LIMA, Peru - Team USA's Nick Pate claimed the singles gold medal Tuesday at the 2019 Pan American Games, and his path to the top of the podium may have been more about perseverance and mental toughness than it was about choosing the right ball or line.
The 24-year-old right-hander won the title with a dramatic 190-189 victory over defending champion Marcelo Suartz of Brazil at the Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA).
Suartz stepped up needing nine pins on his fill ball to retain the title, but he left the 3-6-10 combination on his final offering to fall short.
After Pate left, and failed to convert, the 4-10 split in his final frame, Suartz could've locked up the win with a strike but left the 6 and 10 pins on his first shot.
Both players struggled to strike on the right lane, with Pate leaving solid 9 pins in the fifth and seventh frames and Suartz going high on five of the six shots he threw on that lane.
"It's possible my shot in the 10th frame was fast, but I really liked it off my hand, to be honest, and I wouldn't have changed anything," said Pate, a two-time member of Team USA. "To watch what happened to Marcelo was mindboggling because he's such a great bowler. I was fortunate this time that it went my way, and I'm ecstatic. It's something that will always have my name next to it, and I'm looking forward to celebrating with my friends and family."
Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour champion Clara Guerrero of Colombia earned a Pan Am Games gold medal for the second consecutive time, this time defeating top seed Aseret Zetter of Mexico, 198-171.
Guerrero, a 37-year-old right-hander who won the doubles title with fellow PWBA champion Rocio Restrepo at the 2015 Pan American Games, struck three consecutive times, starting in the eighth frame, to seal the victory.
Guerrero started the final match with two open frames, while Zetter began with a double. Back-to-back open frames from Zetter in the sixth and seventh frames allowed Guerrero to take control.
"I am very excited to have won this gold medal," Guerrero said. "It was a very tough week. The beginning didn't go as well as planned with Maria in doubles, and we didn't make the decisions we needed to in order to win a medal for our country. We needed to regroup, and we changed some strategies for singles. We're so glad we both then were able to medal. It was just incredible, and we are very, very happy. It means so much for our country, and we appreciate all of the continued support."
The women's semifinals featured two players from Mexico and two from Colombia.
Guerrero earned her spot in the championship match with a 213-202 win over Mexico's Iliana Lomeli, and Zetter cruised past Colombia's Maria Jose Rodriguez, also a PWBA Tour champion, 185-146.
One men's semifinals featured a showdown between Pate and his Team USA teammate Jakob Butturff, and the other included Suartz and left-hander Jean Perez of Puerto Rico.
Butturff outdistanced the field in singles by more than 400 pins, which included 12 games of qualifying and eight games of round-robin match play, and the all-Team USA semifinal was equally high-scoring, with Pate winning 275-268.
Pate averaged 219 over 32 games this week in Peru, but his average for six games on the fresh 41-foot World Bowling Rome oil pattern prior to the championships match was 252.
He started the match against Butturff with nine consecutive, before his 10th shot sailed right, nearly leaving 2-8-10 split. Instead, it was just a 10 pin that ended his run at his second perfect game of the day and third in two events at the newly built bowling center. His first came in April at the Pan American Bowling Confederation Men's Championships.
Pate spared the 10 pin for the win, and the difference in the match ended up being 7 pins from Butturff in the first and sixth frames.
"It's never fun bowling your teammate, but, at the same time, that meant we both medaled and were guaranteed a chance at gold, which is what we came here for," Pate said. "I got a few key breaks in the match, and I was fortunate to advance. Jakob bowled great all week and just fell victim to the format, unfortunately."
Suartz defeated Perez 234-213 to earn the meeting with Pate.
Butturff and Perez each earned bronze medals for their finishes.
Pate never would've been in a position to compete in the medal round if he hadn't been mentally tough from the first day of competition.
His opening block of 1,172 left him in the bottom 10 of the 32-player field, but he was able to keep a positive outlook and improve his performance each day.
He said that watching Butturff strike as much as he did on the way to record scores in doubles and singles motivated him to want to strike more, too. He added six-game sets of 1,319, 1,361 and 1,398 and qualified sixth for match play based on the latter 12 games.
All competitors bowled 12 games of qualifying over two days, and total pinfall determined who moved on to round-robin match play. Match play included seven head-to-head matches, with 20 bonus pins for each win, and a position round.
Pate started the eight-game round-robin match play with games of 300 and 268 and catapulted into the top four. Despite a few hiccups, he was able to hold on to the No. 4 seed for the semifinals.
The perfect game tied his for the highest game of the tournament, while the 125 he posted in the fourth game of doubles was the lowest game rolled in the men's division all week.
"I didn't bowl well the first day, and things just weren't going my way, but I fought tough mentally, and watching Jakob really did make me want to strike more, too," Pate said. "Pushing through the mental blocks was the key, and it was nice to see all of the hard work pay off in such a special event. I also have been using a breathing technique that helps get my mind clear. When your mind isn't clear, you can't make good decisions."
Along with equipment and lane play adjustments, Pate was very focused on how he reacted to the things that were happening, particularly not letting the bad shots and bad breaks affect the shots or games that followed.
The week started with 12 games of doubles over two days, with total pinfall determining the medalists.
Team USA's medal haul in Peru included a silver medal in doubles for Pate and Butturff and a gold medal in doubles for Shannon O'Keefe and Stefanie Johnson.
O'Keefe qualified for singles match play and finished sixth, while Johnson finished 18th.
"It's hard to put into words how great this week was for Team USA," Team USA head coach Rod Ross said. "The players fought on tough conditions that were high scoring because of the elite field but transitioned quite a bit each day. I'm extremely proud of them and their perseverance, and to come away with two golds, a silver and a bronze is phenomenal."
The 2019 Pan American Games officially kicked off Friday night with a formal opening ceremony and will continue through Aug. 11. The bowling competition, featuring 16 men's countries and 16 women's countries, began July 25.
This year's Pan Am Games is expected to bring more than 6,700 athletes to Lima to compete in 39 sports and 61 disciplines.
Since bowling was added to the Pan American Games in 1991, Team USA has won 23 of a possible 36 gold medals and claimed 39 medals overall, almost 25 more than the next-closest country.
The 2019 event was the highest-scoring in history and featured nearly a dozen scoring records. That included five perfect games, which were rolled by Jonaykel Conejo of Costa Rica, Puerto Rico's Perez, Brazil's Suartz, Dan MacLelland of Canada and Team USA's Pate.
Perez also bowled a 300 game at the 2019 PABCON Men's Championships in April, the first event to be held in the new the Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA).
For complete results or more information about the 2019 Pan Am Games, visit Lima2019.pe.
For more information on Team USA, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA.
2019 Pan American Games
Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA)
(Winner earns gold, loser gets silver)
Nick Pate, United States, def. Marcelo Suartz, Brazil, 190-189
(Winners advance, losers each earn bronze)
Pate def. Jakob Butturff, United States, 275-268
Suartz def. Jean Perez, Puerto Rico, 234-213
(Winner earns gold, loser gets silver)
Clara Guerrero, Colombia, def. Aseret Zetter, Mexico, 198-171
(Winners advance, losers each earn bronze)
Guerrero def. Iliana Lomeli, Mexico, 213-202
Zetter def. Maria Jose Rodriguez, Colombia, 185-146