2012 USBC Open underway Matt Cannizzaro and Emil Williams February 11, 2012 BATON ROUGE, La. - With Mardi Gras floats cruising through the streets just outside of the Baton Rouge River Center, the first of more than 60,000 bowlers paraded down Center Aisle at the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships on Saturday.The Louisiana State University Tiger Girls, LSU's mascot, Mike the Tiger, and the Krewe of Artemis helped usher in the first 40 teams of the year and entertained a crowd of hundreds, kicking off the 151-day event in style. Scott Innes, a local radio personality and the voice of numerous cartoon characters such as Scooby-Doo, served as the emcee.Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO Paul Arrigo, Baton Rouge Chief Administrative Officer John Carpenter, USBC and bowling-industry dignitaries and sponsors took part in the opening festivities, which included the traditional Mass Ball Shot, ribbon cutting, crowning of Joe Bowler and the down-home Cajun humor of Gary Dupuy. Floyd Patterson of nearby Maringouin, La., earned the distinction of Joe Bowler, a tradition that began in 1951, and rolled the ceremonial first ball (an eight count), signifying the official start of the 2012 tournament."I didn't know Joe Bowler existed," said Patterson, who made his 16th USBC Open Championships appearance and finished the day with a 530 series. "I had no idea, but it's a real good feeling. I have a passion for bowling, so for me, this is really a special honor. I'm real excited about the tournament being back in Baton Rouge. This is something we've really been looking forward to. We've been planning and preparing for this since last year."The 2012 event marks the second time the Open Championships has been held in Baton Rouge (2005), and more than 12,000 five-player teams are scheduled to make their way to the Red Stick before the tournament concludes July 10.The early leaders at the 109th edition of the Open Championships were a pair of local teams. Fun in the Shade of Springfield, La., grabbed the Regular Team lead with games of 779, 985 and 1,023 for a 2,787 effort, while I Brought My Friends 1 of Baton Rouge paced the Classified Division with a 2,452 total.Jason Graham led the way for Fun in the Shade with a 612 series and was followed by Daryl Stone (597), Shamus Saunders (565), Carl Mello (540) and Richard Harris (473).'We wanted to be a part of opening ceremonies since it was here in Baton Rouge, and it was a lot of fun,' Harris said. 'Our goals were to fill frames and shoot 3,000, and even though we came up short, it was a great experience.'Ronald Johnson contributed a 544 series for I Brought My Friends 1 and was joined by James Barlow (515), Patricia Hebert (486), Mary Phills (485) and Azalee Barlow (422).'We feel elated,' James Barlow said. 'This is my first time ever being in the lead, and it just feels really good to lead the tournament and share it with my friends. We can say that at least, for once in our lives, we led the national tournament.'To be eligible for the Classified Division, a team must have a combined average of 900 or less.Sponsors for the 2012 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno. Other sponsors include the Belle of Baton Rouge, official brackets sponsor; Kegel, official lane maintenance provider; Humana, official registration sponsor; Bud Light and Budweiser, official beer sponsors; The Advocate, official publication sponsor; Brunswick, official lane provider; Steltronic, official scoring system; Storm Bowling Products and Nationwide Insurance.