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The 11th Frame: Adam Morse blows through his own expectations in winning 11thFrame.com Open

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Sunday, August 13, 2017 10:00 pm

Adam Morse rolls a shot during the title match of the 2017 11thFrame.com Open. Photo by Susie Fever.

Winning the Greater Iowa Bowling Association 11thFrame.com Open was not even in Adam Morse’s thoughts when he came to Cherry Lanes in Dubuque, Iowa, on Sunday.

The 3-squad field of 156 players bowled six games of qualifying on Saturday with the top 48 advancing to Sunday’s 12 games of “Flanagan format” semifinals and the top five then advancing to the stepladder finals.

Morse was 39th after Saturday with 1,316, just 23 pins ahead of the cut number, 138 pins out of fifth and 192 pins out of first.

With 12 games and the large number of bonus pins available under the "Flanagan format" — each game the top score got 48 bonus pins, second-highest 47 pins, and so on down to 1 bonus pin for the lowest score — every player should think they would have a chance to make the stepladder finals.

But moments after throwing beautiful clutch strikes in the 10th frame of the title match to beat Brad Miller 249-236, Morse said he hadn’t thought that Sunday morning.

“Today I just came in expecting to make enough in the prize fund to pay for the next tournament,” the 21-year-old right-hander said. “And thankfully this just paid for my tuition for the fall semester.”

He said he didn’t enter any brackets on Sunday and winning wasn’t his goal: “I just wanted to give it my best chance and coming out with a win is incredible.”

Proof of his low expectations could be seen in the fact that he didn’t enter the $10 “Bet You Win” pot before the start of the tournament — a decision that cost him $630. (The money rolls over to next year’s 11hFrame.com Open Bet You Win pot.)

“I never expect to win,” Morse said. “I just want to get the experience and the fact that I actually did win means I may want to take that gamble (entering the Bet You Win) in the future.”

Certainly, he has a whole new level of confidence after topping a field that included some of the best players in the Midwest with PBA Tour and Regional titles and USBC Eagles.

“This definitely just gave me hope,” Morse said. “I’m now believing in myself so much. I went three years without a win in anything and this just turned everything around.”

Morse said his biggest previous wins were two Greater Iowa Scholarship Bowling Tour tournaments and the Iowa Pepsi state youth tournament. Against adults, he finished second to Tom Hess in a GIBA event in his hometown of Des Moines last October.

“This was probably easily the biggest win of my career,” Morse said. “I’ve never even come close to anything like this.”

Using a Storm CRUX for his first four games and then a Storm PHAZE II the final eight, Morse fired games of 225, 256, 254, 256, 256, 258, 237, 234, 223, 257, 221 and 199 to total 2,876 for the round, adding 460 bonus pins to end at 4,652.

“Everything just went right,” Morse said of his Sunday scoring barrage. “I’ve gotta say the bowling gods were just with me with how the pins were falling. My line just went great. I never really ran into any trouble and somehow, some way the pins just decided to fall all day long.”

Miller was almost 100 pins behind in second at 4,557, and his round total of 2,795 and bonus of 399 also were second to Morse.

Travis Anderson was third with 4,535, Dakota Vostry fourth at 4,512, and Nick Kruml fifth with 4,477, 46 pins better than Chad Maas as Kruml shot 225 the final game to move past Maas, who closed with 189. 

Vostry was the tournament's only re-entry, as an opening on B squad resulted in a lottery for the spot and Vostry won it.

Full game-by-game results from Sunday are here. The prize list and Saturday’s qualifying results are attached to the bottom of this story as PDFs.

Kruml had finished sixth in 2015 and fifth last year, when the entry blank mistakenly said it was a 4-person stepladder so we had to go with that. I must admit I was pulling for Kruml not to finish sixth after that error last year!

