Holding a team practice session has become a tradition that absolutely contributes to the USBC Open Championships success our Turbo 2-N-1 Grips group has enjoyed.
We get together late on a Friday afternoon at Odyssey Fun Center, the center Steve Richter manages in Sheboygan Falls. When we're done, we head to Legend Larry's for great wings, beverages and "de-briefing."
It's business and bonding.
Steve has become a wizard at putting down the Open Championships pattern and giving a similar look that provides great preparation for the tournament.
As I've blogged multiple times, this year's Open Championships lane pattern is as tricky as any I can remember.
Depending on styles, I believe there are multiple ways to attack it and have success in the team event.
For example, I think a group of good high-rev players could start just right of 10-board and end up fairly deep and have a solid chance of passing the current second place score of 3,227.
But heading into the team practice for our group of aging, relatively low-rev players, we had a firm belief that starting out around 5 board was our best option — and the only way we had any chance of approaching the 3,401 that is leading.
And our practice session solidified that belief.
We had seven of the 10 players in our group, missing only Mike Shady and Bret Faulkner, who live out of state, and Dan Goepfert, who couldn't make it. We added solid young Sheboygan bowler Aaron Cleveland as an eighth, which is enough to approximate an Open Championships team event.
We bowled 10 minutes of practice and then two games with eight and one game with seven (Cleveland had to leave), giving 23 total games, which basically got us to what would be the early portion of three games of 5-man team.
We started practice and the first game out around 5-board, going fairly straight with balls with fairly rough surface and fairly strong drillings. (Our group has decided that we will provide no more details on balls than that.)
The idea is to get the ball to burn enough energy early so that it isn't jumping off the oil line in a manner that is difficult to control.
Practice and the first game is about setting up the lanes for a big run in the final two games, much like a sacrifice bunt putting a runner in scoring position or blockers opening a hole for a running back.
But to get to 3,400, you also have to get a decent score the first game.
Based on what we saw Friday, I think we can get to 3,400 if we can get at least 1,050 the first game. But getting that score is not going to be easy because the lanes are tricky when they are fresh, and there have been only a handful of starting games that high.
As we kept bowling Friday, we slowly migrated in and produced a look that seemed similar to what we saw of Nicholas J's Pro Shop at the end in the USBC highlight video of their awesome effort.
Those of using fairly strong balls were crossing close to 15 at the arrows going out to right of 10 for a breakpoint, while some had balled down and were staying close to 10. I tried both ways and had good looks to the pocket.
So in addition to getting a decent first game, the trick will be making the right choices the last two games in ball and attack angle. The right choice may mean 250 or better; the wrong choice a small 200.
And that will be the difference between a decent score and possibly passing 3,401.
If the Baton Rouge River Center plays like what we practiced on Friday, I definitely think we have a chance to shoot a 3,400. But I also think a 3,402 or better this year might require a better performance than our 3,473 last year.
And again, I would emphasize that in our group of 10 the highest rev rate probably is Richter at maybe 350, so what works for us won't work for a team of high-rev players.
One thing we did not is throw any plastic spare balls up the middle of the lane in practice in an attempt to develop hold.
Based on what we saw in practice, there is no need for that, although I know it's been much discussed this year.