SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Like any bowling event, the United States Bowling Congress Masters presents competitors with an ever-changing puzzle that must be solved in a set period of time, or games, often through a series of educated guesses.
Through two days of qualifying at the 2018 USBC Masters, Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, has proven to be the among the most versatile problem solvers, turning in consistent performances on both variations of this week's 40-foot oil pattern - the fresh and the "burn."
The 48-year-old right-hander and three-time Masters runner-up rolled nearly identical scores during his first two qualifying blocks at the Oncenter Convention Center, shooting 1,082 on the fresh lane condition Tuesday and 1,078 on the burn Wednesday for a 10-game total of 2,160, which is 10th overall.
Other competitors in the 360-player field claimed their spots near the top of the leaderboard with help from a big block on either the fresh or the burn, while grinding along on the other.
England's Stuart Williams holds the overall lead through two rounds with a 2,219 total, a 221.9 average, which included sets of 1,048 on the burn Tuesday and 1,171 on the fresh Wednesday morning. He catapulted from 48th place into the lead with the second-highest block of the day.
Williams is followed in the standings by 2016 Masters champion Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas (2,214), Kyle Cook of Centerville, Ohio (2,182), and Chris Loschetter of Avon, Ohio, and Sean Lavery-Spahr of Pasadena, Texas, who are tied for fourth place with 2,178.
The 2018 Masters features a total prize fund of $270,000 and again is a major event on the PBA Tour. The winner will take home $30,000. The stepladder finals will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.
Defending champion Jason Belmonte of Australia is 32nd with a 2,100 total, while Kevin Bienko of Kenmore, New York, and 2011 Masters champion Tom Hess of Urbandale, Iowa, are tied for 64th place with 2,047.
In theory, with two of the three qualifying rounds, and many of the match-play rounds, contested on fresh oil, the advantage this week could go to the players who have excelled on the fresh, but Barnes is familiar enough with the event to know to be prepared for anything.
He has put himself in a fairly comfortable position with five games to go in qualifying, and five more games on the freshly oiled lanes will allow him to continue to dial in on the most effective strategies, from the start, and as the lanes transition.
"Over the years, I've been pretty lucky and gotten to lead this event three times, and most of those times, I had a look from a few different parts of the lane, so it didn't really matter if I bowled on the fresh or the hook or this type of player or that type of player," Barnes said. "Based on that, I'm looking for as many different avenues to get there, so that no matter what you bowl on, you have a plan of attack that will allow you to succeed."
Another big performer Wednesday was Andrew Suscreba of Clifton, New Jersey, whose experience this week has been the opposite of Williams.
Suscreba, 25-year-old right-hander and former collegiate bowler at William Paterson, experienced a couple of hiccups and challenges with ball reaction Tuesday on the way to a 987 opening round on the fresh oil pattern, but he bounced back Wednesday with a 1,176 effort on the burn, the highest block of the day. He is eighth after two rounds with a 2,163 total.
Despite finishing the first day of competition tied for 128th place, Suscreba feels his strategy is sound, and he expects to see a better result when he bowls on the fresh again in Thursday's third round.
"Today in practice, I came out and tried every ball I didn't try yesterday, hoping to find something that worked, and I did," said Suscreba, who is making this third Masters appearance. "I'm feeling much better after today and looking forward to tomorrow. I'm going to go with the same game plan on the fresh because I feel like I had a good look early, and again when I moved left in Game 3. I just have to change to a better ball after Game 3, and I think I can finish strong."
Qualifying at the Oncenter Convention Center continues Thursday at 8 a.m. Eastern, and 15-game pinfall totals will determine the match-play field. The top 63 players will join Belmonte in the double-elimination bracket, where three-game total pinfall determines who advances.
Match play will take place Friday and Saturday and determine the five players for the championship stepladder.
As the defending champion, Belmonte is guaranteed the No. 64 spot in the bracket, but bowling qualifying gives him a chance to improve his seeding, as well as get a feel for the bowling center and oil pattern.
The Australian two-hander is seeking his fifth Masters title since 2013 and record-tying 10th career major victory. PBA Tour star Pete Weber and the late Earl Anthony share the record.
All qualifying and match play rounds of the Masters will be covered live 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
QUALIFYING - ROUND 2
(Top 100; 10 games)
For complete standings, visit BOWL.com/Masters
1, Stuart Williams, Phoenix, 2,219. 2, Anthony Simonsen, Austin, Texas, 2,214. 3, Kyle Cook, Centerville, Ohio, 2,182. 4(tie), Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, and Sean Lavery-Spahr, Pasadena, Texas, 2,178. 6, Anthony Lavery-Spahr, Little Elm, Texas, 2,165.
7, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 2,164. 8, Andrew Suscreba, Clifton, N.J., 2,163. 9, Andrew Anderson, Holly, Mich., 2,162. 10, Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 2,160. 11, Chris Via, Springfield, Ohio, 2,159. 12(tie), Anthony Pepe, East Elmhurst, N.Y., and Pascal Winternheimer, Germany, 2,153.
