Vermilyea, McNiel blog from Masters

As the 2012 USBC Masters gets underway this week, Erik Vermilyea and Matt McNiel will be blogging on their experience bowling the event. Vermilyea is a former Team USA member who has enjoyed great success at the Masters the past two years. You can read his blog from last year's event here. McNiel hopes to capitalize on the momentum of his sensational Open Championships success by proving himself against the kind of competition a major like the Masters attracts. You can read about McNiel's Open Championships success here. Be sure to check back throughout the week for the latest posts from these competitors.


Day 4 (Match Play Round 1): Matt McNiel
Jan. 26, 2011

Anyone who has not experienced it first hand will never really understand the level that the touring pros are on.  Basically, you're bowling against the guys you watched growing up, the guys you wanted to be like, the guys you put on such a high pedestal.  My problem was I could not make the mental switch. I did not look at them like regular opponents; I viewed them as guys I had to bowl perfect against to beat.

My first match was against PBA legend, Chris “texas twister” Warren. To say I was nervous was an understatement. (Yes, I have already made an appointment with a sports psychologist.) 

The first game of the three-game match was all mine for the taking. Chris had a bad look, and I was throwing my Break Out and playing the lanes the same way I did at the 2010 USBC.  I had 230 if I threw it good. However, I threw it poorly for 179. To say the least, I felt like I was throwing an unfolded lawn chair down the lane. To make matters worse, Chris back-doored the last five to shoot 193 and found a ball reaction.  I really struggled making the mental switch from qualifying.  I had an easy 240 the next game, but shot 220 something, and Chris being the champ that he is, stuck it to me with a 250 game.  So, I am down 43 going into game three, and feeling like, "Off to the losers bracket I go."  However, I found a great ball reaction when I moved in with my NUTS solid, and could have struck out for 258. However, I came up short for a 246. Chris needed a mark in the tenth to win, and like a champ, put 10 back.  Now, with a loss I move into the losers bracket and have to face touring pro Brad Angelo. Yee haw, another great draw!  Aren’t there any amateurs in this top 64??

I really wanted to not go 0-2 my first time.  The next pair 41-42 was pretty tricky.  To say the least, once I got forced out carry went down.  When I was playing in earlier in the week, carry was noticeably better, but I digress.  The first game I lost, but managed a late triple for 207 to Brad's 215.  The second game followed with a better ball reaction but lower score.  I split once (pocket 7-10) and really did not carry anything.  I slashed a 10 in the 9th, then punched for 192.  Brad, in the meantime, struck out for a 205.  So I’m down 21 going into the third game.  Brad finds a good look and rattles off the first four, almost 7-10s, then throws together a double.  I proceed to double, stone an 8 pin in the third, strike, then wrap 7.  I followed that up with a double. 


So, I can shoot 259, Brad can just fill for 238, which would be a tie.  I got up in the 6th and 7th and packed 'em both with Brad sparing on his two shots.  I'm starting to feel like I might be able to celebrate like a guy selling a case of chewing gum to a ward full of lockjaws.  However, in the 8th, I threw an OK shot, it was on line, just a tick soft, and the result was another 7 pin. The match was pretty much over then, but I was committed to getting all I could.  I struck in the 9th. Brad got up and put 10 back to shut me out like the veteran he is.  I finished my tenth frame on a stone 9, which was pretty fitting. I felt like I threw at least 240, but that's how bowling goes. Take your lumps, shake hands and say good bowling.  By the way, Brad was a super nice guy the whole match, and had some nice comments for me afterwards.  The clinique sale may be over for Dennis Rodman, but I’m still really happy with how I bowled. 

This ends my USBC Masters experience and my blog.  I want to thank the USBC for a great tournament and letting me do this blog. It's been a blast!  Also, a thumbs up to the Sunset Station and Strike Zone bowling center for being a great host!  I want to thank Erik Vermilyea for being the great friend he is, and helping me out during the tournament.  Also, my mother, who has given me so much support in my bowling. A quick plug again for 900 Global and Michael Haugen. The equipment was amazing and really helped me this week. It's been a great week, and now, finally, I can go enjoy a few adult beverages and relax and probably manage to let the degenerate gambler inside of me come out to lose a few bucks.  Until next time, good luck and good bowling!





Day 4 (Cashers' Round): Matt McNiel
Jan. 26, 2011


Day 4.5 at the masters . . .


