LAS VEGAS - Whether your preference is a storybook or the record book, the 2020 United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials offered something for everyone, providing a memorable mix of entertainment and milestones.
USBC Hall of Famer Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, entered the event wanting to prove she still has what it takes to perform on the national stage, and she did so with a record-setting performance on the way to a second consecutive USBC Team USA Trials victory.
Matt Russo's journey to the men's title was a tale of redemption and romance, as he found his way back to Team USA after a year away. He'll be leaving Las Vegas not only with the coveted Team Trials trophy, but also with a fiancee - who happened to qualify for Team USA, as well.
Breanna Clemmer of Clover, South Carolina, found her way into the spotlight for the second time, too, successfully defending her title at the United States National Amateur Bowling Championships, while young left-hander Cameron Crowe of Orland Park, Illinois, will return to The Prairie State as the men's U.S. Amateur champion and a member of both Team USA and Junior Team USA.
Kulick finished the 2020 Team USA Trials with a record 13 ranking points, accumulated over five days on five World Bowling lane conditions, varying from 33 to 45 feet.
Players earned points based on where they finished in the daily standings. The leader received one point, second place earned two points and so on, with the lowest number of ranking points after the five six-game blocks determining the 2020 Team Trials champions.
Over the five rounds, Kulick finished first, first, seventh, first and third, and her point total bested the previous women's record of 24, posted by longtime Team USA member Danielle McEwan on the way to the 2016 Team Trials title.
Tuesday's win at the Gold Coast Bowling Center earned Kulick a spot on Team USA for the 16th time, and, at 42, the right-hander is the oldest woman to win the event, besting the mark she set in the same venue last year.
"I have no inclination of where this performance came from, but I really just stopped thinking so much along the way, which might have been the key," Kulick said. "I think the coach in me makes me too analytical at times, but I didn't let it get in my way this week. My goal was to make the team again and enjoy the perks that go with it, along with getting to go back to the World Cup and share that experience with Matt Russo. I've still got gas left in the tank and fire in me that wants to win every time I put on my shoes.
"There have been some rough patches along the way this past year, and I don't know what 2020 will bring, but coming here and finding success against this talented field the way I did was unfathomable. I didn't look at scores or standings and just stayed within myself. I focused on a free swing and posting my shot, and I think it probably was one of the smartest tournaments I've ever bowled."
Russo, the 2017 U.S. Amateur champion and a two-time member of Team USA, accumulated 51 ranking points this week, 45 of which came on the second day of the event. The other four days, he finished first, second, first and second, respectively.
The 23-year-old left-hander returns to Team USA after failing to qualify for a third consecutive appearance in 2019.
"It's crazy to think about the last few years and the things I've accomplished, and it feels amazing, but I don't know that what happened this week has sunk in yet," said Russo, who added to the memorable week by proposing to new Team USA member Lauren Pate, who accepted. "It feels like all the hard work I've put in this year has paid off, and it all feels incredible, on and off the lanes. I couldn't have asked for a better week."
All four champions Tuesday earned automatic spots on Team USA, with Kulick and Russo also getting the chance to represent the United States at the 2020 QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup, which will be held in Kuwait.
Just over a month ago, Kulick returned from the 2019 QubicaAMF World Cup, where she finished tied for third place. Getting a shot at redemption at the prestigious event was an additional motivator for her as she prepared for the 2020 Team Trials.
After the final qualifying round at the Team Trials, the top three amateur men and top three amateur women in the overall standings advanced to a stepladder to determine the U.S. Amateur champions.
Clemmer, a 22-year-old right-hander, wasted no time setting the pace in the women's final against Cayla Hicks of Salem, Virginia, tossing five consecutive strikes after a first-frame spare. She rolled to a 233-192 victory.
Clemmer will make her second consecutive appearance on Team USA, which follows five years on Junior Team USA.
"I went into the final match with a lot of nerves and hoping to see all the work and preparation pay off, while also overcoming some of the mental challenges I've had and been working on, too," Clemmer said. "I told myself I was going to be the 2020 U.S. Amateur champion, I believed it and that's what happened. I had some special people behind me tonight, and my grandparents have worked really hard to allow me to come out here and live my dream, so this is for them."
