Jon Rakoski earns top seed for stepladder finals at USBC Senior Masters


LAS VEGAS – Jon Rakoski of Estero, Florida, was the lone undefeated player after match play concluded Saturday in the United States Bowling Congress Senior Masters and will be the top seed for the stepladder finals on Sunday at Sam’s Town Bowling Center.

Rakoski, a 52-year-old right-hander, is seeking his second career senior title and first senior major championship. His first win came in last year’s Professional Bowlers Association50 Monacelli Championship in Jackson, Michigan.

Joining Rakoski in the top five for the championship round will be No. 2 seed Randy Weiss of Columbia, South Carolina; No. 3 seed and defending champion John Janawicz of Winter Haven, Florida; No. 4 seed Mike Bailey of Carollton, Texas, and No. 5 seed Andres Gomez of Davie, Florida.

Rakoski got off to a fast start in the event as he was the leader after the first squad on the first day of qualifying on Tuesday. He had some trouble on the “double-burn” squad the following day, but made up enough ground on the last day of qualifying to earn the No. 53 seed in the 64-man match play field.

On the way to the No. 1 seed for the stepladder finals, Rakoski sent a couple of big names into the Elimination Bracket. In back-to-back matches, Rakoski defeated USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Chris Barnes (728-713) and another USBC Hall of Famer in Janawicz (695-679). The win over Janawicz set up the final match for the No. 1 seed against Weiss.

To say that Rakoski started quickly in that match would be an understatement, as he posted games of 279 and 269 to grab a 102-pin lead heading into the last game. The final margin was 753-661. Fast starts such as that were not uncommon for Rakoski throughout the event.

“It was kind of like that all day and even yesterday,” Rakoski said. “Bowling on fresh (oil) a lot, I felt like I had a really good look on that. So, I knew going into those matches that I was going to have a good look, and I started well in almost all my matches. I just tried to get out with a big game the first game, and then tried not to take my foot off the pedal. So, get a big game, get a lead and get comfortable right away. That worked for me.”

Although he’ll be bowling for his first senior major championship, Rakoski doesn’t anticipate having to deal with too many nerves during the stepladder finals.

“Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a pretty relaxed guy,” Rakoski said. “I won my first title last year, so I’ve been there a little bit already. I’ll still have some adrenaline going, I just don’t show it. I’ll keep it all inside. I’m a very laid-back guy and I don’t show a ton of emotion.”

Perhaps helping to ease any potential anxiety for Rakoski is the fact that, since he’s the top seed, he will have to be defeated twice in the true double-elimination format.

Weiss, a 50-year-old right-hander, owns nine PBA regional titles and one PBA50 regional title, but is after his first title during his first year on the national senior circuit.  

“Coming into this event, I didn’t bowl well in the last two stops in Florida on the PBA50 Tour,” Weiss said. “Luckily, that week off was helpful because it allowed me to go home and try to isolate what was going on. I figured out where a little hitch was in my swing that caused me to bowl bad in those two Florida events. Clearly this week has been better, and now I’ve got a chance to bowl for a title, so you can’t beat that.”

Janawicz, a 51-year-old right-hander who earned PBA50 Rookie of the Year honors last year, is thankful to have the chance to defend his title in the stepladder. After losing to Rakoski, Janawicz had to battle his way through the Elimination Bracket.

“It’s so hard just to get here,” said Janawicz. “Between the format, drawing the right people, and just everything. Especially when the scoring pace is a little higher, because then you never know when someone is going to shoot 780 at you at any given time. But I feel good. I’ve got a good ball reaction, so it’s just a matter of making good shots and then hope for the best.”

Bailey, 54, is the lone left-hander in the final five. Like Weiss, Bailey owns 10 combined PBA regional and PBA50 regional titles (seven PBA and three PBA50), but also is seeking his first win on the national level.
“This is my first time bowling the Senior Masters,” Bailey said. “I’ve only bowled the regular Masters once, and I bowled terrible in that. So, this was my first foray into this type of match play as a senior. It was a lot of bowling, but so far, so good.”

Gomez, a 50-year old right-hander who owns three PBA Tour titles, is also seeking his first PBA50 Tour win. He grabbed the last spot in the stepladder finals with a 646 in the “four players for three spots” final match. That total was less than Janawicz (767) and Bailey (728), but 12 pins more than Robert Newman of Pacifica, California.

Gomez was able to make the stepladder finals despite having to battle a sore Achilles in his right heel.

“The pain has been pretty steady,” Gomez said. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say the pain is like a 6. So, it’s there every single shot. There is not one shot where I don’t feel any pain. Each time I push off that foot, I feel some pain or discomfort. But it’s never gotten so bad to where I need to stop, so I just keep going.”

As Janawicz referenced, the higher scoring pace continued Saturday as past champion Tom Hess of Granger, Iowa, rolled an 814 series that featured a 300 game. Hess ended up tied for 13th. Gomez (795) and Bailey (790) came close to shooting 800 as well.

The winner of the 2024 USBC Senior Masters will take home a major championship on the PBA50 schedule and the first-place prize of $20,000.

BowlTV provided live coverage of all rounds of the 2024 USBC Senior Masters and will have the stepladder finals live on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Pacific).

For scores and information about the 2024 USBC Senior Masters, visit