That big hole in Mike Zarcone’s local bowling resume is gone.
The 46-year-old right-hander from the Town of Tonawanda took care of that Sunday when he defeated top qualifier Frank Bellavia Jr., 593-544, in the championship match to win the 51st George A. Obenauer Masters Tournament at AMF Airport Lanes.
Five times over a six-year span, Zarcone won or shared Bowler of the Year honors in the Greater Buffalo USBC Association. In recent years he also won team, all-events and six-game combined titles in the City Tournament, but the Obenauer eluded him in 15 or so tries.
Last year, Zarcone made it to the final four. He was undefeated before losing to pros Liz Johnson and eventual winner Joe Ciccone and wound up in fourth place.
“This was the tournament I really wanted to win,” Zarcone said after completing his unbeaten run (6-0) Sunday. “I guess this was my year. I can’t believe it.”
Zarcone defeated Bellavia twice, 568-536, in the winner’s bracket final and the championship match, 593-544, after Bellavia had eliminated Ciccone, 595-555. Ciccone was looking for his fourth Obenauer title, which would have equaled the record held by Mike Neumann.Zarcone gave Ciccone his first loss on Saturday night.
“Try to fill frames. That’s the name of this game,” said Zarcone, who was clean on the scoreboard until he drew the 6-7-10 split in the 10th frame of the second game.
The Zarcone-Bellavia matches were a contrast in styles by a pair of right-handers. Bellavia, 37, playing in his first Obenauer, is all power with a high backswing. Zarcone’s release is more like a pushing motion and he seems to be dropping the ball just past the foul line, but with lot of rotation.
“Everybody tells me that it’s very unusual,” Zarcone said of his style, “but it works for me. Jack Jurek and Dave Guindon tried to work with me a little bit to try to change, but I just do what I do.”
The triumph only enhanced Zarcone’s credentials for future consideration for the GBUSBC Hall of Fame.
If that ever happens he would join his wife, Terry, in the local hall. She was inducted in 2006.
“I want to get there with her,” Zarcone said. “It would be nice to be husband and wife getting in there.”
Terry Zarcone had to follow Mike’s exploits Sunday via text messages because she was busy working as the manager of a Rite-Aid in Tonawanda. Mike, himself, has been a 30-year employee at Tops Markets.
Sunday’s championship match boiled down to three tell-tale frames in the first of the three games. Bellavia opened in the frames 4-5-6, drawing two splits and missing a spare.
Zarcone strung three strikes in frames 5-6-7. The match swung right there. Zarcone owned a 57-pin lead after the opener and was in front by 38 going into the third game.
“I thought I threw the ball good. I didn’t get the reaction I was looking for,” said Bellavia, who is a paramedic for Rural Metro.
Zarcone averaged 204.3 for his 18 games in match play after he qualified third with 1,691 for an eight-game average of 211.4. His high series was 725.
Bellavia averaged 223 in leading the qualifying with 1,784. He was trying to become only the second top qualifier to go on and win the championship. Ryan Ciminelli won the Pete Parisi Award as the top qualifier in 2010 in the first of his two Obenauer championships.
In match play, Bellavia was 5-2, with his only losses to Zarcone. He averaged 194.7 in 21 match play games.
Ciccone owned a one-pin lead over Bellavia going into the third game of their semifinal. Bellavia doubled in the fifth to open a comfortable lead and closed it out with a strike in the ninth.
The total prize fund for the Obenauer was $12,975. Qualifying for match play was worth a minimum of $250.
There were 126 paid entries at $125 each, the GBUSBC kicked in $1,250 and outside sponsors (FSC Securities and Bowlers Choice Pro Shop) added another $750.
First prize was worth $1,900 to Zarcone. Bellavia received $1,200 plus $50 as top qualifier. The champion also earned a paid entry and expenses to the USBC Masters next February in Green Bay, Wis.
Green Bay in February? Is that any way to treat a champion?