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Nate Stubler edges Tom Hess to win 2021 GIBA 11thFrame.com Open and join Matt McNiel as 2-time champion

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2021 11:30 pm
Nate Stubler edges Tom Hess to win 2021 GIBA 11thFrame.com Open and join Matt McNiel as 2-time champion
Nate Stubler, middle, GIBA administrator Joe Engelkes, right, and some aging writer, left, after Stubler won the 2021 11thFrame.com Open. Photo by Rosie Engelkes.

Saturday’s qualifying at the 2021 11thFrame.com Open saw six left-handers make the top 48, but only one among the top 13.

I talked to several players who were a mix of righties and lefties and mostly got comments that it was the fairest left-to-right they felt they had seen the tournament, which started in 2012 (no tournament was held in 2013).

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the tournament has tended to be dominated by left-handers or having them shut out. The sad truth is the sweet spot of equity side-to-side is nearly impossible in modern bowling, especially when you have a format that has something like our 12 games of Flanagan format competition on Sunday.

There has been as few as one lefty in the top 48 and the high lefty last year was Rich Blake in 12th, as right-hander Jerry Marrs won.

And that came a year after Kyle Anderson and Nate Stubler finished first and second in qualifying, and Stubler beat Brandon Mooney in the title match. All three are left-handed.

On Sunday, Stubler and fellow lefty Michael Martell made the top five stepladder finals and Cameron Crowe finished eighth, an improvement over Saturday that likely came from Sunday being 12 games as opposed to Saturday’s six. And also in Stubler's case from his carry not being as absurdly poor as it was Saturday when I crossed with him. 

With just six games Sunday, Martell is nowhere near the stepladder as he was buried on page 2 (30th-48th) of the standings after seven games before running off 300-279-267 on a very challenging lane pattern. Here is video of the close of Martell’s 300.

Martell qualified fifth, beat Chad Mass 236-219 in the opening match, then fell to Tom Hess 248-210 in the second game. Hess, the 2011 USBC Masters champion, then beat Tom Adcock 233-203, before Stubler won the title 236-213 with a closing 6-bagger.

Stubler joined future USBC Hall of Famer Matt McNiel as a 2-time winner of the tournament. Stubler beat McNiel to win 2020 GIBA Ebonite Fall Classic, and will defend that title Sept. 17-18.

Stubler plans to stay at St. Ambrose University to work on his Masters degree in accounting and bowl for the school in 2021-22.

The PBA Tour will follow at some point, he said after winning the Fall Classic last year.

“Definitely,” Stubler said. “Right now my main goal is to get through school and work on being a weekend warrior … Just trying to get through school and weigh my options after that.”

The 11thFrame.com Open's difficult, high volume lane pattern is based on the 2015 U.S. Open lane pattern. It was 43 feet with 37.01 mL of oil, and main ratios for the zones of 18-18 and 3-7 boards of 1.46-1 on the left side and 1.67-1 on the right side.

The left-handers attacked it with rough surface strong balls from outside 5-board, and many right-handers did so as well, though they also could play the inner shim closer to second arrow.

Maas played the inner shim and started with a turkey and finished with a turkey and 7-count, but a 4-10 split for an open in the seventh proved to be the difference, as Martell started with a 4-bagger, added a later double and stayed clean.

Hess used a 900 Global REALITY on one lane and ZEN MASTER on the other, both very rough surface and started near the edge.

Against Martell, he bowled a clean game, with a 5-bagger starting in the second and a closing 4-bagger.

Martell, meanwhile, saw the left-side start to get wet-dry and lost his look, rolling just one strike in the first six frames, and opening in the fifth on a 2-4-7-10 split. He switched balls and rolled a 4-bagger and 9-spare to close but it wasn’t enough to catch Hess. (I apologize that I don’t know non-Storm family balls well enough to tell by sight.)

Adcock came in playing the lanes similar to Hess with another rough surface REALITY and together they edged in and looked to have a high-scoring match going early on.

Hess started his clean game with three spares and a 4-bagger, but Adcock stayed close as he recovered from a spare and 2-4-10 split for an open with a 5-bagger. However, he left a 2-4-8-10 split for another open in the eighth and Hess doubled in the ninth and 10th for the win.

Stubler never got less than a 9-count in the title match, but three 7-pins in the first six frames, one of which he missed, kept Hess close as he struggled early with just one strike in the first five frames and an open on a 2-4-10 split in the third.

A messenger that missed the 10-pin in the fifth and a 4-pin in the eighth were all that kept Hess from an 8-bagger that would have given him the win.

Instead, Stubler needed just a 9-0 for a tie and a mark for the win. He slammed the pocket and carried the 7 for the win.

Here is the archived Facebook live video of the stepladder finals, with Mark London joining me for commentary.

An interview with Stubler follows the title match, but it cut off early when the phone we were using shut down.