14(tie), Gary Haines, Islip, N.Y., and Jacob Kent (a), Newark, N.Y., 2,152. 16, Kristopher Prather, Milton, Fla., 2,144. 17, Dom Barrett, United Kingdom, 2,140. 18, Alexander Hoskins (a), Brigham City, Utah, 2,138.
19(tie), Martin Larsen, Sweden, and Joe Bailey, Doylestown, Ohio, 2,137. 21, Thomas Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 2,135. 22(tie), Kenneth Ryan (a), Farmingdale, N.J., and Rhino Page, Orlando, Fla., 2,133. 24, Thomas Larsen, Denmark, 2,127.
25, Hardy Rachmadian, Indonesia, 2,126. 26(tie), Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., and Richard Teece, England, 2,122. 28, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 2,115. 29, Kamron Doyle, Brentwood, Tenn., 2,114. 30, Fero Williams (a), Adelphi, Md., 2,103.
31, Matt Ogle, Louisville, Ky., 2,101. 32, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 2,100. 33, Ryan Galli, Binghamton, N.Y., 2,096. 34, Ryan Patterson (a), Washington, W.Va., 2,093. 35, Brandon Biondo (a), Carpentersville, Ill., 2,092. 36(tie), T.J. Schmidt, Osceola, Ind., and Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 2,088.
38, Thomas York (a), Skowhegan, Maine, 2,085. 39, Alex Cavagnaro, North Massapequa, N.Y., 2,083. 40, Shota Kawazoe, Japan, 2,082. 41(tie), Nicholas Pate (a), Inver Grove Heights, Minn., and Chandler Stevens, Archbold, Ohio, 2,081.
43(tie), Ryan Lalisang, Indonesia, and AJ Chapman, St. Paul, Minn., 2,080. 45(tie), Dana Voytovich (a), Cheektowaga, N.Y., and Gaetan Mouveroux, France, 2,079. 47(tie), Joe Paluszek, Bensalem, Pa., and Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz., 2,078.
49, Michael Davidson (a), Versailles, Ohio, 2,075. 50, Chad Roberts (a), Reynoldsburg, Ohio, 2,074. 51, Steve Kloempken (a), Pleasant View, Utah, 2,073. 52(tie), Michael Haggitt (a), Dayton, Ohio, and Jesse Buss, Belvidere, Ill., 2,070. 54, Ramon Hilferink, Netherlands, 2,069.
55(tie), Matt White (a), Warren, Pa., and Gabriel Garcia, Riverview, Fla., 2,068. 57(tie), Steven Arehart, Chesapeake, Va., and Jimmy Cook, Indianapolis, 2,066. 59, Brad Miller, Raytown, Mo., 2,059. 60, Timothy Foy Jr., Seaford, Del., 2,058.
61(tie), Mike Wolfe, Floyd Knobs, Ind., and Andy Mills (a), La Crosse, Wis., 2,052. 63, Corey Hines (a), Jackson, Mich., 2,050. 64(tie), Kevin Bienko (a), Kenmore, N.Y., and Tom Hess, Urbandale, Iowa, 2,047. 66(tie), Bryan Bourget (a), Woonsocket, R.I., and Brandon Novak, Chillicothe, Ohio, 2,046.
68(tie), DJ Archer, Houston, and Tim Pfeifer (a), Oak Dale, Pa., and Walter Ray Williams Jr., Oxford, Fla., 2,044. 71, Clara Guerrero, Colombia, 2,043. 72, Dallas Leong (a), Las Vegas, 2,036.
73, Jason Sterner, Rockledge, Fla., 2,034. 74, Darren Andretta, New Hyde Park, N.Y., 2,033. 75(tie), Pontus Andersson, Sweden, and Kyle King, Glendale, Ariz., 2,032. 77, Rob Gotterbarn (a), Garden City South, N.Y., 2,031. 78(tie), Perry Crowell IV (a), Hoquiam, Wash., and Tim Hansen (a), Higanum, Conn., 2,029.
80, Michael Tang, San Francisco, 2,026. 81(tie), Todd Sigeti (a), Lititz, Pa., and Bradley Crouse (a), Easton, Pa., and David Knight Jr., Glassboro, N.J., 2,025. 84, Santiago Mejia, Colombia, 2,022.
85, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 2,021. 86, Billy Islam, Indonesia, 2,020. 87, Alex Aguiar (a), Dartmouth, Mass., 2,019. 88, Brady Stearns (a), St. Augusta, Minn., 2,012. 89, Jean Perez, Greenwood, Ind., 2,011. 90, Shea Bittenbender (a), St. Charles, Mo., 2,009.
91, AJ Johnson, Oswego, Ill., 2,008. 92(tie), Daniel Fransson, Sweden, and Timothy Gillick, Ansonia, Conn., and Julien Sermand, France, 2,007. 95(tie), Tom Hankey (a), Great Barrington, Mass., and Owen Darby (a), Easton, Pa., 2,005.
97, Michael Edwards, Tulsa, Okla., 2,004. 98(tie), Greg Ostrander, Freehold, N.J., and Ryan Savoy (a), Superior, Wis., and Cameron Weier, Tacoma, Wash., 2,003.