LIMA, Peru - While the early bird is supposed to get the worm, Canada's Francois Lavoie upgraded to the singles gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Bowling Confederation Men's Championships.
The 26-year-old right-hander and past U.S. Open champion said he prefers to bowl early in the day, and he proved that by averaging more than 248 over six games Tuesday on the way to a record score of 1,493 at the new Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA).
Darren Tang of the United States, making his international debut as a member of Team USA, finished second behind Lavoie to claim the first medal of his career. Tang earned the singles silver medal with a 1,442 total and was followed by Jonaykel Conejo of Costa Rica, who claimed the bronze medal with a 1,434 total.
All three singles medalists bowled on the first of the day's three qualifying squads.
"To begin with, if I have to choose, I prefer to bowl in the morning over late, so I already was comfortable in that aspect coming into today," Lavoie said. "Generally, our goal for singles is to gather as much information as we can to share with the team, and we use it as the week goes on. After I got off to such a good start, I thought I might be able to put up a good number, and anytime you can come away with a medal, it's special. To do it in singles really sets a nice tone for the week."
Lavoie, who was part of the six-game trios record with Zach Wilkins and Mitch Hupé in 2016, rolled games of 266, 224, 199, 257, 279 and 268 on Tuesday to outdistance a field of 100 bowlers from 19 countries and top the previous men's singles record of 1,482, set by Team USA's Sean Rash in 2016.
Brazil's Stephanie Martins owns the overall PABCON Championships singles record with 1,518, rolled at the 2018 PABCON Women's Championships in the Dominican Republic.
Tang also got off to a good start in singles Tuesday, opening with games of 256, 278 and 222 to set the pace through the first half of the event. This week's tournament is being contested on the 41-foot World Bowling Rome oil pattern.
"I'm still trying to get comfortable in the venue in general, but I matched up pretty well early and was able to shoot 750, even with a few holes, so it actually could've been a lot more," said Tang, a two-time Team USA member (2018-2019) and past member of Junior Team USA (2014). "I made some moves a little too late down the stretch, especially the last game, but JJ (John Janawicz) and I worked pretty well together, and we're feeling pretty good going into tomorrow. If we can clean up a few little things, we should be in good shape."
Competition at the 2019 PABCON Men's Championships will resume Wednesday morning with doubles, and competitors again will be split across three squads. The singles medals will be presented after the Wednesday's first squad.
The Team USA pairings will be Tang and Janawicz in the morning, AJ Johnson and Sean Wilcox in the afternoon and Perry Crowell IV and Nick Pate on the final squad of the day.
Tang plans to draw on the things he learned Tuesday at the Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional, as well as the experiences he's had while competing on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour.
A trip to watch his brother, Michael, at the 2015 PABCON Youth Championships also has helped Tang feel more comfortable in the unique environment found at Team USA's international events.
"I actually didn't feel too nervous today, and I think it helped that I had a pretty good game to start," Tang said. "Also, competing at what I think is the highest level, the PBA Tour, really helped me get comfortable in this environment. To be able to win a medal, especially in the first event of the week, means a lot. I didn't have an opportunity to travel and compete the first year I was on the team, or when I was on the junior team, and I feel like this is something that has been missing. Winning a medal today will fill a pretty big void."
Team USA's Pate finished seventh in singles Tuesday with a 1,371 total, Janawicz was eighth with 1,369, Wilcox was 16th with 1,350, Johnson tied for 17th place with 1,347 and Crowell finished 51st with 1,217.
Bowlers at the 2019 PABCON Men's Championships are competing for medals in singles, doubles, trios, team and Masters competition. Gold, silver and bronze medals also will be awarded in all-events based on the week's 24-game pinfall totals.
The event features countries from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, including Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
This week's tournament is the first event to take place at the newly constructed bowling center, which is part of an expansive athletic complex that will be home to the 2019 Pan American Games this summer.
For more information on the PABCON Men's Championships, visit PABCON.org.
For more information on Team USA, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA.
2019 PABCON MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIPS
Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA)
GOLD - Francois Lavoie, Canada, 1,493
SILVER - Darren Tang, United States, 1,442
BRONZE - Jonaykel Conejo, Costa Rica, 1,434