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Jerry Marrs overcomes adversity, runs stepladder to win 2020 GIBA 11thFrame.com Open

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Sunday, August 23, 2020 11:00 pm
Jerry Marrs, center, after winning the GIBA 11thFrame.com Open. I am on the left and GIBA administrator Joe Engelkes is on the right. Photo by GIBA.

Jerry Marrs knows real adversity, so a 146 game that dropped him from first to almost out of the top five with one game to go Sunday at the Greater Iowa Bowling Association 11thFrame.com Open was just something to shake off.

The powerful right-hander closed with a 216 to secure the fifth seed for the stepladder finals by two pins over PBA Tour player Nick Pate, then ran the stepladder to win the title and $2,700.

It might not be as significant as his victory in the King Classic Ritchie Buss Memorial on Jan. 6, 2019, barely three months after suffering his second heart attack and then undergoing quadruple bypass surgery.

But it was close, as could be seen in the tears in the eyes of Marrs’ wife Kelly as she listened to his interview minutes after his win.

When just being alive is significant, every day, every game, every win is significant.

Marrs, who also has diabetes, credits Kelly, who ran the Chicago Marathon last year, with helping him work at being healthier.

“She inspires me to be better,” Marrs said minutes after his win. “She helps me make better decisions, make better choices.”

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has kept them from the gym, they recently started running again, he said, adding that it’s “Just a matter of trying to get back into the swing of things.”

Marrs said he and his wife are careful and “I do everything I’m supposed to do” to avoid catching COVID-19, but even with his health issues they aren’t sheltering at home.

“My philosophy is I know it’s out there,” he said. “I’m not saying that it’s not. In my life, I’ve always been told to live life. And I’m not going to let something keep me back. … I go bowl. I run my tournaments.”

Dubuque has a mask mandate and all players wore masks while competing, with the only allowance being while actually bowling.

Marrs qualified third on Saturday with 1,417 for six games, 123 pins behind PBA Tour star and leader Kris Prather.

The top 48 returned for Sunday’s semifinals with an innovative format that comes from the fertile mind of Mike Flanagan and features 12 games with bonus pins based on score from highest to lowest. For example, with 48 players, in each game the highest scorer will get 48 bonus pins, the second-highest scorer 47 pins, so on down to 1 bonus pin for the lowest score each game. Whatever number of finalists there are, that number of bonus pins will go to the high scorer down to 1 pin for the lowest score each game.

Yes, it’s not head-to-head; instead, it’s all-against-one. The idea is to reward the consistently solid bowler and not the one who may bowl the right people at the right time.

The results were posted in this Google doc that GIBA updated after each game.

In the final game, Marrs rolled a 216 and earned 32 bonus pins, while Pate fired 215 for 31, as Marrs ended at 4,305 and Pate at 4,303. Dan Gifford also just missed, closing with 232 for 38 and totaling 4,298.

“I was doubtful I made it,” Marrs said. “With a 140 game I thought I dropped myself down to like seventh. And (Kelly) had told me probably the fourth frame in (of last game) that I was fifth and I told myself I just needed to make good shots and throw the ball good. And so I did and made sure I made all my spares. That was probably one of the keys to this weekend – I made sure I didn’t miss that many easy spares. I think I missed on 10-pin and a 2-8 and that was about it.”

PBA Tour player Russ Oviatt earned the top seed with 4,430, followed by Ryan Stubblefield with 4,374, Prather 4,369, and Ryan Burks 4,365.

Prather fell down the leaderboard by not breaking 200 in games 4-7, but rallied with 255, 196, 255, 245 and 202 to get back into the top five.

Marrs edged Burks 206-202 in the opening match, as Burks whiffed a 10-pin in the second, then left a killer 2-10 split for an open in the ninth on lane 14 after rallying with a pair of doubles. Marrs was clean before a meaningless 10th frame open, with a 3-bagger heading into the 10th locking up the win.

Marrs then routed Prather 278-231, firing a 9-bagger after starting with two spares, while Prather left a light 8-10 split for an open in the fourth and a killer solid 8-pin in the third frame and solid 9-pin in the seventh.

“I’m shocked in all honesty,” he said of beating Prather, who has solidly established himself as one of the top five players in the world. “I’ve always said that I could probably go out on Tour and bowl against the guys and usually when I do I don’t fare so well. When I bowled Kris he had me worried because he had such a great look. … The way he rebounded today, it scared me because of the fact that it’s Kris Prather. The guy’s good. I was fortunate enough to carry a couple breaks and throw some strikes and win the match.”

Lane 14 continued to be the key in Marrs’ 194-159 semifinal win over Stubblefield, who struck his first four shots on 13, but left a bucket and 2-5 for spares, a 3-4 split for an open, a ring 10 he whiffed, and a 3-6-7-10 for an open on 14.

