2019 Bowlers Journal Championships comes to a close

By Matt Cannizzaro and Daniel Farish
USBC Communications

LAS VEGAS - When AJ Rice of Columbus, Georgia, entered the 2019 Bowlers Journal Championships presented by the United States Bowling Congress in late March, he was using it as a makeshift practice session for the upcoming USBC Masters, which was held nearby.

As it turns out, it was the best practice session of his career.

After shooting a near-triplicate 835 series at the South Point Bowling Center with games of 278, 278 and 279, Rice had to wait 103 days to find out if his set at the 2019 Bowlers Journal Championships was enough to earn him this year's Open Singles title and $10,000 top prize, which it was.

The event kicked off during the first week of March and lasted for more than 120 days. Singles and doubles champions have been determined in a variety of age- and average-based categories.

The 2019 event in Las Vegas marks the 73rd time the Bowlers Journal Championships has been held in conjunction with the USBC Open Championships. This year's Open Championships was held at the South Point Bowling Plaza, a short walk from the South Point Bowling Center.

Rice's 835 came just a day after Packy Hanrahan of Wichita, Kansas, set the bar in Open Singles with an 813 series. They own the first two of six 800s rolled this year at the Bowlers Journal.

Ironically, Rice's success was due in part to a conversation he had with Hanrahan about the equipment he used during his own three games. Hanrahan said he used urethane equipment to bowl so well, so Rice decided on a similar strategy.

Both bowlers utilize the two-handed style and attack the lanes from the left side. Hanrahan finished third in Open Singles.

In addition to the first-place prize money, the 27-year-old Rice will receive an additional $1,000 for topping the Dual Entry standings, as well. The special no-cost feature at the Bowlers Journal Championships includes all competitors who choose to use their three-game totals for singles and doubles at the same time.

"This has always been a dream of mine," Rice said. "The goal when I come to the Open Championships is to win an Eagle or an event at the Bowlers Journal. This is one of the most prestigious events a bowler can compete in, and this is definitely near the top of my list of accomplishments."

Despite shooting a sizeable score, Rice wasn't comfortable with his number, knowing the amount of time that was left in the event and how many good bowlers still were headed to Las Vegas.

"Because I threw urethane, there was only one guy I was worried about, and that was Jakob Butturff," Rice said. "Luckily for me, his 857 series was in doubles only. We're pretty good friends, and I've definitely talked trash to him about it."

Butturff combined games of 300, 278 and 279 for an 857 series, which came just days after shooting 827, a set that placed him second in Open Singles.

Satisfied with his score and place, the 25-year-old left-hander did not enter singles prior to shooting the 857 and only was entered in doubles with Brandon Pierce of Huntsville, Missouri. The two combined for 1,414, landing them just outside the top 10 in the Open Doubles standings.

Rice wasn't done striking after his first big set either, and he returned a few days later to shoot 300 and 803, while competing with Cory Misura of Clearwater, Florida, in Open Doubles. Misura rolled a 666 series, giving the pair a 1,469 total, good for the lead at the time. They finished this year's event in fourth place.

HollimanNeimanBJ2019OCForWeb465x262The Open Doubles title at the 2019 Bowlers Journal Championships went to Justin Neiman of Macomb, Michigan, and Mykel Holliman of Collierville, Tennessee, with a 1,492 total.

Neiman is one of three bowlers to find continued success at South Point, having captured the Open Doubles title in 2017, the event's last visit to the South Point Bowling Center.

On the way to the win this time, the duo took the lead in mid-May, a month after Holliman completed a runner-up finish at the 2019 Masters - to Butturff.

Though they attack the pins from opposite sides of the lane, Neiman and Holliman worked together throughout their three games of doubles. Holliman led the effort with games of 247, 244 and 267 for a 758 series, and Neiman added scores of 256, 258 and 220 for a 734 set.

Neiman has been extremely comfortable at the South Point Bowling Center, where he teamed with Craig Nidiffer of New Boston, Michigan, to win the 2017 title with a 1,601 performance.

