At first it seemed like a good idea – selecting a bowling personality of the year for Western New York in 2013. It seemed like a good way to wrap up the year in local bowling and the activities of local bowlers on the national and international scenes.
It turned out not to be as simple as originally thought because there are just too many worthwhile candidates.
Is it Andrew Herbert of Eden, now a UB freshman, who won the boys sectionals with a 1,376 score and led the Section VI team to the state championship, then made the nationally televised finals of the Teen Masters in Las Vegas, finishing fourth?
What about Chad Mee, the Frontier student who led his team to the Section VI team title with a 1,368 and fifth place in the state championship, finished 16th in the Teen Masters, then turned around and won the Pete Parisi Award as the top qualifier in the 50th annual George A. Obenauer Masters Championship at Transit Lanes?
Should it be Melanie Hannon, who has moved on from Maryvale High to Fairleigh Dickinson University? In her senior season at Maryvale, she led the All-Section VI team to the state title. Hannon finished third in All-Events in the North Pointe Junior Gold Championships.
Also, Hannon was selected as recipient of the prestigious Aleta E. Crowe Star of Tomorrow Award, presented by the United States Bowling Congress.
What about the year John Szczerbinski had? The former Wichita State star from North Tonawanda had one of the best USBC Open championships a bowler from Western New York has enjoyed in a long while. Szczerbinski won the regular all-events title in the Open at National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev., with a 2,228 total. He also was second in singles with 279-789 and he shot 777 in helping his team, CareerAthletes.com of Wichita, Kan., to seventh place in the regular team division.
Also, Szczerbinski was in the lineup with Jack Jurek of Lackawanna on the New York City WTT KingPins team that won the Elias Cup as champions of the PBA League.
To round things out, Szczerbinski went to Russia representing Team USA in the QubicaAMF World Cup. Szczerbinski just missed the finals, finishing fourth, but he and Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, the U.S. women’s representative, combined for the best finish by a national team. McEwan was fourth in the women’s competition.
In a career loaded with bowling highlights, Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga accomplished one of her best, defeating Kelly Kulick, 257-195, in the final match to win the Women’s U.S. Open in Columbus, Ohio.
The best finish for a local bowler in the USBC Women’s Championship, where Johnson usually excels, was 18th by Michelle Sterner of Niagara Falls in the diamond/classic singles.
Joe Ciccone won the Obenauer Masters for the third time, defeating Liz Johnson in the finals. Losses to the two finalists eliminated young Mee from match play after he had shot 1,659 on a tough pattern to lead the qualifying. It was an impressive tournament against the Buffalo area’s best by the then 17-year-old. Mee turned 18 in November.
Just last month, Ryan Ciminelli made headlines with his second PBA Tour title, winning the Chameleon championship of the PBA World Series of Bowling in Los Vegas, only a few hours after falling as the top qualifier in the Viper Championship.
Earlier in the year, Ciccone won his 15th PBA Regional, defeating Ciminelli in the final match, 257-236, in Hubbard, Ohio.
Elsewhere on the pro front, Buffalo native Tom Baker won his 10th PBA50 Tour (formerly the PBA Senior Tour) title with a victory in Shawnee, Kan.
KayLee Hart took the Western New York Regional Queens Tournament’s top division, the first time since 2007 the title was not won by Johnson or Sterner.
Of course, there were some disappointments in the midst of all that success.
Two big names in Western New York bowling were among those who passed away.
The giant of them all was Nin Angelo of Newfane, who died in January at 85. Even casual followers of the sport remember his amazing 19-week run on WBEN-TV’s “Beat the Champ” show hosted by Chuck Healy.
His brother, Jim, was more famous, but the late Bob Schroeder made a name for himself on the lanes, too. He bowled on, and often led, some powerhouse teams to City Tournament championships, bowling along with his brother, Doug Heim, Tom Harnisch and Dick Ciprich and other top talents on title-winning teams in 1970, ’71 and ’75. One of those teams was anchored by a teen phenom named Tom Baker. Whatever became of him?
Sadly, Niagara County Community College suspended its intercollegiate bowling team because of budgetary issues, just when the sport was coming back impressively on the Sanborn campus.
Good news is that the Buffalo area didn’t lose any bowling establishments, although Town Edge is now simply The Edge and Victoria Lanes in East Aurora is now the 11th Frame.
Also, the sport seems to be maintaining its health while trying to emphasize competitive bowling for youth. The Greater Buffalo USBC Association reported 10,542 USBC members for 2012-13, down from 10,869 the year before, but the number of sanctioned leagues went up from 270 to 278.
Looking ahead to 2014, one of the highlights will be in July when two national junior championships come to the area. The North Pointe Junior Gold and the USBC Youth Open Championships will make their stops here, utilizing several venues over a two-week period. The last time those events were held here was 2007.
Local qualifying events will be coming up soon in the new year.
What to watch
The final PBA Tour event in the World Series – the PBA World Championship – will air at 1 p.m. Sunday on ESPN. ESPN’s January coverage of the PBA will include the Round 1 Japan Cup on Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. and the Regional Players Invitational/PBA50 Tour Finals on Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. The Teen Masters Grand Championship finals will follow the RPI/PBA50 telecast on Jan. 19 at 5 p.m.