So another good block today during the cashers' round.  I finished in 29th place (high lefty) at+252.  The day started early; I was able to grab a good night's sleep while Erik redeemed himself down at the Pai Gow table.  After qualifying yesterday, Erik and I made our way over to the In & Out Burger for a very tasty lunch.  Then it was on to wandering around the casino trying not to lose too much money.  I did alright by only taking a $20 beating at the video craps and then another $20 at the real craps table.  On the plus side,I made PBA Player Sean Rash a nice $225 on a hard six that I rolled (and I tried not to crinkle my water bottle while he was rolling the dice). I also spoke with900 Global rep and PBA TOC Champ Michael Haugen about drilling up a new ball for today in case I saw something different on the lanes. I went out to the PBA truck and drilled up a new 900 Global Train, which rolled great!

So on to today, we made our way down to breakfast.  The last three days we have had the same booth at the Sunset Cafe, and today was no different. I had my usual breakfast, Erik downed half a bottle of ketchup, and we made our way over to the bowling center.

Me and Erik go way back, and he knows my game and equipment really well, so having him watching me was really helpful.  I started on the high end, and had a good cross with the British Beefcake Stuart Williams and Kyle Barnes.  On the high end my Break Out was rolling pretty good. The fronts and midlane are tighter, so I can to roll the ball more, play straighter, and can slow down my speed.  I struck quite a bit in practice and kept it going for a nice 239.  So after 1 game I am +200 and looking to be in good shape to make match play.

My second game was down on the low end. Here the fronts seem to hook more, so I had to go to my new Train that I drilled up and make a seven-board move left with my feet.  I managed an early double and then was able to stay clean for a 205. Still in good shape.

McNielBallSmallThe third game came on lanes 33-34.  I instantly noticed the 4 pin on lane 34 was a good 2-3 inches off spot to the back left. This made for some tough carry on that lane.  I switched to my NUTS solid and sneaked left two boards and tried to go a little harder and straighter.  I was really trying to come in light on the right lane and get a mixer due to the bad rack. My strategy worked and I shot 230. That moved me to +235 for the tournament and really on cruise control into match play.

My fourth game was an experiment game; I started off with a big four and then doubled and that was about it for the rest of the game.  I tried using my Bankroll, NUTS and TRAIN that game.  I noticed that especially in the middle of the bowling center the fronts hook pretty good which make the backends tighter.  So I put up a 189 and got some good ideas for possible options if I get stuck.

The last game I wanted to get some sticks so I can get a good position in the bracket.  I went back to my Break Out and got my feet back to 8 board trying to go right up 6.  It worked pretty well and I shot 228.  That got me to +252 and in 29th place.  I also tried my 900 Global Eagle as a fill ball. It rolled pretty good (it had not earlier in the week) but with the fronts getting dicey it seemed like a good idea.

Going into matchplay, I feel pretty good. I need to make some good shots and stay positive.  Most importantly, I need to be myself and have fun.  Plus I have my good friend Erik behind me, which is a real help. I want to give another shout out for 900 Global.  I could not have done as well without all their support and the great equipment they have. I feel that it has really given me an edge this week. Check back for my wrap up of day 4 and wish me luck in match play!








Day 3: Erik Vermilyea
Jan. 25, 2012

Well, I hope none of you have enjoyed my blogs too much this week because it looks like after the block this morning, this will be my last.

Quick update on last night first though.  After a not very quick dinner at the Italian place I successfully wandered around the casino for a few hours without spending any money.  It was a little boring but when you’re out of money, and you’re wife won’t extend you a line of credit, that’s pretty much all you can do.  I wrapped up the night by running a few miles in the gym and went to bed early.  The 9 a.m. squad comes pretty early in Vegas.

I started the day +69 and in 63rd place overall.  I was pretty happy with my position because I usually like the fresh better and felt like I was owed a few breaks from yesterday.  I figured the cut would be somewhere between 60-80 over as it seems to be most years, but I was more concerned with getting as many pins as possible.

I started the day off throwing the pin-down Dark Encounter that I had liked during the practice session, but was forced a little deeper than I thought. In the middle of game one I had jumped into almost 15 already.  I rung a ten pin in the 10th for a solid 230 opening game, getting to +100 overall.  I had a great look and thought I’d be on my way to a good block.

