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By Milt Northrop

NEWS BOWLING COLUMNIST

The PBA Tour’s stops around the nation are more infrequent than ever – in fact they’re almost nonexistent – but Western New York is still an important location in bowling.

That was reinforced this week with the announcement that Buffalo will host the 2014 North Pointe Junior Gold Championships and the USBC Youth Open. The competition will be held at six area facilities – AMF Thruway Lanes, Transit Lanes, AMF Airport Lanes, AMF Lancaster Lanes, Classic Lanes and the Tonawanda Bowling Center.

The Youth Open will be held July 10-27 with the Junior Gold competition set for July 17-18. The Buffalo Hyatt will be the headquarters hotel.

The first USBC Youth Open, as a companion event to the Junior Gold, was held here in 2007.

“Every year since 2007 we’ve been working to get it back,” said Chuck Giglia, director of sports sales for Visit Buffalo Niagara. “We partnered with our bowling center, the Greater Buffalo USBC Association, Bill Palumbo and Greg Merkle, and also hotels locally to prepare a package. We submitted a bid and made the short list and we were lucky enough to win the bid.

“It will bring about 2,000 young bowlers and their families for 8-10 days. That represents a certain amount of hotel rooms and an economic impact.”

“Buffalo was a popular destination for our bowlers in 2007, and I anticipate there will be a lot of excitement surrounding the 2014 event as well,” said Chad Murphy, International Bowling Campus managing director of youth development.

Visit Buffalo Niagara President and CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen estimates that the event will have an impact of $4.4 million on the area.

Beth O’Brien of the GBUSBC’s Youth Committee and GBUSBC Vice President Elaine Koszuta led the local bowling association’s effort to land the national tournament.

The Northpointe Junior Gold has featured some of the sport’s future pro stars in recent years. Such players as Scott Norton, Sean Rash, Missy Bellinder, Shannon Pluhowsky, Olivia Sandham and Stefanie Nation have been among winners in the last dozen or so years.

The Junior Gold Championships features competition for national titles in four divisions – U15 boys, U15 girls, U20 boys, U20 girls – and for spots on Junior Team USA in addition to a large pool of scholarships. Qualifying events for the Junior Gold Championships are held throughout the country for Junior Gold members. Visit bowl.com/juniorgold to learn more about the tournament and the Junior Gold program.

The USBC Youth Open Championships is open to all USBC Youth members. It has four age-based divisions (U8, U12, U15 and U20).

Each participant bowls a maximum of nine games – three games each of singles, doubles and four-player team. Go to bowl.com/youthopen for more information on the Youth Open Championships.

Participation of young bowlers from the Buffalo area should increase next year. It was sparse in the 2012 events. A scan of last year’s results showed only two female competitors, Melanie Hannon and Morgan Walsh, both of Cheektowaga, and two males, Chad Mee of Hamburg and Andrew Herbert of Eden, from Western New York.

The last Youth Open winner from the area was Gina Maduri of Tonawanda, who won the overall singles title with a 674 score in 2007. John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda finished seventh among boys in the 2007 Junior Gold to earn a place in the Junior Team USA.

Pin chasers

• Professional bowlers get back to live action March 27-31 with the Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis. Sean Rash won last year’s TOC in Las Vegas, defeating Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, 239-205, in the final match.

Five past winners of the TOC entered this year’s event in addition to the 48 PBA Tour champions. The former winners are George Branham III, Bryan Goebel, Johnny Petraglia, Wayne Webb and Mark Williams.

The field this year includes Ciminelli and Jack Jurek of Lackawanna.

• Canisius, Erie CC and Niagara County CC teams failed to advance out of the Allentown Regional last weekend to earn a place in the Intercollegiate Team Championships next month in Lincoln, Neb. Allentown was one of four regional competitions held.

Biggest surprise was the failure of the Wichita State men’s team to qualify for the first time since 1986. The Shockers finished eighth in the Las Vegas Regional, which was won by West Texas A&M, Jurek’s alma mater.

• Entries will be open to April 19 for the GBUSBC Senior Open, April 27-28 at Wimbledon Lanes. Entries are also open for the Greater Buffalo Open and Women’s Championships at Transit Lanes, April 30 to May 11, and the George A. Obenauer Masters at AMF Thruway Lanes, May 14-19.

• Andy Ochal rolled a double and an eight count in the 10th frame to edge Eric Johns, 199-198, and win the $1,000 first prize at the recent Tonawandas Scratch Eliminator Tournament. Tony Dolan led the four-game qualifier with 851. Thirty-five bowlers entered.

email: mnorthrop@buffnews.com