RENO, Nev. - The members of Artistic Expressions 1 of Oklahoma City already were well-known throughout the Southwest, but they've gained international notoriety since rolling the highest team score in 111 years of United States Bowling Congress Open Championships history.
Their 3,720 team total at the National Bowling Stadium on June 23 earned them a whirlwind of media and bowling-community attention that will continue now that they're officially this year's Regular Team champions.
The talented group had games of 1,255, 1,188 and 1,277, the sixth-highest team game in tournament history, to catapult past previous leader and record holder, Motion Plus Lanes of Cudahy, Wis. (3,561), by 159 pins.
Ted Pritts led the way for Artistic Expressions 1 with a 768 series and was followed by Pete Thomas (758), Xeno Garcia (752), Jimmy McMartin (736) and Anthony Lavery-Spahr (706).
"It's still surreal, but it feels fantastic," said Thomas, whose team finished second in Team All-Events with a 10,258 total. "This is one of the things every accomplished or competitive bowler strives for. Now that I've won an eagle, I feel like I've reached the pinnacle of the sport, and to do it as a team, and with such a talented group, is incredible. To do it knowing we had to shoot the highest score in history was daunting, and to have everything fall into place the way it did, while passing the previous record by so much, makes it even more special."
The Team All-Events crown this year goes to Janz's H.I. of Beaver Dam, Wis., which finally was able to break through on bowling biggest stage with a 10,363 total April 4 live on BOWL.com's BowlTV.
Tim Damerow, who rolled one of the 35 perfect games at the 2014 USBC Open Championships, set the pace for Janz's H.I. with a career-best 2,228 all-events effort. He was joined by Andy Bunkoske (2,075), Joe Janz (2,030), Tim Janz (2,026) and Randy Hupf (2,004).
The teammates have had a few close calls over the years, including a sixth-place finish in Regular Team at the NBS in 2011. That year, they led for three days. This time, they held the top team spot for just 24 hours (3,499) but set the Team All-Events bar high enough to survive the three remaining months of Open Championships competition.
"That was a long few months," Joe Janz said. "There was a lot of checking the Internet, and every time a team shot 3,300 or 3,400, we were watching on the live scoring, if it wasn't live streamed. We've been close, and I never really thought it would be Team All-Events that we won. It feels great."
The other three Regular Division titles in 2014 all were decided in the same week in late April.
Anthony LaCaze of Melrose Park, Ill., a Team All-Events winner in 2013, struck first and found his way back into the spotlight with a 2,273 all-events total.
The 31-year-old right-hander was consistent in navigating the tournament's two USBC Sport Bowling-certified lane conditions on the way to sets of 766 in doubles, 765 in team and 742 in singles April 20-21. He helped Junior Team USA Support 1 of Mansfield, Texas, to a 10th-place finish in Team All-Events with 10,084.
"The first win was an honor, and with this one, I'm speechless," LaCaze said. "I really owe it all to my teammates. We work hard together, and it has been amazing. Even with everything coming into this year, I was able to focus on what I needed to do. This has been a great run."
Louis Jenkins Jr. of Warr Acres, Okla., bounced back from a disappointing doubles set with an improvement of nearly 300 pins on the way to the 2014 Regular Singles title.
After shooting 527 in doubles April 22, the 46-year-old right-hander stayed in the same spot with the same ball and struck 29 times en route to games of 257, 300 and 269 for an 826 singles effort. He added 709 in team for a career-best 2,062 all-events total.
"It's a relief now that it's over," said Jenkins, who made his seventh Open Championships appearance. "I've been trying not to think about it, but that's been hard with all of my friends asking me if I was still in the lead. I just never would've dreamed this."
The father-son duo of Clark and Carl Poelzer of Arden Hills, Minn., held on to win the 2014 Regular Doubles title with a 1,465 total posted on April 25.
Carl, a 31-year-old right-hander, fired games of 238, 254 and 269 for a 761 set to lead the effort, while Clark, a 62-year-old right-hander, added games of 214, 248 and 242 for 704.
"It was such a long wait, but, now, it's like a weight has been lifted," Clark Poelzer said. "Winning with Carl is so special. Last year, we were the first father and son to win Minnesota state doubles, and then we both made the all-city team. We're very excited and very proud."
In the Classified Division, Scotty's 1 of Alexandria, Minn., was able to improve on last year's fourth-place finish and claim the 2014 Classified Team title on games of 911, 1,000 and 932 for a 2,843 total March 29.
Jon Lee led the team with a 649 series and was followed by Tom Lee (566), John Fremling (553), Dan Fremling (548) and Dave Fremling (527).
Classified Doubles was decided the next day as two members of the four-team Scotty's group, Chad Razink of Clontarf, Minn., and Paul Beyer of Benson, Minn., posted a 1,222 total. Razink, a 29-year-old right-hander, set the pace with a 654 series, while Beyer a 48-year-old right-hander, added 568.
"This has been a neat experience," Dave Fremling said. "It's really special because I get to bowl with my two sons and one of my best friends and his boy. It's a lot of fun. And for Chad and Paul to win doubles makes it even better. They bowled the best I've ever seen them bowl, and they definitely earned it."
Just a day before the Scotty's crew arrived at the National Bowling Stadium, William Hawkins of Houston, a 51-year-old right-hander, took the lead in Classified Singles with games of 167, 247 and 255 for a 669 set, and he, too, held on for more than three months to take home this year's title.
Finally, collegiate bowler Trevor Silva of Davis, Calif., showed how far he's come with good coaching and a lot of practice on Sport Bowling lane conditions as he earned the Classified All-Events title with sets of 667 in team, 624 in doubles and 564 in singles for a 1,855 total.
The 2014 Open Championships kicked off its record 12th trip to Reno on Feb. 28 and brought 9,024 five-player teams to the NBS. For the second time in history, two Sport Bowling-certified lane conditions were used - a 43-foot oil pattern for team and a 40-foot pattern for doubles and singles.
This year's event featured 35 perfect games, 12 299s, eight 298s and an additional 43 11s in a row. Seven bowlers rolled 800 series at the 2014 tournament.
A record nine teams topped the 3,500 mark, beating the previous mark of four at the 2013 event, also at the NBS. The 2014 tournament also featured the highest team game in tournament history, 1,318, fired by Team Turbo Grips of Fort Wayne, Ind., on June 20.
For more information on the Open Championships, visit BOWL.com/OpenChamp.
Visit us on Facebook at the official USBC Open/Women's Championships page.
Presenting sponsors for the 2014 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.
United States Bowling Congress
The United States Bowling Congress serves as the national governing body for the sport. USBC is a membership organization that provides standardized rules, regulations and benefits to make bowling fair and fun for everyone.
The interactive home of USBC is BOWL.com. Go to twitter.com/USBC for the fastest USBC headlines.