And for a while it seemed like the bowling gods were with Kruml in the stepladder, as he rallied to beat Vostry 207-193 when Vostry left a 3-4-6-7-10 split in the 10th, and Anderson 245-222 with a 7-bagger after a split and open in the fourth frame put him down 23 pins.

But Miller opened with a 4-bagger in the semifinal match, and even a 3-6-7-10 split in the fifth didn’t matter as Kruml never doubled until the seventh and eighth frames and then whiffed a 10-pin in the ninth. If Kruml had carried that brutal ringing 10-pin he would have taken the lead. The open allowed Miller to close out the 212-183 win with a workmanlike spare-strike-spare finish.

The title match came down to carrying corner pins as both players poured shot after shot into the pocket. Morse left 10-pins in the second and fourth and a 7-pin in the fifth before striking out, while Miller left 10-pins in the third, fifth and seventh before striking out to a 3-6-10 on the fill ball. Every other shot the players rolled was a strike.

A strike by Miller on the fill ball would have forced Morse to double to win; the 7-count meant he need just a strike and 9-0 or 8-spare. Morse flushed the first two shots of the 10th for the win.

It was a tough loss for Miller, a rising young player on the PBA Tour who has improved immensely in the past few years and looks to be on the verge of achieving big things that will make this loss seem minor.

Nerves when he was on one of the BowlstreamTV webcast pairs led to a 160 on Saturday, but he showed no evidence of nerves in the title match Sunday.

Morse credited his former college coach, Eric Littig of St. Ambrose, for helping him all weekend.

“He helped me yesterday in qualifying,” said Morse, who had to leave St. Ambrose for financial reasons. “Without him I don’t think I could have done any of this today. He helped me with all my lane moves.”

Morse said his long-term dream is to bowl professionally, “but right now I have to help my family out at the bowling center” — Warrior Lanes in Waukee, Iowa, in the Des Moines area. His dad runs the pro shop there.

“Without them being home right now taking care of the center I couldn’t come out here,” he said.

After the tournament, Morse posted this on Facebook:
“Wow what a day. Today was an incredible and long day of bowling. Yesterday I went +116 for 6 games with 1 bad game in there and I was a little worries about not making cut, but thankfully I qualified as the 39th seed going into the Sunday portion. I managed to bowl extremely well today and caught so many lucky breaks thanks to the bowling gods and I averaged 250 for my first 6 games and as I kept going I knew I was giving myself a chance to make the top 5. Going into game 12 I knew I was close, but I hadn't looked at the score sheet since game 4. To my surprise after I grinded for a 199 my final game, which was my low game of the day, I saw I was leading by 100 pins going into the final game. I ultimately came out as the #1 seed for the step-ladder finals. I composed myself and treated this like any other 1-on-1 I've done before. Brad Miller and I went back and forth with ringing 10 pins and strikes. It came down to my 11th frame and I needed 8/ to win. I knew this would be the biggest shot of my career. Off my hand I knew it was close and I threw a flush strike to win the 11thFrame! I won by a score 249-236. Brad and I both threw the ball fantastic all day today.
I want to thank everybody that supported me all day at the tournament, I'm sorry if I forget anybody, Eric Littig, Cody Brandau, Kyle Krol, Ed Krol, Mary Krol, Kyle Damon, Bryan Thompson, Brenden Sramek, Sue Strong Anderson, Kyle Anderson, Sean Rangel, Josh Powell, and more. Without the support I don't know if I could have stayed as calm as I did. I can now say I am a GIBA Champion!
Thank you Jeff Richgels, Joey Slawinski, and crew for the live stream and commentary. I appreciate everything you guys did today and do for the sport.
Thanks #Stormnation for creating the Crux and Phaze 2, those were my primary balls of choice all weekend long. Also thank you, for sponsoring the tournament.”