Marrs was clean before a meaningless 10th frame open, and struck once on 14 that he turned into a double.

The problem with 14 was lack of reaction in the back-end, and shots jumping high when players tried to adjust.

Marrs went old school to deal with 14.

“I noticed it after the second frame of the game I shot 278,” he said. “The adjustment was I remember watching Parker Bohn years ago in El Paso where he said the ball was just not finishing strong enough on the back end so he backed up on the approach. So I backed up about 2 inches on the approach … and it worked.”

Oviatt made the correct call to start on 14 so he could finish on 13, but that didn’t help him hit 14, as on the lane he left a 5-pin he spared, a 2-5 he spared, a 2-4-5 he spared and a flat 10 he spared. After three strikes on 13, Oviatt’s shot in the eighth jumped high and he left a 3-4-10 split for an open.

Oviatt finally struck on 14 in the ninth and then struck out for 205, forcing Marrs to mark for the win. Marrs, who again was cleaning heading into the 10th, had rolled a 3-bagger starting in the second frame.

Marrs said he was confident on 14 and he rolled a confident looking shot in the 10th that left a ringing 10-pin that did shake his confidence, as he missed a 10-pin on the lane in his 146 in the 11th game. 

“I thought to myself, ‘Don’t mess this up,’ ” he said, adding that he didn’t realize the 146 had been on 13-14 until midway through the title match.

Marrs made the 10-pin without issue and added a 7-count for a 212-205 win.

“I didn’t really expect to win this event,” he said. “My goal was just to come in, bowl six games and make it to today. My goal today was to bowl 12 games and see what happens.”

Here is Facebook live video of the last three matches of the stepladder, here is video of the first match, and here is a video of a part of the semifinals.

First was $2,700 and second $2,200.

The full prize list and results are attached to the bottom of this story as PDFs.

Marrs forgot to get in the Bet You Win pot, so for the second straight year the pot will carry over to the next year, less the roughly 10% Engelkes holds back for the GIBA season finale bonus prize fund for the final tournament of the season. 

There was $530 carried over from 2019’s 59 entries and will be $570 carried over from this year’s 64 entries, meaning next year’s BYW pot will start with $1,100.

Marrs later posted this on Facebook:
“Maaaaaannnnnnnnn I am hurting!!!!!  
But WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!!! Winner of the 2020 GIBA 11thFrame.com Open!!!
Never have I thought I’d win this event.  Always a strong field. Always a lot of games. Always a grind. Special shout out to my wife Kelly Marrs for being there with me. And to my daughter Caitlyn for always pushing me to be better.  This win is one that means a whole hell of a lot to me!!  Used the DV8 intimidator, DV8 verge, Track proof and the all new DV8 Decree all weekend. Shoutout to my spare ball for not letting me down this weekend. 
Shot 147 game 11 after leading the event and thought I bowled out of the top 5. Came back with 216 that 12th game to be 5th!!! Great bowling to Ryan Burks, Kris Prather, Ryan Stubblefield and Russ Oviatt!!! 
Thank you everyone for the congrats. I see them all but haven’t replied to all 
Thanks to my sponsors DV8 Bowling Genesis Bowling and Vise Inserts!!!”

The lane pattern for the weekend was similar to what we've used in the past few years at 43.5 feet with high volume of 37.38 mL of oil, which we need to hold up through 12 games on Sunday. The pattern is asymmetrical with a left side ratio of 1.43-1 and a right side ratio of 1.7-1 for the zones of 18-18 and 3-7 boards. The PDF is attached to the bottom of this story.

The tournament again was sponsored by the Dubuque Regional Sports CommissionDiamond JoStorm Bowling ProductsLogo Infusionand 11thFrame.com.