Crowe, 18, piled on the strikes in the men's final, defeating 17-year-old left-hander Solomon Salama of Beverly Hills, California, 269-215. Salama, a member of both Team USA and Junior Team USA in 2019, finished third in the U.S. Amateur Championships last year.
"This is so surreal, and never in a million years could I have imagined this would happen," Crowe said. "Even knowing the hard work and time and dedication I put into this, this is more than I could've expected. Making both teams and winning the U.S. Amateur title - this is one of the best weeks of my life.
"I am most looking forward to meeting new people and growing as an individual and as a bowler. I feel like we're all going to bond and help each other and feed off each other, and it's going to be a really good year for Team USA."
In the U.S. Amateur semifinals, Hicks started with a pair of open frames but struck on six of her last seven shots to get past Paige Peters of Toms River, New Jersey, 203-173.
Salama closed with five strikes and forced Alex Glinski of Linfield, Pennsylvania, to throw three strikes in his final frame for a tie. He got the first strike but left a 7 pin on his second offering, and Salama escaped with a 228-217 victory.
By virtue of their finishes among the top four in the Team Trials standings, Michael Martell of Chicago, Crowe and Kyle Sherman of O'Fallon, Missouri, also earned automatic berths on Team USA.
Since Crowe went on to win the U.S. Amateur title and automatic bid, a spot went to now three-time Team USA member Nick Pate of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, who finished fifth in the overall Team Trials standings.
In addition to Kulick, Sydney Brummett of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Lauren Pate of Inver Grove Heights and Clemmer earned automatic spots on Team USA for their top-four finishes in the Team Trials.
Because Clemmer went on to win the women's U.S. Amateur title, a spot on Team USA was awarded to fifth-place Team Trials finisher Shannon O'Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois, who has been on the team each year since 2005.
Andrew Anderson of Holly, Michigan, and AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois, were selected by the National Selection Committee to join the men's team for 2020 based on their performances this week.
Kyle Troup of Taylorsville, North Carolina, Marshall Kent of Yakima, Washington, EJ Tackett of Huntington, Indiana, Kristopher Prather of Plainfield, Illinois, and Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Arizona, were selected by the National Selection Committee to join Team USA 2020 based on submitted resumes.
Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, Bryanna Coté of Red Rock, Arizona, Gazmine Mason of Cranston, Rhode Island, Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, and Missy Parkin of Laguna Hills, California, were selected by the National Selection Committee to join the women's team based on their performances this week.
Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York, Jordan Richard of Tecumseh, Michigan, Josie Barnes of Nashville, Tennessee, and Stefanie Johnson of McKinney, Texas, were added to the 2020 Team USA roster by the National Selection Committee based on submitted resumes.
Age-eligible participants competing this week also were vying for spots on Junior Team USA 2020.
Earning automatic spots on the boys' team based on their overall performances were Crowe, Salama, Glinski and Briley Haugh of Faribault, Minnesota.
Spencer Robarge of Springfield, Missouri, TJ Rock of Henderson, Nevada, Tyrell Ingalls of Loganville, Georgia, and Cortez Schenck of Phoenix were chosen by the National Selection Committee to join Junior Team USA 2020 based on their performances at the 2020 Team USA Trials and 2019 Junior Gold Championships.
They join the six boys who qualified for Junior Team USA through the 2019 Junior Gold Championships - Anthony Neuer, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania; Cerell Cardines, Las Vegas; Joey Ocello, Neptune, New Jersey; Peyton Smith, Loganville, Georgia; Daniel Chin, Daly City, California; and Alec Keplinger, Coldwater, Michigan.
The automatic spots on the girls' team went to Paige Peters, Annalise OBryant of Ball Ground, Georgia, Cassidy Courey of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and Maryssa Carey of Hobart, Indiana.
Crystal Elliot of Palm Bay, Florida, Kamerin Peters of Toms River and Mabel Cummins of Antioch, Tennessee, were selected for the girls team based on performance.
They join six girls who earned their spots during the 2019 Junior Gold Championships - Jillian Martin, Stow, Ohio; Elise Chambers, Ocoee, Florida; Faith Welch, Savannah, Tennessee; Angelique Dalesandro, Rolling Meadows, Illinois; Taylor Davis, Burton, Michigan; and Patricia Rosales, Orlando, Florida.
