Austin and Shepler at the helm

Jack Hammill - Guest Columnist

It was during the first shift of the Lima City Singles that I had a great chat with one of my favorite members of the Lima Bowling Association, a fan of the traditional elements of the game that many of us still relate to, if not love. We will leave his name out of this for now, but it was indeed refreshing to share memories of the past with him, going old school you might say as we reflected on the era of no hats, no shorts and Tom Schwenzer, one of the great past champions of this event.

As the two days of qualifying took hold it was also great to see two of my personal favorite people, Phil Austin and Onalee Shepler rise to the top of the first qualifying round.

Shepler was one of four ladies to top the 1,000 standard for five games with a score of 1,053. Donna Childs was a scant eight pins back at 1045, followed by Chris Mahlie (1,024) and two time defending champion Bethany Slaughter [1012].

Six more ladies cracked the 900 mark to round out the top ten to include Amy Albert, Beth Edwards, Sydney Albert, Kari Miller, Evette Shaner and Amanda Stachler.

The event will resume for the ladies with six more games on the first Sunday in January and it was easy for this writer to pick out five or six more names from the next tier that could easy make the climb during the next two rounds of qualifying for the championship round on Jan. 13.

I have had an extremely short list of men that I would love to see win this tournament for the first time. Austin is clearly on that list and on Sunday he had by his account his best first round ever.

“I really do think that this is the best that I have bowled, especially in the first round.”

It was a very rushed conversation during an extremely busy moment of the afternoon as stats were being prepared from the round.

It was also refreshing. On Saturday and into Sunday morning more than one bowler was concerned about how much tougher it was to shoot in the upper 1,300’s on Saturday yet on the same condition Austin and two other men rolled at 1400 or better. Austin paced the field with 1,433, taking a seven pin lead over Bryan Slaughter who rolled 1,426 on Saturday and Scott Scalf and former champion Jordy Schroeder who finished at 1,400.

When the battle was done late Sunday afternoon 17 additional men rolled at 1,301 or better during this qualifying round making it one of the highest scoring first rounds in the 60-plus year history of the event.

When we spoke of the ladies round we shared that there were members of the next tier who could easily rise during the next two rounds of qualifying. It is also easy to look at the list of men and see names that could make a charge for the final eight men’s slots for the tourney.

There are 28 men within 100 pins of the No. 8 slot currently held by two time defending champion Chandler Stevens. More often or not somebody has made that climb in the history of the tournament.

The current top ten for the men are Austin, Slaughter, Scalf, Schroeder, Tony Materson, Ryan Clarke, Anthony Kennard, Stevens, Jake Schroeder and Josh Adams.

It was great to be able to spend a few moments with one of the great past champions of this tournament, two-time winner John Patterson. The king of the lanes has had to give the game up but still manages to hoist one king of bottled beers. He gave me a great idea for future City Singles events. I hear Gene Wolf may be joining him for the next round. Maynard Bok where must you be.

A writer’s view:

I am qualifying this some for two reasons. First of all I do not remember ever making the cut in this tournament. I also want to note this is my view of Jack the writer and not Jack the employee of 20th Century Lanes.

The Lima City Singles remains the premier bowling event within our area. It was interesting to read the social meeting comments as well as having the opportunity to speak with many of the participants and spectators that flooded the lanes for the last two days.

One of the concerns of some was that the lanes seemed to play different between the different squads. I would wager however that of the 72 men that qualified that they were relatively evenly split over the three shifts. There will still be plenty of opportunity to settle who’s the ‘best of the best’ as you will all be bowling together from this point out.

David Miller may have had the best word on it, pointing out that last year the top two qualifying spots came from the first Saturday shift.

Secondly, major kudos to Chris Sanford! There was a scoring glitch on lanes 3&4 that I would imagine will have been addressed by the time I return to work today. Chris went old school hand-scoring the pair of lanes for the shift to insure the integrity of the tournament – just like the good old days when the tournament originated. Today I am sure she will have an even greater appreciation for automated technology.

There are some great high school matches coming up … check with your favorite school for schedules and hope to see you around the lanes.

Jack Hammill

Guest Columnist

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