I jumped down to the low side for game two and was less than thrilled to see the entire pair in front of me all playing inside of 4th arrow already.  The reason this is an issue is that to play where I was playing my ball would be crossing the ball path they had just played for a game two times each shot.  This usually leads to early hook and plenty of hang down lane and that will pretty much sum up the rest of my block.

I made a lot of good shots game two, but finished the game off with a chopped 6-10, a 7 pin, light shaker 8-10 split, and another solid 9 in the 10th frame.  After the promising start I had just put up 170, and was back to even for the day, and no longer nearly in as good of shape as I had been a game earlier.

Since you follow the same pairs all day, I had pretty much the same look game three.  I switched to the pin-down Encounter that I started with yesterday and moved back to the right and was able to wrap a double and a three bagger around another 9 pin for a 200 game.  Still +75 or so at this point and starting to feel a little better.

The next pair had even more hook in the fronts and more hang down lane than the last pair.  I switched back to the Dark Encounter and backed off it a little and threw a quick three bagger.  Just when I thought things were looking good my reaction absolutely fell apart and I split three of the last four frames, dropping myself to +50 something, and just overall about as frustrated as possible.

At this point I have no ball reaction, I can’t play to the right because the ball burns up and dies, I can’t move in because the ball looks like it’s speeding up the last 10 feet, and I need at least 230 to make the cut.  Pretty sweet place to be.  When you just aren’t making the shots that’s one thing, but when you feel like you are making the shots but you have nowhere to throw the ball it’s pretty bad.

So I take a gamble and go back to the Encounter and move in to around 21 at the arrows and just try to roll it as much as I can.  The first three shots struck and I thought I just might be ok after all.  I followed this three bagger up with two 10 pins in a row, and then another solid 9.  Beyond angry at this point, I was able to strike again in the 7th, and for a change of pace, followed it up with a 7 pin.  I mean, usually this week it’s been the 9 pin or 10 pin ruining my life, so it was nice to see something new for a change.

I picked up the spare and struck again in the 9th to set up the 10th.  I could punch out for 237 and I thought that would be enough.  I made as good of a shot as I could and once again the ball just never read the back part of the lane and left the 2-4-8.  Then to add a little salt to the wound after the spare I hit it a little harder to make sure it got back and I got five through the middle to finish at +64, and -5 under for the block.

To say I’m disappointed would be quite the understatement.  I put in a lot of time and effort getting ready for this tournament this year.  I really thought I bowled well enough and to finish at +64 hurts.  Barring a minor miracle, I should be about 10-20 short of the cut number.

Congrats to all of those that will be moving onto the next round, and I hope you’ve enjoyed a look inside the ropes of the 2012 USBC Masters.




Day 3: Matt McNiel
Jan. 25, 2012

Day 3 at the masters . . .

I started the day at +66; I figured if I can go +50 over or so, I could put myself within striking distance of top 63.  I ended yesterday on a great note and needed to carry it over to today.  Also, Erik and I snapped off a nice $47 on a $20 Keno bet that we placed at breakfast yesterday. On top of that good fortune, we got to have some Italian for dinner last night with the always-entertaining Bugsy Kelly.  Unfortunately, I did take another $20 beating at the video craps machine, but I got a couple of club sodas out of the deal and a couple hours of entertainment. 

So on to today.  It started early at 6:30 a.m., we made our way down to breakfast.  Erik went with a muffin and diet soda. However, no ketchup this time. I was a bit surprised.  I got my equipment out to the lanes, my starting pair was 43-44.  While shoeing up, PBA Extra Frame’s Jackie Bowling stopped down and gave me some compliments on my commentating the other day, and also asked me for a picture with her! This is when you know you have made it in the bowling world. 

Back to bowling.  I struck once or twice during the 15-minute warmup period, not a good sign.  I was trying to use my 900 Global Bankroll, but just could not get the ball to shape right.  The front and middle part of the lane were tighter, so I needed to jump left and go to something pin-down with some surface.  Enter, the 900 Global Break Out.

My first game was a good disaster; I only made about four good shots and got out of there with a clean 191.  However, I was watching people on nearby pairs passing me.  My tempo was too fast; I was over amped and really pressing to make things work. 

