Singles underway at 2021 IBF Masters World Championships in Dubai

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -
The 2021 International Bowling Federation Masters (formerly Senior) World Championships got underway Thursday at the Dubai International Bowling Centre, and all eight members of Senior Team USA are above the cutline halfway through singles qualifying.

For some, the first five games of the week offered an opportunity to shake off the nerves and anxiety that come with competing on such a big stage.

For others, it was a chance to get comfortable in the center and on the event's 44-foot lane condition, while also getting to see what different bowling balls might do as the day progresses and the pattern transitions.

Team USA newcomer Tom Hess used a first-frame mishap to lighten the mood on the lanes, and he quickly got comfortable, piling on the strikes on the way to a leading 1,270 total, a 254 average. He rolled games of 212, 279, 245, 255 and 279.

Sweden's Peter Ljung is second with 1,198 and followed by Tore Torgersen of Norway (1,196) and Team USA's Chris Barnes (1,193) and Parker Bohn III (1,169).

Team USA's Bob Learn Jr. finished the day in 10th place with 1,133.

"I got the first one off my hand, let's put it that way," Hess said. "It got down the lane and got to the pocket, but I left a 10 pin, which I ended up missing. When I got back, Chris had a big smile on his face and said 'well, you got that out of the way quick.' That really helped loosen me up. I wouldn't say I was nervous, but I was anxious and excited for the first seven or eight frames before I got going."

Another first-time member of Senior Team USA, Debbie Ayers, set the pace for the women's team with a 1,069 total, a 213.8 average. She finished the day third overall in the women's standings.

Tuula Tamminen of Finland and Antje Materne of Germany share the top spot after five games with a 1,078 total. Team USA's Sharon Powers is fourth (1,067) and Finland's J. Anttas is fifth with 1,057.

Team USA's Tish Johnson is sixth with 1,053, and Tracy Calfee is 31st with 898.

"I was able to change balls and try some different lines today, but I missed a few spares during the five games, which isn't good," said Johnson, who has participated in all five editions of the Masters World Championships, which debuted in 2013. "I had a big game to start (269) and a good game at the end (222), but tomorrow, I'm going to clean it up and put the pedal to the metal."

Two dozen countries are being represented at the 2021 IBF Masters World Championships, and they are competing across two age classifications - 50 and older and 65 and above. Team USA only is competing in the 50-and-older division.

Each country at the 2021 IBF Masters World Championships can have a maximum of four men and four women in each age classification.

There are 61 women competing in the 50-and-old division, and the men's field includes 79 bowlers.

The second half of singles won't take place until Saturday, after which, the field in each gender classification will be cut to the top 32 for group match play, based on the 10-game pinfall totals.

Each group in match play will include eight players, and they'll all bowl seven games, allowing them to face everyone in the group one time each.

Points will be awarded for each win, and the top two players in each group, based on points, will advance to the bracket-style quarterfinals.

The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals all will be one-game matches at the Masters World Championships.

Competition at the Dubai International Bowling Centre will resume Friday morning at 8 a.m. (11 p.m. Eastern) with doubles qualifying.

Doubles will be the start of Baker competition, during which, the team members will alternate frames to complete a single game. Team competition this week also will feature a modified Baker format.

Doubles qualifying will consist of 10 Baker games, and the field for each gender will be cut to the top 16 for match play.

The tournament is following a structure similar to what was used for the recent IBF Super World Championships, the first of the three events being held in Dubai this month. The inaugural IBF Para Bowling World Championships shared the spotlight.

"It was awesome bowling with Chris today, and our communication was great all day," said Hess, the 2021 Professional Bowlers Association 50 Tour Player and Rookie of the Year. "When you've got a guy like Chris leading off and giving you the information on what the lanes doing as you move, that helps. It sure felt good to go out and make great shots today. I think we're going to be paired for doubles tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to another opportunity to take the lanes together."

IBF is providing livestream coverage and results at StrikeCloud.com.

This week, Team USA is looking to defend the men's singles, men's doubles and men's team titles, as well as doubles and team on the women's side.

The United States has swept the team gold medals for the last three editions of the event (2019, 2017, 2015).

For more information about IBF, visit bowling.sport.