We know that over the nearly 120 years of USBC Open Championships competition, there have been countless amazing performances and competitors. No one could argue that fact.
However, selecting just 32 of those people, accomplishments and milestones potentially was a taller task than winning an OC Eagle, especially when the rollout of the OC Bracket Challenge easily could've included 64, 128 or even 512 incredible tournament memories.
With the help of the event's (and probably the sport of bowling's) biggest fans, we've been able to narrow the original 32 entrants to 16 formidable contenders.
There has been some great discussion on social media along the way, and we're now ready to get at it again with the second round of the 2020 OC Bracket Challenge!
Only four people/memories/enhancements/milestones remain in each quadrant - Record Moments, Participation/General OC Milestones, Tournament Firsts and Head-to-Head Matchups.
We've got details for each of the eight second-round matches, along with insight and picks from the OC public relations staff and some special guests.
Remember to visit the official USBC Open Championships Facebook page each day to cast your votes for each match!
Anytime a record score is posted, it's pretty impressive.
We started this challenge with eight scores that were records when they were shot, and voters had some tough things to consider when making their choices, such as - era, team vs. individual, whether the number eventually was beaten, etc.
All four accomplishments remaining in this quadrant also still are records at the Open Championships, but that doesn't make the decisions any easier.
Brenda Padilla vs. Pollard's Bowl
This match is pretty complex.
On one hand, Brenda Padilla's memorable day in Las Vegas actually landed her name in the OC record book in three locations - an all-time/overall doubles record with Stephen Padilla (1,566), as the sixth of just 10 women to roll a 300 game at the OC and for having the highest all-events total by a woman (2,132).
On the other hand, the five members of Pollard's Bowl averaged nearly 232 across 45 games to post the highest Team All-Events total in history (10,425). The feat came across two days and multiple pairs of lanes.
The 10,425 effort included Ron Pollard (2,107), Rick Pollard (2,104), Don Scudder (2,097), Bill Spigner (2,068) and Jerry Kessler (2,049). Scudder also won Regular Singles that year in Salt Lake City with an 823 series.
Matt Cannizzaro (OC PR Manager since 2005): Pollard's Bowl
Why: Yes, it was awesome to see the turnaround Brenda Padilla had from team to doubles and singles, see the incredible doubles score and watch her run out the last shot of her 300, but it's pretty hard to compare to the team effort is usually takes to find success in Team All-Events.
Though I didn't see Pollard's Bowl post the 10,425, a lot can be said for 15+ years of watching other teams make their TAE runs.
Teams know there's no prize money on the line for TAE, specifically, but their preparation and discussion of the event's most prestigious title often begin the minute they're done bowling the previous year.
Then, it is nine games (45 individual games) of communication, suggestions, moves, perseverance and camaraderie over two days and multiple pairs of lanes. To see it unfold and hear what it all means to the team members usually is followed by goosebumps.
Duane Hagen (OC Tournament Director since 2008): Pollard's Bowl
Why: Pollard's Bowl takes the matchup. Not only did the effort require performance across days, and events, but the overall consistency in the scores of all five members is remarkable.
Fran Piraino (longtime bowling writer and historian in Syracuse area)
: Brenda Padilla
Why: In an upset, I'm voting for Padilla. I typically go for team milestones because of the coordination and communication involved, but Padilla put together a monumental performance in a tournament where women bowlers, in my humble opinion, are under a little more pressure
Bob Johnson (Bowlers Journal International)
: Pollard's Bowl
Why: As Kelly Kulick demonstrated with her PBA Tournament of Champions victory, the gap between the genders in bowling is narrowing. So, while "women's records" at the OC are impressive, the Pollard's record-setting performance was a true team effort - not a weak individual score in the bunch - and has stood the test of time.
Bob Hart (USBC Hall of Famer/reaching 65 years of OC participation in 2020)
: Pollard's Bowl
Why: Forty five games for five men over the team, doubles and singles events, averaging nearly 232 per man, is by far the ultimate challenge.
This performance took place over two days, on many lanes, changing lane conditions and varied bowling styles. The overall final standings and milestone performances are judged on scores only by all participants without separate consideration for gender.
