By Kevin Albarez
In the coming months, we'll talk with some of the best-known bowlers at the USBC Open Championships and get their thoughts on their time at the tournament and what it takes to succeed on the championship lanes.
This week, we heard from Chip Aki, a 31-time Open Championships participant, who took home the 2007 Regular Singles title with an 814 series at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev.
Not long after Aki's win and attempt at back-to-back titles, he inquired about how to become a tournament employee. In 2009, he and his wife, Robin, joined the tournament team and have been at the event ever since.
Aki's role transitioned from working in Tournament Services in 2009 to his current job behind the scenes, which includes shifts as the Manager on Duty, working on the event's award and VIP programs as well as overseeing the Storm Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC.
When the Open Championships isn't going on, Aki can be found at USBC Headquarters on the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas, where he helps the Open and Women's Championships transition from one year to the next.
The 50-year-old right-hander has enjoyed many on-lane successes, including a national championship with Wichita State University in 1987, and he recently tried to see if he could find some of that magic again when he hit the lanes at the Baton Rouge River Center on March 21-22.
This year on the tournament lanes, he shot 709 in doubles, 642 in singles and 596 in team for a 1,947 all-events total. In 31 Open Championships appearances, he has a career average of 204.7.
HOMETOWN: Paducah, Ky.
OPEN CHAMPIONSHIPS APPEARANCES: 31
OPEN CHAMPIONSHIPS TITLES: 1
BOWLING BALL WEIGHT: 15
FAVORITE BRAND OF BOWLING BALLS: Storm
ONE all-time favorite host city: Knoxville, Tenn.
TWO best Open Championships memories: 1. winning Regular Singles in 2007; 2. finishing 14th in Regular Team in Knoxville (2003).
THREE keys to success at the Open Championships: 1.patience; 2. spare shooting; 3. controlling your emotions
FOURgettable Open Championships moment: Leaving the 8-10 split in Reno when they had the Twister pins.|
FIVE bowlers in history on your Open Championships fantasy all-star team: Rick Steelsmith, Justin Hormek, Mike Aulby, Dick Weber and Bill Lillard Sr.
SIX bowling balls currently in your Open Championships arsenal: Storm Virtual Gravity Nano, Storm Virtual Gravity Nano Pearl, Brunswick Versa-Max, Hammer Taboo Jet Black, DV8 Too Reckless, Storm Natural Pearl
SEVEN cities you'd like to see the Open Championships go to/return to: Nashville, Tenn.; St. Louis; Tulsa, Okla.; Mobile, Ala.; Reno, Nev.; Detroit; Louisville, Ky.
EIGHT favorite bowling balls ever: Ebonite V2, Brunswick Black Diamond, Storm Thunder Road, Ebonite Thunderbolt, Columbia Black U-Dot, Black Hammer, Storm Shift, Columbia Yellow Dot
NINE other current/eligible bowlers you would choose to join you on your ideal pair of companion teams at the Open Championships: Rick Steelsmith, Justin Hormek, Jorge Tomas, Spencer Miller, Pat Healey, Brad Kiszewski, Dan Nadeau, Jeff Richgels and Mike Shady.
TEN seconds or less, who is your favorite bowler of all-time?: Mark Roth
ELEVEN strikes in a row to start a game at the Open Championships, what's going through your head?: Stay out of my own way and let go of the ball.
TWELVE years from now, where do you hope to be in your bowling career?: Competitive.