Surprise entrant LeClair triumphs

When Brian LeClair walked through the doors at Hi-Roc Lanes Sunday, he knew he was a marked man.

When Brian LeClair walked through the doors at Hi-Roc Lanes Sunday, he knew he was a marked man.

The only Capital Region bowler to make his living on the PBA Tour for the last 24 years, LeClair was expected to perform well on challenging conditions, and he was up to the task, winning the Northern Bowlers Association’s Saratoga Open by 17 pins over Fort Johnson’s Bob Caputo Jr., who also spent a brief time on the PBA Tour.

LeClair, of Athens, tossed a five-game total of 1,115, and took home a check for $800. Caputo, who rolled one of the high games of the day with a 266 in his second game, finished with a 1,098 pinfall, and earned $400.

Rounding out the cashers were Jeff Zielonko of Watervliet (1,094), Jeff Voght of Canajoharie (1,087), Travis Winglosky of Latham (1,079), Randy Koehler of Castleton (1,071), Craig Smith of Schen­ectady (1,071) and Craig Taylor of Niskayuna (1,070).

Ironically, the 47-year-old LeClair found himself out of a job after this weekend’s 65th U.S. Open at Carolier Lanes in North Brunswick, N.J. He cashed in his final event of the PBA Tour season, but he didn’t earn enough points to retain his exempt status.

“I guess I’ll try the PBA Tour

Trials again,” he said. “The last time I tried it a year ago, I was hurt, and I wasn’t feeling well, but I still made it.”

This is the third time that LeClair has lost his exempt status on the PBA Tour. The first time it happened, he earned his exemption back by leading the PBA East

Region point list. Then, after losing his status again, he went to the PBA Tour Trials a year ago and fought his way back once more.

“The pressure I felt with one or two games left in the PBA Tour Trials last year is like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It’s really hard to explain, because you’re at the point where you’re fighting for your job,” he said. “My plan this spring is to bowl in all the regionals, because I’m the kind of player who can’t afford to take time off.”

LeClair, who has career earnings on the PBA Tour of better than $450,000, said that even the good scratch bowlers in the Capital Region don’t understand the tough conditions the PBA Tour players face every week.

“I face the animal patterns [five PBA oil conditions named after various animals] every week, and I’ve become accustomed to the different forms of ‘easy’ conditions, but they’re not really easy. When we average 220 on these cond­itions, some of the bowlers laugh at us, because they think they can average much higher. But let them come out on tour and try it.”

“I’m very happy I won today,” he added. “I wasn’t just doing this for fun. I’m out of a job, and I need to make some money.”

The final event of the NBA season will be the Bob Guild Memorial April 13 at Del Lanes. There will be a top prize of $1,000.


Cashers — Brian LeClair 1,115, $800; Bob Caputo Jr. 1,098, $400; Jeff Zielonko 1,094, $200; Jeff Voght 1,087, $160; Travis Winglosky 1,079, $120; Randy Koehler 1,071 $80; Craig Smith 1,071, $80; Craig Taylor 1,070, $60.

Other top bowlers — Nick Miseno 1,059, Nunzo Manuli 1,056, Bob Faragon 1,050, Gene Speenburgh 1,036, Dustin Paupst 1,030, Tim Banks 1,030, Dan Furman 1,026, Dan Ahl 1,023, Mike Drexel 1,014, Sonny Dorstek 1,009, Pete Dougherty 1,002, Jeff Keegan 1,001, Ron Gardner 997, Jason Brown 993, Dan Auriccio 993, Chris Ahl 990, Mark Taylor 984, Ron Unser 983, Craig Schoonmaker 981, Steve Horton 977, Rick Mochrie Jr. 952, Ray Evans 948, Russ Hunter 948, Bob Pearsall 942, Les Douglas 942, Mark James 934, Chuck Douglas 905.

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