To be eligible for the U.S. Amateur, a bowler must not hold or have held a professional membership (PBA or PWBA) in 2019. Also, anyone who has won a professional title (regional, national or senior) as a professional was not eligible to compete as an amateur.
Bowlers age 20 or younger as of Jan. 1, 2020 were eligible for spots on Junior Team USA this week.
Competitors from Junior Gold also were slated for the U17 and U15 Developmental Team for 2020.
The U17 squad will include - Jennifer Loredo, Fresno, California; Amanda Naujokas, Lake Ronkonkoma, New York; Angelo Biondo, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; and Cameron Hurwitz, Rochester, New York.
The players selected for the U15 team are - OBryant, Elizabeth Coutta, Smyrna, Tennessee; Randal Dunbar, Milford, Maine; and John Nunn, Jacksonville, Florida.
All 339 competitors at the 2020 Team USA Trials bowled 30 games over five days (six games each day).
BowlTV (BowlTV.com) provided wire-to-wire coverage of the events, including the announcement of Team USA and Junior Team USA 2020.
Visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA for more information about the Team USA program.
For more information on the USBC Team USA Trials, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSATrials.
2020 USBC Team USA Trials
At Gold Coast Bowling Center, Las Vegas
(Position, name, hometown, total points. Points based on finishing position in each round).
1, Matt Russo, Fairview Heights, Ill., 51
2, Michael Martell, Chicago, 76
3, Cameron Crowe, Orland Park, Ill., 85
4, Kyle Sherman, O'Fallon, Mo., 97
5, Nick Pate, Inver Grove Heights, Minn., 101
6, Solomon Salama, Beverly Hills, Calif., 123
7, Corey Umbrello, Westminster, Mass., 130
8, Alex Glinski, Linfield, Pa., 138
9, Andrew Anderson, Holly, Mich., 151
10, Briley Haugh, Faribault, Minn., 153
11, AJ Johnson, Oswego, Ill., 157
12, Darren Tang, Las Vegas, 159
13, Greg Young Jr., Rockledge, Fla., 171
14, Sean Wilcox, Altamonte Springs, Fla., 173
15, Steven Kotowski, Clark, N.J., 175
16, Brandon Runk, Enola, Pa., 183
17, Spencer Robarge, Springfield, Mo., 184
18, Ryan Winters, Livonia, Mich., 190
19, TJ Rock, Henderson, Nev., 193
20, Chad Stephen, Flint, Mich., 202
1, Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 13
2, Sydney Brummett, Fort Wayne, Ind., 42
3, Lauren Pate, Inver Grove Heights, Minn., 53
4, Breanna Clemmer, Clover, S.C., 59
5, Shannon O'Keefe, Shiloh, Ill., 60
6, Julia Bond, Aurora, Ill., 74
7, Bryanna Coté, Red Rock, Ariz., 98
8, Gazmine Mason, Cranston, R.I., 111
9, Cayla Hicks, Salem, Va., 113
10, Shannon Pluhowsky, Dayton, Ohio, 122
11, Missy Parkin, Laguna Hills, Calif., 145
12, Jordan Richard, Tecumseh, Mich., 152
T13, Paige Peters, Toms River, N.J., 154
T13, Adel Wahner, Las Cruces, N.M., 154
15, Annalise OBryant, Ball Ground, Ga., 159
16, Caitlyn Johnson, Lake Wales, Fla., 160
17, Ashley Rucker, Bartlesville, Okla., 177
18, Stefanie Johnson, McKinney, Texas, 179
19, Jillian Martin, Stow, Ohio, 185
20, Cassidy Courey, Brooklyn Center, Minn., 188
U.S. AMATEUR STEPLADDER FINALS
Solomon Salama, Beverly Hills, Calif., def. Alex Glinski, Linfield, Pa., 228-217
Cameron Crowe, Orland Park, Ill., def. Salama, 269-215
Cayla Hicks, Salem, Va., def. Paige Peters, Toms River, N.J., 203-173
Breanna Clemmer, Clover, S.C., def. Hicks, 233-192