Believe it or not, a Capital Region quintet still owns the greatest team performance in USBC Championship history.
In 1993 in Tulsa, Okla., when this prestigious tournament was still called the ABC Championship, Kenny Hall, Mark Hilton, Hugo McGroty, Ron Priester and Dave Wolfe knocked down 3,537 pins to set the tournament record that still stands.
As a point of reference, the last three team tournament champions rolled scores of 3,408 (2010), 3,473 (2011) and 3,401 (2012).
The closest any team came to breaking the record was the 2000 Team 8-Ball squad from Medford, Ore. that squad fired a 3,513 that came up just 24 pins short, but then the scores gradually started getting lower over the next decade.
“We just happened to catch the lanes at the right time,” said Hall, a former full-time PBA touring pro who currently runs his own pro shop at Spare Time Latham and is the color commentator for the Huck Finn “Capital Region Bowling Show.”
“The scoring hasn’t gone through the roof since then. We had the right carry-down, and that created a little tug room for us. The other teams back then didn’t like to play left. We were one of the few teams that didn’t mind going deep into the fourth arrow. I think we came along at the right time,” he said.
That Bruegger’s Bagels team had an unbelievable amount of firepower as all five bowlers went on to have fantastic careers on the local scene. Hall is a member of both the Schenectady Bowling Association and Albany Bowling Association Halls of Fame. McGroty, whose overall record and scoring average is among the best in USBC tournament history, is also a Schenectady Bowling Association Hall of Famer, while Hilton is a member of the Albany Bowling Association Hall of Fame.
Wolfe doesn’t compete much anymore, but Priester still competes in PBA Eastern regional competition from time to time.
Hilton once owned the SBA record for highest triple before it was broken by Bob “Goose” Faragon. The Sportsman’s Bowl desk man rolled the first 1,100 four-game series in New York state history in 1979.
Hall competed on the PBA Tour from 1977 to 1983 and competed in more than 100 tournaments. He finished fourth in the Cleveland Open.
“Twenty years to hold a record is a long time,” said Hall. “We were a bunch of guys who were not afraid to win. We were used to winning, and we expected to win. We didn’t know about the record until the third game, but once we knew we were close, we wanted to get it.”
Hall said his team’s experience and overall talent made a big difference.
“Preister was a lefty who played the gutter, but Sparky [Hilton], Hugo, Wolfie and myself could move left. We were all somewhere between strokers and power players. We could roll it heavy when we had to,” he said. “We didn’t hook the ball like Bob Handley did, but we could move inside.”
Hall pointed out that most of the bowlers on that team competed in some of the best tournaments available at the time.
“Sparky didn’t go out of the area much, but Wolfie and Hugo bowled in the PBA regionals for years, and so did Ron,” Hall said.
“As far as I was concerned, I think being on the PBA Tour for as long as I was gave me an advantage in the equipment department. Weight blocks were just coming into being at that time. I had a head start, because I started using the modified weight blocks in my ball.”
Hall said it feels great to still own one of the most respected records on the national bowling scene.
“We’re just riding the wave,” he said. “It only takes one team to get hot. On any given day, the record could go down.”
Hall has been asked about his team’s record performance many times. I remember asking him about it for a column six years ago, when he turned 50.
“Most of the guys in our group have been bowling together in tournaments since the late 1970s,” Hall told me on Feb. 2, 2007. “I remember seeing the clock on the wall. We didn’t finish that night until 3 a.m., because they had some technical problems. The only people left in the lanes besides our team were the people running the tournament and the press. We couldn’t even celebrate, because all the bars were closed by then.”
Even six years ago, Hall knew the record was special, especially considering all the high scores posted in the last decade.
“The conditions they used are like some of the PBA conditions now,” he said. “It’s tough to get all five guys clicking at the same time. The other thing is that even though the new technology is great, sometimes those new high-powered balls burn up the lanes. We were using urethane balls back then.”
Ha ha. I’m still using a urethane ball at Sportsman’s Bowl, but of course, I’m not bowling very well anyway. Just saying.
