2019 Regular Doubles champions won't repeat at USBC Open Championships

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By Sam Neves
USBC Communications

Defending a title at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships is no easy task. Just ask Cotie Holbek of Burlington, Wisconsin.

He first had the opportunity in 2019 as the reigning Regular Singles champion, and though he did not end up becoming the first bowler to claim back-to-back singles titles, he was able to come away with an Eagle for the second consecutive year.

How did he do it? With a little help from Steven Fisher of Fox Lake, Illinois, who joined Holbek in the winner's circle in 2019 as the Regular Doubles champions at the South Point Bowling Plaza.

The two picked up the victory with a 1,478 total that included a 776 series from Holbek and a 702 set from Fisher.

Holbek entered the 2021 USBC Open Championships looking to become the third bowler in history to win an Eagle in three consecutive years, and despite a slow start to his team event Saturday, back at the Bowling Plaza, he ended the day with great momentum.

Having finished off the team event with a perfect game, the 16th of this year's tournament, Holbek was ready to get on the lanes at the South Point Bowling Center on Sunday, hoping to make a run and successfully defend the doubles title.

"I actually wasn't feeling any nerves coming into today," said Holbek, a 28-year-old right-hander who made his fourth Open Championships appearance. "I was ready to get down to business."

For Fisher, a 35-year-old right-hander, the nerves wore off after the presentation of their championship watches, which came right before their team event.

"Before the ceremony yesterday, I was all wound up inside," said Fisher, who made his 12th tournament appearance. "Thankfully, after it was over, my body calmed itself down."

Unfortunately for the duo, their doubles set didn't go anywhere near what they had planned.

Fisher led the pair with games of 177, 182 and 258 for a 617 series. Holbek followed with 161, 210 and 185 for 556, giving them a 1,173 total, more than 300 pins less than their winning number and well short of the lead in 2021.

David Labinski of Milwaukee and Chris Pierson of West Bend, Wisconsin, lead Regular Doubles this year with 1,466.

"Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong today, did," Holbek said. "I felt like I was throwing the ball OK, but I just couldn't execute shots."

Holbek added sets of 700 in team and 676 in singles for a 1,932 all-events score, and Fisher added 645 in singles and 564 in team for 1,826. Kevin Bienko of Kenmore, New York, leads Regular All-Events with 2,226.

While the title defense would come up short, the duo is looking forward to getting back on the lanes again next year. Whether they're bowling together or not, is the question.

"I have a very close friend/mentor I would like to bowl doubles with one time before he retires from bowling in the Open Championships," Holbek said. "But, if I'm not bowling with him next year, Steve and I will be back. They're the only two people I would ever want to bowl with."

Holbek's first win at the Open Championships came with an 802 series, the only 800 of the 2018 tournament in Syracuse, New York, and the addition of a 300 game this weekend made him one of 38 bowlers to have a 300 and 800 at the tournament.

Fisher knows that, regardless of their performance this year, their names forever will be in the record book at the Open Championships, and they'll both have a special designation next to their names on the scoreboard every year.

"It's a huge accomplishment," Fisher said. "No matter what happens for us in the future, we'll always be champions."

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