Tom Hankey Jr. Wins Masters Gold at 2019 PABCON Youth Championships

by Matt Cannizzaro, USBC Communications 0

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Eight Junior Team USA members made their way through the Miami airport last week, ready to embark on the final leg of the journey to the 2019 Pan American Bowling Confederation Youth Championships.

They all arrived in the Dominican Republic ready to believe in each other, their coaches and a process that only can be described as the Team USA way.

Their trust and determination led to a successful run at the Sebelen Bowling Center, and all eight team members now will be returning home with at least one gold medal.

Tom Hankey Jr., who was making his first appearance on international soil, was the last to strike gold this week, doing so with a come-from-behind victory against his teammate, Cortez Schenck, in the championship match of the tournament-ending Masters event.

Hankey admittedly struggled with finding a consistent way to attack the event's 38-foot World Bowling Atlanta oil pattern, but things finally fell into place as he approached three dozen games bowled at the 22-lane facility.

After a lopsided 235-154 loss to Schenck in the opening game of the best-of-three title match, Hankey rallied with wins of 223-217 and 213-196 to secure the victory. The two exchanged open frames in the middle of the finale, but a late string of strikes from Hankey was enough to take the gold medal.

The ideal game plan for Hankey turned out to be using a lot less surface and throwing the ball harder and straighter, while trying not to give away the 3 pin.

"After having a really rocky week personally and struggling with ball reaction, today really was the last option I tried, and it happened to be the right one," said Hankey, who qualified 12th for match play based on his 4,725 all-events total. "Coach Andy (Diercks) and I talked about it for the last three days, and we finally were able to get it fine-tuned today."

Hankey's road to the title Saturday included 2-0 wins against Colombia's Sebastian Salazar and Puerto Rico's Jorge Rodriguez, before earning a spot in the final with a semifinal victory over Junior Team USA's Sean Wilcox, 2-1.

Schenck advanced to the final by defeating Costa Rica's Toscano Luconi 2-0. Luconi started the 24 games of competition this week with the tournament's only 300.

Wilcox, who rolled a clean game in the final game of the team event to earn the 16th and final spot in the bracket, started the day with a 2-1 win over his top-seeded teammate, all-events winner Anthony Neuer. Wilcox and Luconi each earned bronze medals for their performances in the Masters event.

Junior Team USA's Masters success was a satisfying conclusion to a rollercoaster week that included a disappointing and head-scratching sixth-place finish in the coveted team event.

"Overall, it was a pretty good week for us, though the team event didn't go the way we were hoping, but that happens sometimes," Hankey said. "We tried everything we could all week, stuck together and worked together and did everything the Team USA way. What we did today in Masters was awesome, considering some of the ups and downs we experienced. Three of the four people making the medal round was about as perfect a finish as we could ask for."

This week, the Junior Team USA boys also collected a bronze medal in singles (Neuer), gold and silver medals in doubles (Schenck/Wilcox and Neuer/Hankey), silver in trios (Neuer/Schenck/Wilcox) and silver in all-events (Schenck).

The final day of the 2019 PABCON Youth Championships didn't go as well for the Junior Team USA girls, with only Mabel Cummins making the medal round, where she fell to Colombia's Isabella Correa in the semifinals, 2-0.

In the other girls semifinal, Puerto Rico's Paulina Torres topped Laura Garzon of Colombia, 2-1. Torres then defeated Correa, 2-1, for the gold medal, with the match coming down to the final frame.

An open frame from Correa gave Torres a chance to seal the victory. She struck on her first offering, before leaving the 4-9 split on her second shot. Picking up one of the pins gave her a 182-181 win and the gold medal.

Correa earned the silver medal, and Cummins and Garzon each received bronze medals.

The Junior Team USA girls had a phenomenal week overall, medaling in every event.

Their haul included a bronze medal in singles (Kamerin Peters), gold and silver medals in doubles (Peters/Cummins and Kaitlyn Eder/Caitlyn Johnson), gold in trios (Eder/Johnson/Peters), gold in team and gold in all-events (Peters).

"We're leaving the Dominican Republic after a very successful and satisfying week, and I'm incredibly proud of all the Junior Team USA players for believing in each other and our process and never giving up," said Junior Team USA coach Bryan O'Keefe. "We worked together as a team, especially in trying to overcome some challenges along the way, and we then got to celebrate the many highlights together. These are great memories these eight bowlers will always share."

The 2019 PABCON Youth Championships marked the latest of a growing list of highlights for Hankey, whose year also includes wins at the Intercollegiate Singles Championships and Intercollegiate Team Championships with Webber International University.

And, though he has enjoyed past success while representing the United States at the Lee Evans Tournament of the Americas, competing internationally was next-level for the 19-year-old right-hander.