Doug Shellum (Open Championships and Minnesota bowling historian, 31-time OC participant): Pollard's Bowl
Why: Having five teammates average 232 over 45 games on the OC conditions to set the record for the highest Team All-Events total in history is really impressive. All back in 1996!
If I recall correctly, Chris Barnes and his teammates had 10,421 in Reno in 1998, and the Lind's Milwaukee team had 10,372 in 2009 in Las Vegas. In addition, the awesome Lind's Lakers out of Minneapolis posted a 10,339 score in Billings in 2002. They were all close but did not reach the record set by Pollard's Bowl.
Artistic Expressions 1 (3,720) vs. Matt McNiel (2,326)
Artistic Expressions 1, comprised of five first-time OC champions, dominated a year at the Open Championships that featured the three highest team scores in tournament history (2014).
However, the record performance of 3,720 was 159 pins better than the next-closest score and blew right through the 3,600s.
Matt McNiel's record performance came in 2010. It was the start of an unprecedented run for the young left-hander, and his 2,326 effort marked only the second time an OC bowler had topped the 2,300 all-events mark. The first was Ron Vokes en route to the 2009 Regular All-Events title with a 2,321 total.
McNiel finished 81 pins ahead of the all-events runner-up in 2010, also a southpaw.
All previous and future performances aside, which score rattled the OC, the bowling world and the tournament record book more - the team 3,720 or the individual 2,326?
Matt Cannizzaro: 2,326
Why: It often is said that each event at the OC is like a sprint, while all-events is a challenging marathon.
It certainly holds true that everything could align for three memorable games, but maintaining that magic and momentum over nine games and two days is a truer test of endurance and versatility.
For that reason, plus averaging more than 258 over an entire Open Championships, while tens of thousands of bowlers dream of shooting even one, is why my vote here goes to Matt McNiel and his 2010 all-events record.
Duane Hagen: Artistic Expressions 1
Why: The Artistic Expressions 3,720 rattled the bowling world more due to the sheer magnitude of the score and resulting enhancements to lane pattern theory for USBC major championships.
Fran Piraino: Artistic Expressions 1
Why: Team competition requires the concerted effort of five individuals. Everything needs to come together for, not one, but all five, which is why Artistic Expressions is moving on.
Bob Johnson: Artistic Expressions 1
Why: Scores have grown increasingly meaningless as equipment technology has forged ahead. Still, it's much more difficult for a full team to catch on fire and stay on fire, so the nod goes to the team over an undeniably stellar one-person effort.
Bob Hart: Artistic Expressions 1
Why: Five men combining for this score over 15 games with different styles, changing lane conditions each game and the pressure as the event unfolded, is an amazing feat. This record may last a long time.
Doug Shellum: Artistic Expressions 1
Why: Matt McNiel's record performances (yes, performances) are really impressive to me, as he has written and then re-written history of the OC. However, my head turned a little further when five guys threw their record performance on the OC lanes. Sorry Matt!!!
Yes, all the scores were high in 2014, and Artistic Expressions 1 set the bar really high by totaling 3,720! Getting five guys lined up and shooting well on the OC conditions vs. one is a lot harder to accomplish.
PARTICIPATION AND MILESTONES
This quadrant of the OC Bracket Challenge included many of the things that helped build the foundation of the Open Championships, which has allowed for nearly 120 years of evolution and tradition.
The longevity of the event also couldn't have happened without the dedication of the bowlers and the goals that have become so coveted, such as 50 years of participation or knocking down 100,000 pins.
But, as is the design of this challenge, we are trying to determine which traditions and which accomplishments have become the most special and impactful.
Pinfall vs. Pinsetters
For moments that are decades in the making, anticipated and planned for, few celebrations come close to the moment a bowler crosses the 100,000-pin plateau. In all, the 100,000-Pin Club includes 23 members.
Imagine that - millions of bowlers have taken the lanes since 1901, and less than two dozen have achieved this milestone. At the top of the list, is Bill Lillard Sr., who toppled 124,087 pins in 68 consecutive years of participation. Wow.
But, is chasing these milestones the most special thing about the OC?
Along with the determination of the bowlers to win Eagles and reach personal milestones, certain changes in the game and event have allowed it to thrive and grow.
One of those was the introduction of automatic pinsetters in 1957, which already was determined to be more significant in the history of the event than the debut of automatic scoring.