My second game was where the tide really turned.  I moved down to 55-56 and had a whopping 84 with nothing cooking in the fifth.  This is where the maturity came in.  Normally, this is where my head takes over, and I completely lose myself in the moment.  I took a quick walk to the men's room, took a couple deep breaths and told myself "This is where we turn it around, be yourself, be smooth, be confident." The mental change produced a late five bagger for a much-needed 214, putting me at +71 for the tournament and back on pace. 

With my tempo back, and a good ball reaction, I moved to lanes 67-68.  I had my favorite ball in my hands and was playing right up 5-6 at the arrows going right up the lane. This was the same type of shot that I played at the 2010 USBC Open Championships when I set the AE record.  I got happy-go-jacky on the pair and was all over the pocket like a donkey eatin' a waffle!  I posted a 243 and really threw it well.  It was amazing how my carry and ball reaction improved when I slowed down and really rolled the ball.  I also packed a few with fellow lefty and one of my idols Parker Bohn III watching.  So, after eight games, I am +114 for the tournament, and in great shape. 

Game four came down on the low end, on lanes 13-14.  The low end plays enormously different than the high end.  The fronts and mid lane are not as tight and you can open up the lane down there.  Matt Lawson of BowlTV also came down to capture a few frames.  I switched to my 900 Global Bankroll and made a huge jump right.  I was around 15-16 at the arrows getting it to 9-10 down lane.  I said, "Sweet sassy molassy!" after posting a quality 235, which put me up at +149 for the tournament. 

The last game, my mental picture changed from aggressive to just focusing on keeping it in play.  I feel like I left some pins out there, and could have had another 10-20 sticks.  I put up a 212, with one open.  However, I did post some nice shots for the PBA Extra Frame crew and kept it in play.  After 10 games I am +161 and happier than, you guessed it, Dennis Rodman at a Clinique sale!

So, it's on to some In & Out Burger for lunch and I believe some oyster bar action for dinner with USBC media guru and part time Pai Gow pro Matt Lawson.  A quick shout out to Travis Celmer, who shot a 299 (wrap 7) in game eight.  Travis was -80 with three to play and made it back to +39 with one to play. Unfortunately, he did not put up the number he needed, but still, props to him for never giving up and nearly shooting a sport 300! Thats all for today, be sure to visit for the latest from the Masters and for my day 4 blog.



Day 2: Erik Vermilyea
Jan.24, 2012

Hello again from sunny and brisk Las Vegas.  Well, brisk at least for those of us that have grown accustomed to the 70 degree January days that the DFW area has been enjoying this year.

It pains me to tell all of you that this will be both my first, and probably last Pai Gow update for the week.  Last night we attacked the Pai Gow table with our full strength and a mere 45 minutes later I crawled away from the table after experiencing the worst beating of my life.  All of my “fixed gambling budget” for the week was taken from me in the blink of an eye.  The three hand stretch I had with a 10 high Pai Gow, and then being one card away from the 9 high Pai Gow twice in a row was a pretty telling sign that I should probably just leave.  So, regretfully I will tuck my tail between my legs and enjoy watching everyone else partake in the glitz and glamor of Vegas the rest of the week.

Well anyways, onto the bowling.  A squad took to the lanes this morning and I made sure to be there to see how the fresh would play.  This would give me a little bit of a heads up on what to expect later in the day.  Across the house it seemed that everyone was playing the lanes a little deeper than the previous day.  Instead of breaking them down around 7-8-9, most people were closer to 10-11-12 at the arrows, with a few being inside of 15 in game one.  This is a bit of a red flag, and would mean I’d have a little more to deal with at the end of my squad than I expected.

With the backends being as tight as they are this week, and with the pattern not really giving you a defined place to play, there were basically balls going everywhere in the morning block.  Pair to pair was going to be difficult, and getting the ball to hit the pins hard enough to strike were the two main things I was worried about while watching A squad bowl.

Finally it was time to take the lanes.  I had the two new balls I drilled yesterday worked out and ready to go, and was chomping at the bit to get going.  During practice I had a really nice look with the new pin down Columbia 300 Encounter.  The front part of the lane was getting pretty beat up, and the backends were really getting tight as well.  I had to really make sure I rolled the ball to get it to pick up down lane, but also not over-hit it or it would just read the fronts too much and die.

Game one I made a lot of good shots and thanks to the four most awesome ringing 10 pins ever in a row on the right lane I was off to a solid 184 start.  I wasn’t exactly the happiest bowler in the center, and after a few choice words for said 10 pin I was off to the next pair.