While he appeared utterly cool under the pressure, Stubler said in the portion of the interview after the phone stopped that bowling on TV or a webcast always is a “very nerve-racking experience.”

He said he tries to focus on the things St. Ambrose coach Eric Littig preaches: “Try to remember the lanes are still 60 feet, there’s still 10 pins, you’ve still gotta make shots.”

The top five prizes were $2,800, $2,300, $1,800, $1,400 and $1,100. The Bet You win was worth $1,920 since the past two winners did not enter, and Stubler and Hess agreed to split it before the title match.

The tournament paid 52 spots, one-third of the 156 entries. There also were checks for high seniors and women out of the money.

Full results of the tournament are at this Google docs page and attached to the bottom of this story as PDFs.

Sunday’s innovative format that comes from the fertile mind of Mike Flanagan featured 12 games of bowling starting at 9 a.m. with bonus pins based on score from highest to lowest. For example, 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.

Nick Kruml, who finished 26th, also rolled a perfect game on Sunday. Here is Facebook live video of the finish of his 300.

Here is Engelkes' report:
"Congratulations to Nate Stubler on another stellar performance in winning the 2021 11thFrame.com Open. Stubler joins Matt McNeil as the only two time champions of this event. The tournament had a full field of 156 entries with many of the top bowlers from across the Midwest competing for the title. The scoring level was fairly low with a score of 1202 (+2) for the 6 games of qualifying being the last cash number. Tom Adcock was the day one leader with a score of 1401 and it took a score of only 1413 to make the cut to the top 48 for the second round which featured the 'Flanagan Format' once again. For those unfamiliar with this unique format, it basically is set up so that all the bowlers bowl against everyone else to earn bonus pins each game. With 48 bowlers in the second round, the highest score each game earns 48 bonus pins, the next high would earn 47 pins, and so on down to the lowest game earning 1 bonus pin. This format allows for some dramatic swings in the standings. As an example, Michael Martell ended up as the 4th high qualifier, but after the first 5 games of the second round, Martell was down around 40th place in the standings. Martell caught fire and bowled games of 300, 279, 267, in games 8,9 and 10 respectively. Stubler started the second round in the 15th qualifying position and found his way to the top qualifying position. Chad Maas was able to ride a very strong second day all the way from 39th qualifying position up to 5th place and a spot in the stepladder finals. Others who made major moves in the second round were Koty Aldrich from 35th to 6th, Brandon Dodge from 18th to 7th, Vince Biondo from 29th to 10th, Matt Gasn from 22nd to 11th, and Dan Marazzo from 43rd to 13th.
The stepladder finals featured some very exciting matches. The first match between Martell and Maas was back and forth until a late string of strikes by Martell led to his final 236 to 219 win. Martell then went on to bowl Tom Hess who was the 3rd high qualifier. Hess has been on a major roll in the PBA50 tournaments held recently, and he was sharp in winning over Martell 248 to 210. Hess then moved on to meet Adcock in the semi-final match.  Adcock has also had some really strong performances in the PBA50 tournaments. We had seen throughout the weekend, bowlers at times found it easy to leave the 2-8-10 or 2-4-10 split combinations. Adcock ran into two of those leaves in the match while Hess stayed clean and threw enough strikes to win 233 to 203. The final match between Stubler and Hess went down to the 10th frame with Stubler needing to make a quality shot to win the title and he stepped up to throw a clutch strike and put away the victory. An early 2-4-10 split for Hess along with a couple of shots that could have struck but didn't cost him while Stubler was in the pocket every shot and either struck or left the 7 pin, one of which he missed to keep the match close.
I would like to thank all of our sponsors who make this tournament possible, Diamond Jo Casino, Cherry Lanes, Storm Bowling Products, I AM Bowling, Dubuque Regional Sports Commission, and Jeff Richgels's 11thFrame.com!!  We took in a total of $24,800.00 in entry fees, and the total prize fund paid out was $29,890.00. This payout included 3 female payouts and one additional senior bowler payout. The GIBA added $500.00 to the sweeper prize fund this year, and a total of $780.00 to the prize fund from the bracket proceeds."

Returning sponsors include the Dubuque Regional Sports CommissionDiamond JoStorm Bowling ProductsIAMBowling, and 11thFrame.comAs always, a huge thank you to them for continuing to support high-level bowling through tough times.

The GIBA is sponsored by EBI (Brunswick) and we thank EBI (Brunswick) for graciously allowing my Storm-sponsored tournament — I have been on Storm’s staff since 1996 — to be part of the GIBA schedule.

McNiel won in 2012Matt Gasn in 2014McNiel again in 2015Jay Watts in 2016Adam Morse in 2017Andy Mills in 2018 and Nate Stubler in 2019. (No tournament was held in 2013.)

My preview story is here.