"This year has been awesome and a dream come true, from getting picked for the team to the collegiate titles to making the show at Junior Gold and then getting to come to PABCON for my first international experience," Hankey said. "This really has been a breakout year for me, and I can't wait to see what the rest of 2019 is like."

The 2019 PABCON Youth Championships included two age-based categories - 16-and-under and 21-and-under - though the United States only participated in the U21 category.

The U21 field this week featured more than 80 competitors representing 12 countries on the boys side and 11 countries in the girls division.

Bowlers competed for medals in singles, doubles, trios, team, all-events and Masters competition.

For more information on Junior Team USA, visit BOWL.com/JuniorTeamUSA.

PABCON includes competitors from North, Central and South America, along with the Caribbean.

For more information about the PABCON Youth Championships, visit PABCON.org.

2019 PABCON YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Sebelen Bowling Center
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Saturday's results

MASTERS
(Best-of-three single-elimination)

GIRLS

STEP 1
(Winner advances, loser is eliminated from Masters competition)

(1) Kamerin Peters, United States, def. (16) Airam Fuentes, Mexico, 2-0 (201-118, 204-145).
(9) Isabella Correa, Colombia, def. (8) Pamela Perez, Puerto Rico, 2-0 (246-175, 187-153).
(12) Ana Olaya, Colombia, def. (5) Caitlyn Johnson, United States, 2-0 (243-210, 223-195).
(4) Mabel Cummins, United States, def. (13) Alexa Fernandez, Costa Rica, 2-0 (279-202, 191-168).
(3) Paulina Torres, Puerto Rico, def. (14) Fabiola Sandoval, Costa Rica, 2-0 (194-183, 185-158).
(6) Ericka Quesada, Costa Rica, def. (11) Laura Garcia, Colombia, 2-0 (245-216, 229-188).
(7) Kaitlyn Eder, United States, def. (10) Ana Morales, Guatemala, 2-0 (202-139, 258-150).
(15) Laura Garzon, Colombia, def. (2) Zoriani Reyes, Puerto Rico, 2-0 (191-190, 234-222).

STEP 2
(Winner advances, loser is eliminated from Masters competition)

Correa def. Peters, 2-1 (246-198, 190-215, 215-204).
Cummins def. Olaya, 2-0 (220-191, 193-137).
Torres def. Quesada, 2-0 (206-155, 235-222).
Garzon def. Eder, 2-1 (214-160, 162-215, 185-141).

SEMIFINALS
(Winner advances to finals, losers earn bronze medals)

Torres def. Garzon, 2-1 (147-158, 222-164, 218-190).
Correa def. Cummins, 2-0 (210-206, 223-207).

FINAL
(Winner earns gold medal, loser earns silver medal)

Torres def. Correa, 2-1 (200-198, 201-215, 182-181).

BOYS

STEP 1
(Winner advances, loser is eliminated from Masters competition)

(16) Sean Wilcox, United States, def. (1) Anthony Neuer, United States, 2-1 (235-210, 220-236, 276-186).
(8) Hector Pina, Mexico, def. (9) Sergio Barajas, Mexico, 2-1 (194-230, 192-180, 200-178).
(12) Tom Hankey Jr., United States, def. (5) Sebastian Salazar, Colombia, 2-0 (209-160, 202-170).
(4) Jorge Rodriguez, Puerto Rico, def. (13) Jonaykel Conejo, Costa Rica, 2-0 (173-167, 202-165).
(3) Felipe Gil, Colombia, def. (14) Mathias Haehner, Costa Rica, 2-0 (234-177, 221-190).
(11) Toscano Luconi, Costa Rica, def. (6) Roberto Perez, Mexico, 2-1 (266-201, 223-238, 257-220).
(7) Sebastian Yuzuriha, Peru, def. (10) Angel Basurto, Mexico, 2-0 (189-180, 245-179).
(2) Cortez Schenck, United States, def. (15) Antonio Izquierdo, Puerto Rico, 2-0 (234-191, 196-194).

STEP 2
(Winner advances, loser is eliminated from Masters competition)

Wilcox def. Pina, 2-1 (213-172, 181-203, 215-195).
Hankey def. Rodriguez, 2-0 (219-180, 237-207).
Luconi def. Gil, 2-0 (255-194, 248-172).
Schenck def. Yuzuriha, 2-0 (201-197, 215-185).

SEMIFINALS
(Winner advances to finals, losers earn bronze medals)

Hankey def. Wilcox, 2-1 (247-144, 161-245, 279-248).
Schenck def. Luconi, 2-0 (235-228, 247-226).

FINAL
(Winner earns gold medal, loser earns silver medal)

Hankey def. Schenck, 2-1 (154-235, 223-217, 213-196).

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