By John Bassetti
Sixteen bowlers will start this morning in a 12-game matchplay format with hopes of reaching the five-person stepladder finals in the afternoon when the seventh Hubbard Open will conclude.
At Bell-Wick Bowl starting at 10 a.m., the 16 will be side-by-side with a different bowler in each of the 12 games before total pinfall — including bonus points — determines the top five, starting with the fifth seed against the fourth seed.
The top qualifier was Hubbard Open defending champion Matthew O’Grady of Rahway, N.J., with pinfall of 1,904.
C.J. Kirchner (Herrin, Ill.) and David Asbury (Ellicott City, Md.) are in contention after rolling and 1,891 and 1,874, respectively.
Kirchner and Asbury, both right-handers, are competing in their first Hubbard Open and both are relative newcomers to the pro ranks: Kirchner turned pro in January while Asbury is in his third year.
Kirchner, 22, said that the lane conditions were more difficult than what he was expecting.
“I was figuring to play a little more inside — around the third and fourth arrows — instead, I went outside around the first and second arrows for a couple games, then slowly moved left,” Kirchner said. “Being on a wood surface here [at Bell-Wick] creates a lot more friction on the front part of the lanes.
“On synthetic, you wouldn’t have all this hook, you would have less,” he said. “On wood, you don’t want to go left too fast — you want to stay right as long as possible — because, on wood, the front part of the lane [the first 15 feet] will change conditions, so it starts to hook more.”
Hubbard is Kirchner’s eighth regional, but first this year. Of the seven regionals he bowled in 2016, his best was 16th in Kokomo, Ind. In another, he finished 17th (last cash position).
On the national level, Kirchner bowled in the Masters in Las Vegas in February and also in the Masters in 2016.
Despite being an amateur until this year, Kirchner was able to pay his way into the regionals. He said that cashing in a regional, as well as experience, puts a bowler on the fasttrack to earning a PBA card.
Today, Kirchner’s mental approach will be the same as Saturday’s: “Basically, just be relaxed and take one shot at a time.”
For Asbury, who will be 42 in April and a carpenter by trade, a week made a world of difference in his scores.
“Basically, I was just here [in the Hubbard Open] for practice, but it ended up being good.”
Just last weekend, bowling with a house shot, Asbury went minus-150 for six games.
“That’s almost 400 pins difference,” he said of Saturday’s +274 (274 pins over a 200 average x 8 games) vs. -150 a week ago).
Asbury, who got his PBA card in May 2015, said that Bell-Wick’s lane conditions were to his liking.
“I think I matched up pretty well throwing with a Mastermind Einstein [by Brunswick], playing 15-to-5 [boards],” Asbury said. “I barely hit it the first five games: 220, 260, 270, 290, 260, then when it dried out, I had no hook. In game 6, it started drying out and I just couldn’t get far enough left.”
This is Asbury’s fourth top-16 appearance in regional tournaments — one last year (Rockaway, N.J.) and two the year before: Ellicott City and York, Pa. — with a 7th-place best finish in Ellicott City.
Also during Saturday’s morning squad, David’s brother, Billy Asbury, who has been a pro five years, placed 14 spots behind his older brother.
“I’ve been watching over the years and tried it once and had fun,” said David Asbury, who felt like a rookie at Bell-Wick and rightly so.
“Some of these guys have been bowling for 25 years and I’ve only been bowling for three.”
In Friday’s high school pro-am, Commodore Perry’s boys team shot 1,084 to win, Howland’s girls rolled 986 and a Hubbard contingent of Derrick Cobbin, Alexis Cobbin, Jacob Bryant and Haley Rotz combined for 1,066 to win as a mixed entry.
Winners of the junior/adult pro-am were: Greg Laird (boys, 1,527); Harley Realty (girls, 1,463) and Chris Plyler (adult, 1,433).
Ron Killian, Hubbard Open promotional director, said that it’s reasonable to expect $2,000 to $2,500 as this year’s fund-raising amount for the Hubbard High bowling program. Last year, the program realized $1,700 to $1,800, Killian said.