Engelkes put out this report after the tournament:
"The new GIBA season got off to a rousing start over the weekend.  Friday evening we held the 11thFrame.com Sweeper and 78 bowlers showed up to compete on the pattern chosen for this year's 11thFrame.com Open main event.  The sweeper was a 5 game event with no finals and Andrew Anderson got lined up early and struck all night as he averaged 257.6 to top the field by 101 pins.  Jakob Butturff followed in 2nd place with Hunter Loveridge 3rd, Brad Ciesliwicz 4th, and Chris Wiley 5th.  We paid a total of 25 spots for the sweeper.
The main event got started Saturday morning at 9:00 with 50 bowlers on A squad.  The scoring pace was just a little lower than for that sweeper as Clayton Mohr led the squad with a score of 1381 for 6 games and only 22 of the bowlers were able to average at least 200.  Andrew Anderson bowled A squad and struggled to find consistent carry as he shot 1345 for the 5th spot on the squad.  Other top scores on A squad were Kenny Calkins III 1362, Hunter Sanders 1356, Seth Sikkema 1346, and Tom Hess 1332.  
The 2nd squad on Saturday figured out how to strike on the high volume pattern with PBA star Kris Prather averaging 256.7 for the 6 games.  Prather's total of 1540 led the squad by 123 pins as he was followed by Jerry Marrs 1417, Brody Green 1413, Lyle Kuhlmann 1406, Jason Craigen 1390, Brad Ciesliwicz 1387, Chris Wiley and Vince Biondo both with 1384.  A total of 28 of the 52 bowlers on the squad averaged over 200.  
The 3rd squad also had a total of 52 bowlers and the scoring pace was more in line with the first squad.  Chris Hill led C squad with a total of 1454 which was 2nd overall for the three qualifying squads.  Hill was followed by Briley Haugh 1392, Dan Gifford 1338, Josh Kennedy 1328, Nick Kruml 1322, and Ryan Stubblefield 1316.  A total of 21 of the 52 bowlers on C squad averaged over 200.
The format of the tournament takes the top 48 places from qualifying on Saturday to a Sunday semi-final cashers round of 12 games.  We use what we call the Flanagan format for this round. The format came from the mind of Mike Flanagan and it is pretty unique.  Following each game, the 48 bowlers are awarded bonus pins based on where they placed for that game.  The highest game gets 48 pins, 2nd gets 47, 3rd dgts 46 and so on down to 48th getting 1 bonus pin.  The format allows bowlers to move up the standing quickly with high games but the penalty for a low game can be severe.  Evidence of how the format can allow bowlers to move up the standings was Russ Oviatt who began the day in 37th place and worked his way to the high qualifier lever and the top spot in the stepladder finals.  Ryan Stubblefield moved up from 22nd to take the 2nd spot in the stepladder with Kris Prather holding on to the 3rd spot in spite of some struggles for most of the round.  Rounding out the stepladder was Ryan Burks 4th and Jerry Marrs 5th.  Nick Pate just missed out on the stepladder by 2 pins as he moved up from 33rd to 6th place.  I am going to take part of the blame for Pate missing the ladder.  I was doing a Facebook livestream and when I saw he had the front 8 strikes I went down to show his finish for everyone watching. Pate got the 9th strike and he looked pretty locked in, but evidently I put the jinx on him for the 10th frame as he went high and got 7 pins on his first shot in the 10th.  The surprise to me was when he didn't get any pins on his spare shot to end up with a 261 game.  I will leave it to all of you to find Pate those 2 pins he ended up needing.  Sorry Nick Pate I hope you can forgive me!!
The stepladder finals were very exciting as Jerry Marrs topped Ryan Burks in a tight first match, 206-202.  Marrs then took on Kris Prather who has possibly been the hottest bowler on the planet recently.  Marrs got locked in and blasted a 278 game while Prather suffered a couple of bad breaks in shooting 231 to lose the match.  Prather started with a double, left a solid 8 pin, then left an 8-10 split on a light mixer shot, followed by a solid 9 pin.  With Marrs striking the lead he had was too much for Prather to overcome and Marrs moved on to face Ryan Stubblefield.  Stubblefield is a young up and coming bowler who made a huge move the last two games of the semi-final round with a pair of 240+ games.  It was obvious that lane 14 had some transition and both bowlers struggled to strike in this semi-final match.  Stubblefield had more problems with lane 14 than Marrs and the match ended up with Marrs winning 194-159.  That set the stage for Marrs to challenge Russ Oviatt for the title.  Oviatt had made that huge move up the standing with some outstanding bowling during the 12 game semi-final round and had really bowled well on the fresh pattern to start the day.  The lanes were re-dressed prior to the stepladder so Oviatt had to like his chances.  The match was exciting although that tricky lane 14 caused Oviatt more problems than Marrs.  Marrs was in a fairly commanding position going into the last two frames, but Oviatt stepped up and struck in the 9th frame on lane 14 then struck out on lane 13 to force Marrs to mark on lane 14.  Marrs threw a great shot, but the result was a ringing 10 pin that he had to convert.  Marrs stepped up with confidence and made the spare to lock up the title with a 212-205 win.
Huge congrats to Jerry Marrs on his awesome performance throughout the 22 games he bowled for the weekend.  Marrs has been coming to Iowa to bowl our major GIBA events for a number of years and it was exciting to see him perform so well in taking home the title.
It was an exciting weekend in spite of the restrictions due to Covid-19.  I am very hopeful that we will not have any health issues for any of the participants over the next couple of weeks.  If that is the case, we will feel much more confident in our ability to hold the remaining tournaments on our schedule.  I am so grateful to all the bowlers who made the trip to Dubuque to participate over the weekend and thanks to so many of you who offered kind words to my family and myself over the past few days.  It truly makes our efforts more worthwhile."