North Dakota bowler takes singles lead at 2024 USBC Open Championships

LAS VEGAS – In just his second appearance on the tournament lanes at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, Eric Walby turned in a strong performance on his way to the lead in Classified Singles at the 2024 event.

The 42-year-old right-hander from Bowman, North Dakota, rolled games of 170, 217 and 223 at the South Point Bowling Plaza for a 610 series, breaking a tie at the top of the leaderboard. Jeri Ault of Broomfield, Colorado, and Shannon Haslam of Bountiful, Utah, previously shared the lead with 598.

Walby took a bad set at the Bowlers Journal Championships the day prior and turned it into motivation for his doubles and singles at the USBC Open Championships.

“When we had bowled the Bowlers Journal the day before, things were just not going my way in the bowling center,” said Walby, who also had sets of 527 in doubles and 469 in team for a 1,606 all-events total. “It frustrated me to the point of really wanting to perform my best and staying focused when it came time to bowl the Open Championships, but I didn’t think today’s result would turn out this well.”

Stepping up in the 10th frame of his final game, Walby needed a 17-pin fill to secure to top spot in the standings, and he delivered two strikes and an eight count to put the finishing touches on his set.

“I kind of had an idea that there was a chance I could get to the lead, but I remained calm and tried to make the best shots I could, even with my friends cheering me on knowing what I needed,” Walby said.

Walby credits taking the time to practice as well as teaching himself how to drill bowling balls during the COVID-19 pandemic as some of the main reasons he has improved as a bowler.

“When the pandemic hit, I had a bunch of free time on my hands like everyone else, so I watched a ton of YouTube videos on how to drill bowling balls,” Walby said. “It started off as something to do on the side, and now, it’s turned into almost a part-time job as I drill bowling balls for a bunch of folks in my area.”

Winning this event would mean a lot not only to Walby, but his entire bowling community in Bowman.

“We’re only a town of about 1,600 residents, and our bowling center in town is a small eight-lane house with old wood lanes, so all of us that bowl there are pretty close to each other,” Walby said. “So, if you were to tell me I won at the Open Championships in a few months, I would say that this is truly surreal.”

Classified Singles features bowlers with entering averages of 155 and below.

The 2024 Open Championships got underway Feb. 23 and will run through July 29 at the South Point Bowling Plaza. The tournament is scheduled to feature more than 11,000 teams and 55,000 bowlers making their way to compete in Las Vegas.

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