Again, which is more significant at the Open Championships - bowlers like Lillard, who set bar for future competitors and give us such incredible memories, or changes/moments in time that elevate the event or showcase what's in store for bowling?
Matt Cannizzaro: Pinfall
Why: Whether or not automatic pinsetters were a thing, the pins were going to get set up.
But, pioneers like Bill Lillard Sr. have shown us all what is possible and given every first-time bowlers things to strive for, whether it be years of participation, Eagles or total pinfall.
These bars being set and these milestones being aimed for is what keeps bowlers coming back to the event year after year, and living those moments through news stories, videos and social media is what inspires people who can't be there and keeps fans engaged.
Duane Hagen: Pinfall
Why: Choosing pinfall and bowlers like Lillard. While pinsetters may have changed the industry, the incredible memories, milestones and accomplishments are more significant in elevating the Open Championships.
Fran Piraino: Pinfall
Why: Though the intro of pinsetters changed the game (for the better), I'm going with pinfall milestones. The anticipation, excitement and celebration on the lanes for reaching the 100K mark is an OC tradition that competitors and spectators talk about for years.
Bob Johnson: Pinfall
Why: This one's easy. Advances in equipment technology take place, not just in OC arenas, but also in bowling centers across the country and around the world. They've come to be expected at the OC, as they should be. It's what the bowlers do on the lanes that create the greatest moments and the greatest memories.
Bob Hart: Pinfall
Why: The OC is exactly what it is, a national competition for national recognition and a showplace for our national pastime. Pinsetters being introduced in 1957 was part of the normal evolution of bowling and was not limited to the OC.
Doug Shellum: Pinfall
Why: Imagine the millions of bowlers who make the annual trip to attend the Open Championships, and only 23 have made it to 100,000. A very special club. Just think, we have had 56 years of tournament play without pinsetters and 62 with them.... I feel the pinfall is more significant in the Open Championships!
Center Aisle vs. 1901 vote to build lanes each year
If nothing else, this OC Bracket Challenge has shown us just how many things are special and unique about the Open Championships.
Longtime bowlers often will tell you about their eye-popping first look at the tournament venue or the goosebumps and butterflies that come with walking down Center Aisle for the first time - and every time thereafter.
Now, it's time to choose between those two things and determine which has played a bigger role in the history and tradition of the OC.
Matt Cannizzaro: 1901 vote
Why: The Open Championships absolutely would not be the grand event it is without the amazing venues it is held in each year.
Deciding right from the beginning to build lanes and a venue just for the OC and never deviate by going to a traditional bowling center, also built about as rock solid of a foundation as there ever could be. It was instant prestige and unrivaled tradition. Jaw-dropping and special.
Center Aisle certainly has become a big piece of the amazing venue, tradition and memories, but the initial choice to create the setting from scratch is what made it all possible.
Duane Hagen: Center Aisle
Why: Center Aisle (or the march out) is the most memorable experience and never gets old.
Fran Piraino: 1901 vote
Why: The 1901 vote is more significant than Center Aisle. Don't get me wrong, I have a soft spot for the Center Aisle, but the tradition is not always doable in civic centers (most recently: Syracuse). The vote at the start of the century to do something that never has been done before is much more historically important.
Bob Johnson: Center Aisle
Why: This great tradition has been losing some of its luster in recent years, as the OC is held at venues sans a Center Aisle, and as the USBC Hall of Fame induction ceremony no longer includes a walk down that aisle. For now, because of its history, it gets the nod in this matchup. But ask me again in a few more years.
Bob Hart: Center Aisle
Why: The excitement and thrill of walking into the OC venue each year is what makes bowlers proud to be a privileged USBC participant. The walk down Center Aisle is the ultimate culmination of these feelings!
Doug Shellum: 1901 vote
Why: Looking through my Open Championships post cards, old 8x10 photos to my set of the Bowling Magazine, published by the American Bowling Congress, I am in awe of how the stage was set and the anticipation was elevated in each issue prior to the start of the tournament.
This was year over year, city after city. The host associations would do anything they could do to make "their" tournament the most memorable one. Yes, the Center Aisle still gives me goose bumps and butterflies, but the "build" in a exposition building, coliseum, armory or convention center, played a huge role in the history and tradition of the Open Championships.
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