CITY TOURNAMENT UPDATE
Don’t forget that the Schenectady USBC Bowling Association’s 80th annual Championship Tournament continues tonight at 9 with the Scratch Team Challenge at Towne Bowling Academy.
The remaining squads are April 7 at 3:30 p.m., April 23 at 6:30 p.m., April 24 at 6:30 p.m., April 25 at 6:30 p.m., April 26 at 6:30 p.m. and April 29 at 9 p.m. for another Scratch Team Challenge.
Entry fee is $22 per event (team, doubles and singles), except for an extra $5 for those bowling in the Scratch Team Championship.
STRIKES AND SPARES
u Junior program leaders are reminded that the inaugural Daily Gazette Junior Team Championship will be held April 21 at Sportsman’s Bowl. Check your local center for entry blanks. Entry deadline is April 14. Each local center can send as many four-person teams as they wish to compete. Each team consists of four bowlers from the majors, juniors and preps divisions. There must be at least one girl on each team. Most teams will have two majors, one junior and one prep bowler, but coaches can mix up their squads any way they like. Handicap will be 100 percent of 720. Entry fee is just $20 per team. Pizza and soda will be provided. The members of the winning team will receive plaques, and the winning team will also get possession of the permanent trophy, named in honor of the late Hal Buell, for one year.
u Helen Waite defeated Amy Auspelmeyer, 215-180, to win the combined New Era Senior Tour/New Era Women’s Tour combined tournament last week. Waite earned $525, while Auspelmeyer took home $275.
u The annual Charlie Bechard Memorial winds up Saturday at Green Island Lanes at 2 p.m. There are only 64 openings. Entry fee is $22. There are two divisions: Class A (50-62 years of age) and Class B (63 and older).
u Clifton Park’s Bob Kavanaugh lost to Mahopac’s John Conroy, 184-149, in the final of the PBA50 Rossi Lanes Eastern Open in Elmira last week. Kavanaugh pocketed $1,050 and was the only area bowler to cash.
u Schenectady’s Nick Galusha won last week’s TV finals of the Huck Finn “Capital Region Bowling Show” by edging Gene Speenburgh of Athens, 242-228, at Cove Lane in Great Barrington, Mass. It was the second career win for Galusha, who teamed with Hall to win the Over 50/Under 50 tournament earlier this season.
u Gansevoort’s Roy Vanderbogart captured the March Madness tournament at Spare Time Lake George. He took home a check for $1,250.
u There are three more TV finals scheduled for the Huck Finn “Capital Region Bowling Show.” Scratch qualifiers for the final handicap/scratch event of the season will be April 6 at 3 p.m. at Green Island Lanes and April 7 at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. at Sportsman’s Bowl. The TV taping will be at Burnt Hills Lanes.
u TV taping for the Kenny Hall Tournament of Champions will be April 14, also at Burnt Hills Lanes.
u Harold Smith Jr. bowled a 300 in the KAPL Mixed league last week. The previous week, he rolled a 299 game.
u Qualifying for the season-ending Jack Scaccia Sr. Memorial Tournament will be April 13 at Alpha Lanes in Troy at 3 p.m., April 20 at Town ’N Country at 3 p.m. and April 21 at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. at Boulevard Bowl. The live TV finals will be held April 28 at Alpha Lanes.
u After a weekend off for Easter, the 18th annual Blizzard Bowl continues April 7 at 11:45 a.m. for the team event. Entry fee is $60 per team. The other two team squads will be April 14 at 11:45 a.m. and April 20 at 9:45 p.m. Doubles and singles continue at Burnt Hills Lanes on April 6, April 13 and April 20, all at 12:30 p.m. Entry fee for singles or doubles is $15 per event.
u The inaugural Uncle Sam Lanes Bar/Restaurant/Tavern tournament will be held April 6 (2 p.m.), April 7 (1 p.m.), April 13 (11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.) and April 14 (1 p.m.). Entry fee is $100 per five-person team. One in eight teams cash. Handicap will be 90 percent of 225. No team will be allowed with a combined average higher than 1,125.