost two years ago.

"My Grandpa Ken was always there for me for support and inspiration, so it was incredibly hard for me when we lost him," Butturff said. "He was a hero to me as part of my family and as a serviceman, and the tattoo is a special reminder of how much he meant to me. I just feel that when I'm on that approach, I know he's watching down from heaven. No matter where I'm bowling, I'll always have a plus-one."

In his short PBA career, Butturff has persevered emotionally and overcome some injuries. He makes it a point to learn from each mistake and defeat and keep a positive outlook, which he often shares via social media.

In 2015, he finished 82nd at the U.S. Open, earning a check. In 2016, he was 52nd, just above the cash line.

Rhino2017USOForWeb250x140In describing his loss to Page in 2017, Butturff said he felt more overwhelmed than disappointed, and he knows he got out-bowled. It was just his second live singles TV show, and Page had the experience advantage.

The sting was far greater in 2018 because it's hard to know how many opportunities at redemption will come along. To lead by more than 550 pins and fall one pin shy - was heartbreaking.

"At the moment it happens, it's so tough," Butturff said. "But, if you step back and realize what you just accomplished - making the title match at the U.S. Open in back-to-back years - it's still amazing. Even though it was a crushing moment, something clicked for me. It has taken me time to learn how to accept the past and not overthink each opportunity. I always give it all I've got, and I plan to do the same at this year's U.S. Open."