The next two games were a mish-mash of good shots, ring tens and inopportune solid 9s for 225 and 212.  Lots of good shots and not much to show for it.  The scoring pace at this point seemed a little high around me and I was just grinding away with low 200s.

The next pair hooked about an arrow more out of nowhere and a quick ball change to my pin up Eruption seemed to do the trick.  A late split hurt me again and I finished game four with 216.  Just one more game to go this block and the lanes were starting to get ugly.  Several players were migrating to the left gutter and the only one that seemed to have any success doing this was Tommy Jones.  Shocker, TJ striking over the left gutter cap, I know!

I flipped down to the low side for the last game where I knew the fronts would hook even more, and have even more hang down-lane as that seems to be the characteristic of this bowling center.  A quick double followed by yet another split was how it started, and a hambone, ring ten, and a punch out in the tenth gave me a big 232 game on a rough pair to get to just shy of +70.  I felt like I had bowled a lot better than 70 over, but on the plus side, 70 over is a pretty good spot to be right now, and much better than the 30 over I was sitting at going into the last game.

So that’s how it started today.  A quick tip of the hat to Mr. Chris Barnes on his bowling today.  He started off B squad with a quick 300/770 opening three games on a pretty tricky pattern.  I’m not exactly sure how he finished up but he was high of anyone I saw.

Tomorrow I’ll take to the lanes on the fresh USBC Masters pattern at 9 a.m. Vegas time.  Traditionally, I like the fresh better, so I’m really looking forward to it.  Now I’m off for some dinner and then some casino wandering, that is unless my wife frees up some supplemental gambling budgetary room for me?

Check back tomorrow for more from the 2012 USBC Masters!!!




Day 2: Matt McNiel
Jan. 24, 2012

Hey everyone, well just got done with my first five games at the Masters.  I finished on the burn at +66.  After three games I was +97 and then gave back 31 sticks.  The last two games I moved to the high side of the house which hooks a ton, and the righties moved further in, which forced me left, which yielded a questionable ball reaction.

If I would summarize the day with a statement, it would be: I bowled great today and had fun.  The day started with a long conversation with my good friend and four-time Team USA Member and gold medalist Scott Pohl.  Scott has had some experience in the Strike Zone bowling center and we talked a lot about my ball selection and how I could play the burn.  Scott had some good advice that worked well.  Breakfast was enjoyable, I watched Erik down a couple pieces of sourdough with a good helping of ketchup and played some keno. I also got some time in the booth at the PBA Extra Frame, which of course is a great time. 

My first game today started off a bit shaky. I chose to start with the new 900 Global Bankroll that I drilled up yesterday.  I proceeded to go 7 pin, 9 pin, 10 pin, 9 pin then pocket 6-7.  So after five frames I'm looking a 170 game in the face.  The old Matt would probably go squeeze off a couple for maybe a 190. However, I stayed calm and loose and proceeded to sheet for 234.  I was playing around 13-14 at the arrows and getting it to 9-10 down lane and had a great ball reaction. 

So, a good start.  I kept it going the next game with a 218 on the PBA Extra Frame pair. I rattled off the back five after chopping a 4-7.  This, of course, after I made a point about some of the players' poor spare shooting when commentating in the booth only an hour earlier.  Either way, a good out for 218. 

The next game was very good.  I got the keys to a U-haul, packed up and moved to into the top 12 with a nice 245 game.  I made a move with my feet to 16 and moved my eyes to 12, I grabbed my new 900 Global NUTS solid that was drilled yesterday and clubbed em.

Game 4: OK so I am starting to see the righties get deep, and I'm starting to fight the fronts and losing carry in the process.  So I move a good six boards left to find some oil up front and get away from the righties. This equaled a fine 177 game with a pocket 6-8 on a very respectable pitch.  This put me at +73.

So last game I'm thinking, my ball reaction is going away, I need to keep it in play and really make some good shots, focus and cover my spares.  I did exactly that for a clean 193.  I made a lot of good pitches and ended up standing on 10 and trying to go right up 5-6 with my Bankroll. The carry was bad at best, and it took a really good shot to strike, but, I stayed calm, loose and kept making good shots and covering my spares.

