SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Andrew Anderson's 2018 continues to get better and better, and he's now one win away from earning his first Professional Bowlers Association Tour title as the top seed for the televised finals of the United States Bowling Congress Masters.
The 22-year-old right-hander from Holly, Michigan, set the tone for the week when he paced the field through the first squad of qualifying at the Oncenter Convention Center, and a combination of patience, consistency and mental toughness helped him navigate unscathed through three rounds of qualifying and the double-elimination match-play bracket.
In the three-game match to determine the No. 1 seed for Sunday's championship round, Anderson topped Alex Hoskins of Brigham City, Utah, 613-487. Hoskins will enter the USBC Masters stepladder as the No. 2 seed for the second consecutive year.
The two will be joined on the show by Joe Paluszek of Bensalem, Pennsylvania, USBC Hall of Famer Steve Kloempken of Pleasant View, Utah, and Rhino Page of Orlando, Florida, who survived the four-player elimination match that determined the last three seeds.
The Masters stepladder will be broadcast live on ESPN, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern, with the champion taking home the coveted Masters trophy and $30,000 top prize.
"There have been some blessings in disguise this year, and I've experienced some upset moments that have really driven me to get that much better," said Anderson, who had a high set of 663 and low set of 613 in six matches this week. "I'm tired of not being good enough, so this year is kind of like my coming out party. I feel like I have something to prove to these guys, and I think I'm doing that so far, but a major and a title would be really nice."
Anderson began his year by earning a spot on Team USA 2018, and he followed that with the first TV appearance of his PBA Tour career a month later at the PBA Tournament of Champions, where he lost to eventual champion Matt O'Grady in the semifinal.
Though that experience didn't end with a trophy or a banner bearing his name, Anderson is ready to use what he learned from his TV debut to his advantage Sunday in Syracuse.
"It was my first show, and they said it was going to go fast," said Anderson, who has a pair of third-place finishes in his two full seasons on the PBA Tour. "It went terribly fast, and before I knew it, my shoes were off. This time, I really want to be the one holding the trophy. I want to be able to stick around and enjoy that, so I'm going to take the idea that I've been there before, and I can do it this time. I am thankful for the opportunity, and I want to take advantage of it."
Hoskins also will be drawing on the experience he gained in his TV debut, noting that the nerves he felt in 2017 have been replaced by excitement and confidence.
The 25-year-old right-hander snuck into the 64-player bracket this week in the No. 56 spot and rolled to five consecutive wins before running out of gas against Anderson. He lost in the same match last year, falling to Australia's Jason Belmonte, who went on to win his record fourth Masters title.
"I was basically just thrown out there last year and had no idea what to expect, since it was my first show," Hoskins said. "Even though this is only my second show, I can't even describe how valuable last year's experience was and how much that will help me tomorrow. I feel so much more confident and excited to bowl, compared to being incredibly nervous last year."
Anderson and Hoskins will be appearing on a PBA Tour telecast for the second time each, and Paluszek and Kloempken will make their debuts under the PBA's TV lights, meaning the top four seeds have a combined two PBA television appearances, while Page, a six-time PBA Tour champion, will make the 20th of his career.
Page's most recent win happened just a few miles away at Flamingo Bowl in Liverpool, New York, where he won the first major of his career - the 2017 U.S. Open - in November.
Page and Kloempken will meet in the opening match Sunday, with the winner moving on to face Paluszek.
The three emerged from the shootout match that included the final four players in the elimination bracket. Paluszek led the way with a 669 series to earn the No. 3 seed for TV and was followed by Kloempken (638) and Page (614), who will be No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. Andrew Suscreba of Clifton, New Jersey, rolled a 593 set and was eliminated.
Beyond Page's past success in Syracuse, Kloempken recently found the spotlight at the Oncenter Convention Center by rolling the first perfect game of the 2018 USBC Open Championships on the way to the lead in Regular Doubles with former Team USA member David Haynes of Las Vegas.
Hoskins also was a member of their team this year at the Open Championships, while Kloempken and Page have competed together in the past.
All competitors at the 2018 Masters bowled 15 games of qualifying over three days to determine the 63 players who joined Belmonte in match play.
This year at the Oncenter Convention Center, Belmonte finished tied for 25th place.
