Like many United States Bowling Congress Open Championships competitors, I took the time to watch an awesome group of bowlers take to the lanes in Baton Rouge on Thursday for the first official webcast of the tournament.
The video is archived here.
USBC reported in this news release that thousands of viewers tuned in to see a team of former PBA standouts — Rick Sajek, Adam Colton, Mark Booke, Paul Kohler and Steve Wilson — and another team of PBA and USBC standouts and living legends — USBC Hall of Famer Pete Couture, Larry Lichstein, Michael Lichstein, Ricky Ward and solid two-handed lefty Brian Makan.
When it was over, 900 Global of S FL had totaled 2,932 (1,010-968-954) and Don Carter Line 2,964 (1,002-972-990).
Couture later posted on his Facebook page that "I think its time to retire from bowling the USBC National tournament. The shot played tough, the carry was terrible, and I split on most shots that did not hit the pocket. I shot 154, 193, & 192 for 539. Our team only shot 2964."
When a guy as great as Couture is that discouraged you know the condition was tough.
There is no way I have the standing to criticize the shotmaking performance of a group that includes several men who have done far, far more than me in bowling, especially when I wasn't there experiencing that pattern.
But I am certain of one thing: they did not have the kind of team strategy that I believe is required to contend for an Eagle.
And I think a team commitment to playing the lanes together becomes more crucial the flatter the pattern becomes.
In other words, this year's 2.2-1 pattern requires even more teamwork than last year's 2.84-1 pattern.
As soon as I saw that they were playing the lanes from various angles, I knew they weren't going to shoot a big number. They had inside players pushing oil out to the breakpoint of outside players and no defined area they were aiming to break down in an effort to create a couple of boards of room.
My team still isn't real sure where the best place to play the Baton Rouge pattern is on the fresh for us, but it's a lock that we'll have 10 guys all trying to do the same thing when we do decide.
A group of power players might be able to all play in together — Koehler looked like had a decent shot to start. A group of straighter players might have something up just to the right of 10 like Sajek, or perhaps even further out near the gutter like Larry Lichstein, as both had decent looks from what I saw in watching the first game and a half Thursday.
The key is that all members of the two teams on a pair must work together to give them the best chance for success.
A lot of people hate that, but it's the nature of today's game, especially on a Sport level condition.
My gut feeling right now is that our best shot will be somewhere right of 10-board going straight up the lane with smooth rolling balls with medium surface.
The middle of the lane looked like it hooked a ton on that webcast, and we don't have the revs to be inside throwing it away from the pocket and getting it to recover consistently.
But we can stay out of trouble pretty well and hopefully create an area of less violent reaction than the fresh pattern appears to have. And we've proven that once we transition the lane and get comfortable, we can throw a lot of strikes.
The wild card is that my teammate Steve Richter and many others I have communicated with who have bowled on the pattern have consistently said that the pattern played easier than what Baton Rouge looks like and is producing in scores.
Perhaps it's the heat and humidity there? Or the nature of the new lanes, which could perhaps get less tricky as they wear in.
Another team on the Thursday 2:30 p.m. squad, Legend of Dung Ho of Cerritos, Calif., did take the team lead with 3,088. Michael Tucker, the 1992 all-events champion, led the team with a 648, according to the release.
Then on Friday they grabbed the team all-events lead with 9,666, while Ryan Whitney of Richardson,Texas, took the lead in doubles, singles and all-events, USBC reported.
Here is the news release on Whitney, a no-thumber who fired sets of 631 in team, 766 in doubles and 773 in singles to total 2,170 all-events. Partner Chris Hans added 654 as they totaled 1,420 in doubles.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of feeling," Whitney, whose previous high all-events in the tournament was 1,881 in 2009 in Las Vegas, said in the release. "It's exciting. This is what everybody comes out here to do. If I win great, if not, I can at least say I performed to my very best and did something I always wanted to do."
And here is the USBC video on BowlTV on Whitney and Hans.
Clearly, there are ways to score in Baton Rouge.
It just wasn't how the webcast teams did it Thursday.
Another chance for learning will come Saturday, March 10 at 8:30 p.m. Central time when a team that includes PBA champions Mark Williams, Bob Handley, and Kevin Croucher.
Mike Jasnau was scheduled to be on the team but he texted me Friday that a bad wrist will keep him from bowling. He said he has a doctor's appointment next week and hopes to bowl again in 2013.
Even without the famed coach, I expect them to execute a team strategy.