And Kruml posted this:
“Just got home from the 11thframe.com open, every year I seem to get a little better, 6th place in 2015, then 5th in 2016, and now because of a 5 man stepladder(thanks Jeff Richgels) 3rd place. This tournament is always ran well and can't thank Jeff and Joe Engelkes enough for keeping this tournament going strong. Even though there were a lot of complaints about the pattern, I would like to thank them for putting out a pattern where you have to play further right for the better part of a block, no matter what the scoring pace was. #Vise”

First was $2,700, second $2,200, third $1,700, fourth $1,300 and fifth 1,100. The last spot for Sunday was $230 and the four players in 49th-52nd earned $200.

With one extra $150 senior check for Mark Porter and one $150 woman’s check for Sarah Muench, the tournament paid out $28,030 in prize money, just shy of $5,000 above the total entry fees of $23,100, GIBA administrator Joe Engelkes reported, noting that Cherry Lanes manager Bob Hochrein gets two free entries for his use.

GIBA took in $1,830 in bracket proceeds, with $430 donated to the prize fund, $430 to the GIBA general fund, and the rest covering expenses for Engelkes, his wife and daughter, who run the sweeper and tournament and worked tirelessly Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday.

Sponsorships included $2,600 from the Diamond Jo Casino, $2,000 from the Dubuque Regional Sports Commission ($1,000 for Friday’s sweeper and $1,000 to Cherry Lanes), $1,000 from Storm Bowling Products, $500 from Logo Infusion, and $400 from 11thFrame.com. And Coors Light’s sponsorship covers BowlstreamTV’s webcast.  

The tournament was webcast by Craig Elliott’s BowlstreamTV, with David Waswo and Joey Slawinski manning the booth, along with several guests over the weekend.

BowlstreamTV webcast the qualifying, with IT issues pushing A squad to Facebook live. Here is the archive for B squad and here is the archive for C squad. And here is the link to Sunday's webcast

The only slight negative was the higher scoring pace than last year, even though the same 2015 U.S. Open pattern was used. The only difference was Cherry Lanes was using a very slick test oil last year and this year was using Brunswick Defy.

The scoring pace was not that high, but Engelkes, Hochrein and myself all agree — and most players did as well — that last year’s scoring pace was about perfect. Hochrein promised to tweak the pattern to make it a little tougher again next year.

The different oil produced more hook to start and the right side blew open quickly on Saturday, which gave an advantage to right-handers.

Kyle Anderson was the only lefty to make the cut, making it in 46th with a closing flurry of strikes, then soaring all the way to 12th on Sunday, when the right side got tricky the last few games.

However, Anderson said if he had used the ball he used Sunday on Saturday he thought he would have qualified higher and perhaps made the top five.

We considered but decided against tweaking the pattern after the sweeper, wary of possibly causing a trainwreck with no time to test the tweaking, and also respecting the fact that we said we’d use the same pattern as last year. Of course, with the different oil, it didn’t play like it, which if nothing else gave many people an education on how important oil type is.  

I’ll repeat something I’ve said many times: being a laneman is as much art as science and the middle ground between too easy and too difficult is very small and hard to hit in today’s sport.

We aim to do better next year and we will have the pattern posted well in advance.

The pattern still did provide players the ability to play multiple angles from the gutter to an inside lane — with no guttercap lofting — depending on their style and ball choice. That is a big thing that is more important than scoring pace in my mind.

I have said many times that we intended to move the tournament back to the last weekend in August next year — it moved earlier this year due to the Engelkes having a family wedding.

But Hochrein said that weekend is worse for Cherry Lanes due to leagues starting, so we likely will stay on the second weekend. (The third weekend is not possible due to BowlstreamTV webcasting the New Mexico Open.)

The official date for the 2018 11thFrame.com Open should be settled by next spring.

I appreciate greatly all of the thanks I got for the tournament, but as I said on the webcast, my role is small compared to the work done by Engelkes and his family, Hochrein and his staff at Cherry Lanes, and the Bowlstreamtv crew. They deserve the lion's share of the credit for what has become a great tournament that hopefully will continue for years.