The Masters is a major title on the PBA Tour, and all rounds of qualifying and match play were livestreamed on Xtra Frame, the PBA's online bowling channel. For subscription information, visit PBA.com.
For more information on the USBC Masters, visit BOWL.com/Masters.
2018 USBC Masters
At Oncenter Convention Center
Double elimination, three-game matches decided by total pinfall.
ROUND 3 - WINNERS BRACKET
(Winners remain in winners bracket. Losers move to elimination bracket).
(1) Stuart Williams, Phoenix, def. (16) Jimmy Cook, Indianapolis, 709-575.
(56) Alex Hoskins, Brigham City, Utah, def. (25) Martin Larsen, Sweden, 615-609.
(60) Joe Paluszek, Bensalem, Pa., def. (12) Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 625-621.
(20) Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz., def. (36) Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., 599-598.
(3) Andrew Anderson, Holly, Mich., def. (14) Matt Ogle, Louisville, Ky., 652-626.
(22) Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., def. (38) Kyle Cook, Centerville, Ohio, 611-588.
(26) Steve Kloempken, Pleasant View, Utah, def. (23) Chris Via, Springfield, Ohio, 623-541.
(15) Andrew Suscreba, Clifton, N.J., def. (31) Rhino Page, Orlando, Fla., 706-676.
ROUND 4 - ELIMINATION BRACKET
(Losers eliminated, earn $2,200)
(19) Richard Teece, England, def. (11) Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 600-583.
(9) Thomas Larsen, Denmark, def. (35) Ryan Galli, Binghamton, N.Y., 705-553.
(47) Chandler Stevens, Archbold, Ohio, def. (10) Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 623-604.
(13) Kenny Ryan, Farmingdale, N.J., def. (44) Mike Wolfe, Floyd Knobs, Ind., 679-561.
(62) Matt Sanders, Evansville, Ind., def. (41) Nick Pate, Inver Grove Heights, Minn., 687-602.
(33) Tim Pfeifer, Oakdale, Pa., def. (43) Jason Belmonte, Australia, 766-676.
(52) Kamron Doyle, Brentwood, Tenn., def. (21) Joe Bailey, Doylestown, Ohio, 579-541.
(50) Ryan Lalisang, Indonesia, def. (28) Steven Arehart, Chesapeake, Va., 649-576.
ROUND 4 - WINNERS BRACKET
Hoskins def. Williams, 724-652.
Paluszek def. Blanchard, 609-599.
Anderson def. Ciminelli, 657-623.
Kloempken def. Suscreba, 637-565.
ROUND 5 - ELIMINATION BRACKET
(Losers eliminated, earn $2,600)
Rash def. Teece, 592-552.
Troup def. T. Larsen, 643-619.
J. Cook def. Stevens, 702-562.
M. Larsen def. Ryan, 633-561.
Page def. Sanders, 662-586.
Pfeifer def. Via, 680-651.
Doyle def. K. Cook, 616-576.
Lalisang def. Ogle, 676-553.
ROUND 5 - WINNERS BRACKET
Hoskins def. Paluszek, 661-582.
Anderson def. Kloempken, 655-639.
ROUND 6 - ELIMINATION BRACKET
(Losers eliminated, earn $3,200)
Troup def. Rash, 584-564.
J. Cook def. M. Larsen, 636-625.
Page def. Pfeifer, 617-595.
Lalisang def. Doyle, 644-601.
ROUND 6 - WINNERS BRACKET
(Winner earns No. 1 seed for Sunday's ESPN finals; loser is No. 2 seed)
Anderson def. Hoskins, 613-487.
ROUND 7 - ELIMINATION BRACKET
(Losers eliminated, earn $3,550)
Suscreba def. Troup, 717-685.
Ciminelli def. J. Cook, 637-591.
Page def. Blanchard, 673-581.
Lalisang def. Williams, 671-629.
ROUND 8 - ELIMINATION BRACKET
(Losers eliminated, earn $4,600)
Suscreba def. Ciminelli, 672-585.
Page def. Lalisang, 619-525.
ROUND 9 - ELIMINATION BRACKET
(Three highest scores advance to ESPN finals, high score is No. 3 seed, second high is No. 4, third high is No. 5, lowest score is eliminated, earns $6,000).
Paluszek 669, Kloempken 638, Page 614, Suscreba 593.