So I ended the day at +66, three pins behind my roommate and blogging partner Erik, who of course did not carry anything or get one break all day and never missed the hole all day long! For those of you that know Erik, you're probably agreeing with that statement.  But I digress.  I have to give props to my ball rep, PBA TOC Champ Michael Haugen, who laid out the two balls I used all day long.  Also a quick shameless plug for 900 Global.  I believe I was one of the higher lefties (there are a ton out here) on the squad and really feel that my equipment helped me get to where I am right now.

Finally, I am feeling really good about tomorrow and I know that if I can make good shots and do what I did today, I will be in a good position to make the match play portion of the tournament. That's all for now, it's off to dinner and then hopefully trying to stay away from another $20 beating at the video craps.




Day 1: Erik Vermilyea
Jan. 23, 2012

Vegas baby, Vegas!!!

Hello again everyone, this time from an overcast and rainy Las Vegas, Nevada.  I know, it rains like six days a year here and today is one of them.  USBC has asked me to again give all of you a behind-the-scenes look at the 2012 USBC Masters this week and I am happy to oblige.  This will be my third year doing so; the first two worked out pretty well so I’m certainly hoping for similar results this year!

The 2012 edition of the USBC Masters will be quite a bit different than the last two years, for a few reasons.  Different bowling center, different oil pattern, different city, and more bowlers!  This year we are at Strike Zone bowling center located inside of the beautiful Sunset Station Hotel and Casino, just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.  Quite the change from the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada where the last two Masters tournaments were held.  This may sound a little odd, but I sort of miss not bowling in Reno this year.  After the last two years Reno had almost started to feel like home!

Also for this year, the oil pattern is a foot longer, 40 feet, and has some additional volume from the last few years.  This year the pattern is just a shade below 30uL.  I’d grown pretty accustomed to the National Bowling Stadium over the past few years, as well as the Pai Gow tables at the Eldorado, and eating dinner at Brew Brothers. So this year is shaping up to be a different experience.  And there are an additional 60-or-so bowlers here as well.

I arrived in town Sunday afternoon, and headed over to Sunset Station.  In my lifetime I believe I’ve only bowled three games here, and never stayed here. So this whole complex is pretty much new to me.  I spent the afternoon and evening wandering around the complex getting a feel for where everything was.  I was also able to watch the Giants earn a place in the Super Bowl over the 49ers in a thrilling Championship game while enjoying dinner at a fine establishment called Hooters.  I highly recommend the Fried Pickles if you ever get the chance.

The remainder of the night was spent wondering around the casino with my Dad who came with me again this year.  Now, those of you who have followed my blogs the past few years may be shocked to learn I did not dive into the Pai Gow battle last night.  I checked out the tables and just wasn’t getting a good feel.  It’s also early in the week and, being on a fixed gambling income, I decided to just dabble in the slots with my Dad, and save my bankroll for the Pai Gow tables the rest of the week.  But don’t worry, I’ll begin the battle tomorrow and hopefully with my old Pai Gow partner from last year.

Monday is practice session day.  A squad had practice first and then this year, another change, they re-conditioned the lanes before B squad practice.  In the past they have just left the lanes between practice sessions since B squad will bowl on the “burn” the first day.  Both days of qualifying the lanes are only run once in the morning, and then both squads compete. So over the two days you’ll get one squad of fresh, and one squad of “burn”.  I’m on B squad again this year.

Watching A squad practice first it became very apparent the lanes were going to play much different than they had the past two years.  The lanes looked much tighter, due to both the pattern and lane surface.  Most players were using strong bowling balls with a little bit of surface somewhere around the 10 board.  The best ball reaction I saw on the fresh was the seemingly unstoppable Sean Rash who could throw what seemed like any ball he had with him today and strike at will.

As the lanes broke down, players migrated left but not as dramatically as the past few years.  The main characteristic of this bowling center this week seems to be the backends playing very tight, which will keep players from swinging the ball too much.  Even at the end of the A squad practice session there were still a few guys like Mike Fagan who were able to play around the 7-8 board at the arrow and have a very good look.

Then after the re-oil B squad took to the lanes.  I started my hour-and-a-half of practice on the pair I’ll be starting on tomorrow, 27-28.  After getting loose I had a really good look with several balls.  My pin-down Columbia 300 Omen, BenchmarK, and Dark Encounter all looked very good anywhere from 9-12 or so at the arrows out to about the 6-7 board down-lane.

