Jim Knoblauch of Waukesha, Wisconsin, made a key ball change that ultimately helped him win the 2014 International Training and Research Center Super Senior Classic with a 224-213 win against defending champion Kerry Painter of Henderson, Nevada.
Knoblauch, who earned $3,000 for the victory Friday, qualified for the stepladder as the No. 3 seed and used the last frame of his first match to try something different. Although he stayed around the pocket and remained clean in his opening game, he knew he'd need to strike more as he climbed the ladder.
While closing out his 194-170 win over Howard Partell of Las Vegas, Knoblauch decided to try a ball that would save some energy for down the lane and give him a stronger reaction on the backend.
The strategy worked for the 60-year-old right-hander, who earned his ticket to the title match with a 218-196 semifinal victory over Ed Roberts of Braintree, Massachusetts. Knoblauch started the game with five consecutive strikes before a 4-7-10 split ended his run, but Roberts struggled on the left lane throughout the game and was unable to take advantage of the miscue.
"I watched Howard and Darwin (Wimer) start off throwing strikes, so I started with the ball that I thought would give me the most consistent look," Knoblauch said. "It looked OK throughout the game but didn't finish and was bleeding too much energy. I had a free shot in the 10th against Howard, made the change and it gave me the look I needed. From there, I was able to make slight adjustments and get off to some strong starts against my opponents."
Painter, who won the inaugural ITRC Super Senior Classic in 2013 and led wire to wire in 2014, averaged more than 10 pins higher than the second-seeded Roberts over 20 games to put himself in position for back-to-back wins.
An 8-10 split on a light hit in the fifth frame of the finale proved to be the difference for Painter. Knoblauch secured the win with a nine-count on his first shot in the 10th frame. Painter earned $2,200 for the runner-up finish.
"I had gotten a lesson about a month before this, and I have spent every day practicing to get ready," Knoblauch said. "It's absolutely awesome to see the hard work pay off and capture my first national win. This was my first time coming down to the ITRC, and it was great to get the win against some really good bowlers."
In the opening game of the championship round, Partell struck on seven of his first eight shots, and he needed every one of them as Darwin Wimer of Mesquite, Nevada, kept the match close heading into the final frames. Despite a split in the ninth frame, Partell was able to escape with a 234-217 victory.
All competitors in the 38-player field bowled 16 games of qualifying over two days before the field was narrowed to the top 10 for the cashers' round. An additional four games determined the five finalists for the stepladder finals.
The Super Senior Classic is open to all USBC members age 60 and older, and every round of the 2014 event was broadcast live on BOWL.com's BowlTV.