"I don't know what it is about that building, but I just seem to match up really well," said Neiman, a 33-year-old right-hander. "Even though Mykel and I are on opposite sides of the lane, we worked off of each other really well."

It was Nidiffer who suggested the two bowl together, and the decision to do it was a last-second one.

"I didn't really know Justin all that well, but a good friend of mine from Michigan suggested we bowl together," Holliman said. "We decided just as the lanes came on for practice that we would get in doubles together."

The pair will share the $8,000 top prize, and Holliman's 758 set was good enough for eighth place in the Dual Entry standings.

Robert Brown of Cody, Wyoming, joined Neiman for a return trip to the winner's circle at the Bowlers Journal Championships by claiming the 2019 Senior Doubles title with John Huber of Marshfield, Missouri.

Brown and Huber combined to shoot 1,359. Individually, they were separated from one another by just five pins, led by Brown, who rolled games of 201, 235 and 246 for a 682 series. Huber added 264, 188 and 225 for a 677 set.

Brown, a 59-year-old right-hander, captured the 2017 Senior Doubles title with Billy Langford of Lone Grove, Oklahoma. Huber's 2019 visit was the first of his career. The two will share the $2,500 first place prize.BrownRobertHuberJohn2019OCBJForWeb465x262

"I was kind of concerned when we got done, even with a week left, because I thought our number was beatable," Brown said. "There are a lot of great bowlers in Las Vegas, and I thought some of them could show up in the final week and take us down. Thankfully, they didn't."

Helping Huber find success in his debut made the experience even more special for Brown.

"Obviously, I'm thrilled with winning this for a second time, but I'm equally as excited for John, with this being his first time here," Brown said. "We are already looking forward to Reno next year."

Michael Calvin of Warren, Michigan, fired off one of the nine perfect games rolled at this year's Bowlers Journal Championships on his way to the Senior Singles title.

After missing the cut at the 2019 USBC Senior Masters at the Sam's Town Bowling Center, Calvin made the drive across town to the South Point Bowling Center, hoping to end his week on a high note.

He followed the perfect effort with games of 246 and 202 for a 748 series, propelling him to the top of the Senior Singles leaderboard.

In addition to the Senior Singles lead, Calvin helped himself into the top 10 in Senior Doubles. He and Jeff Suma Sr. of Clarkston, Michigan, finished tied for fourth place with a 1,344 total. Calvin will receive $3,000 for the singles win.

Additional winners at the 2019 Bowlers Journal Championships include Pete McCordic of Katy, Texas, in Super Senior Singles with a 717 series, and Mark Long of Gaylord, Michigan, in the 175 & Under Handicap Singles with a 678 set.

McCordic also has enjoyed past success at South Point, having picked up the Senior Singles title there in 2017 with an 812 series.

The top prize in 175 & Under Handicap Singles is $3,000, while the Super Senior Singles award is $2,000.

The Handicap Doubles title went to Jody Bueng of Ada, Minnesota, and Lynn Christianson of Twin Valley, Minnesota, who combined to shoot 1,259. They will share the $2,500 top prize. The two also were members of the team that won the 2019 Classified Team title at the Open Championships.

Along with the singles and doubles events at the 2019 Bowlers Journal Championships, bowlers had the opportunity to take home extra prize money by entering three different jackpots - Clean Frame Jackpot, High Game Jackpot and Strike-It-Rich Jackpot. Each features a prize-fund style payout.

A total of 28 different bowlers were able to stay clean through three games to claim a portion of the Clean Frame Jackpot.

Six bowlers who rolled perfect games at this year's tournament were entered in the High Game Jackpot, including Butturff, Calvin, Daniel Deno of Owensboro, Kentucky; Tim Pfeifer of Oakdale, Pennsylvania; Ryan Powers of Omaha, Nebraska; and Andrew Suscreba of Clifton, New Jersey.

Seven competitors were able to deliver strikes in each of the designated nine frames to share the top payout in the Strike-It-Rich Jackpot.

Complete tournament standings and prize amounts for the Bowlers Journal jackpots will be forthcoming on BOWL.com.

For more information on the Bowlers Journal Championships, visit BOWL.com/OpenChamp.

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