My main goal during practice was to move all over the bowling center and see what the characteristics were from side to side.  Since this is basically my first time bowling here, and with the format of this tournament any additional information that will help me make moves a frame or two earlier would be a big help.  After moving all over from the low side to the high, and watching the pattern transition a few times, it appears that getting your ball to read the midlane the right way this year will be the key.  Rolling the ball instead of spinning it, or hitting it looks like the only way to make it read the lanes the same way twice, and to get the ten out.

During the practice session I worked a little bit with Columbia brand manager, Bugsy Kelly, to get a clear picture of what was going on.  I believe I’ve got a good start on getting ready for tomorrow and, as a shocker to anyone that knows me, I’m even drilling up a couple of new balls to compliment some of what I saw today ;-)  Pin-down layouts seemed to be the key for me, so another Dark Encounter and Encounter will be in my bag tomorrow.

And that’s pretty much it for now.  I think I’ve got a good handle on the pattern and how it’s going to play this week. I’m excited about how I’m throwing it and my equipment options.  I’ve put in a lot of time and work the past month to get my game and body in shape for this and I’m excited to get started!

Now it’s dinner time, and then off to start the Pai Gow battle!  Check back tomorrow to see how it went!




Day 1: Matt McNiel
Jan. 23, 2012

Hello from Las Vegas, Nevada. I got asked the other week by my good friend Erik Vermilyea if I would be interested in doing a blog with him at this year's Masters. “Heck yes!” was my reply in the text message. So this week I will be not only rooming with Erik Vermilyea but blogging with him as well.  

So a quick note about me. In 2010 I won the Regular All-Events title at the USBC Open Championships and set the All-Events record as well.  The following year I got third in All-Events and threw a 300 and 800 on the livestream. This year will be the sixth time I have bowled the Masters. So far, 69th is my best finish, that coming back in 2009 in Las Vegas.  I am also an amateur staffer with 900 Global/AMF Bowling products and with Turbo 2-n-1 Grips.

I flew into Las Vegas last night. My good friend from Norway was in town visiting, so I met up with him and had dinner and caught up a bit.  I then made my way to the Sunset Station hotel and met up with Erik and his dad. Surprisingly enough, Erik was not parked at a Pai Gow table.  The Sunset Station, which is located in Henderson, Nevada, was surprisingly nice, especially for the rate that we are getting.  The casino floor was really cool with great decor and the bowling center (Strike Zone) is a really nice 72-lane center that has lots of room, especially in the bowlers' area.  

After waking up early, we all made our way down to breakfast.  I watched Erik pass on jam for his toast and proceed to use a good helping of ketchup, but not before he lost a quick six bucks on Keno.  I played it safe with the jam and did not get lured into the same Keno trap.  On to bowling!  

We got to watch the A squad practice session start-to-finish.  I talked with current PBA player and former USBC Masters champion Mike Scroggins a bit about how he was playing the lanes and what he was using for equipment.  We also got to chat a bit about making money on the side. For those of you that don’t know, Mike runs a thriving vending business in his off time. 

On the left side, I saw quite a bit of hang if you got the ball moving to the left. You could play up 5-6-7 boards, but had to have something that read the lane early and you had to project it straight up the boards. If you leaked it left it was pretty much hitting the 4 pin in the face. If you were closer to the track area, you needed something that would get down the lane and then tip over.

So when time came to shoe up, I decided to drill up a couple new balls before the practice session based off of what I had seen.  I drilled up a new 900 Global Bankroll and a 900 Global Nuts solid. However, the truck was busy as usual, and I had to make a run out to the truck to pick up the new balls towards the end of the practice session.  The 900 Global rep and PBA TOC champ, Michael Haugen, helped me lay out the new balls, and they worked great!  I had a great look with my Bankroll playing around 10-11 at the arrows and getting it out to the 7-8 board. As long as my release was good, it struck.  To say the least, after struggling for much of the practice session and then getting that look with the Bankroll, I was happier than Dennis Rodman at a Clinique sale.  

A quick shout out to USBC employee Chip Aki, who was kind enough to help me haul some bowling balls around the center today. Yes, USBC, he is here, and he is working.

Going into tomorrow I feel confident. I need to focus on staying loose and just being myself.  Well, off to dinner and to watch the Pai Gow master do his work. If anyone from the Sunset Station Cafe is reading this, please have a barrel of ketchup ready for Erik’s dinner. Keep checking back with for the latest from the Masters.