The 2010 USBC Masters tournament is about to begin, but one question looms large: Where are all the bowlers?
The 2008-09 Masters in Las Vegas attracted 453 entries. The 2007-08 Masters in Milwaukee drew 486.
But as of early Monday morning, the 2009-10 Masters had registered only 240 players (according to Bowl.com) or 263 (according to PBA.com). Even with late entries, the total may not exceed 300.
As a result, the number of qualifying squads at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno has been trimmed from four to just two. Bowlers originally scheduled on either the A or B squad will now comprise a revamped A squad; bowlers who had been assigned to either the C or D squad will now comprise a revamped B squad.
Will that make things easier for defending champion John Nolen?
Probably not, since Nolen has an automatic berth in the 64-player field that will advance to the double-elimination match play rounds following 15 games of qualifying.
Reflecting on his 2009 triumph, Nolen said, “Boy, that was a pretty magical week. It was probably the best week of bowling I've had in my life. I look back at it now and tell myself that I know I can get it done no matter how hard the lanes are.”
Nolen needs to embrace that mindset since in his first season as an exempt player on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour, he was ranked only 54th after 10 tournaments.
Both Bowl.com and PBA.com will provide detailed coverage of the tournament throughout the week. BowlersJournal.com will join the fray on Saturday and Sunday with news, notes and quotes in “Bob’s Blog,” which can be accessed under the “100 Years” heading on the Web site’s homepage.
Meanwhile, a complete list of past USBC/ABC Masters champions will be posted soon in BJI’s online Almanac, which also may be accessed under the “100 Years” heading.
Here is this week’s schedule (all times Pacific):
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8
2:30-4 p.m. — A Squad (Previously A-B) Practice
4-5:30 p.m. — B Squad (Previously C-D) Practice
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9
12 noon — A Squad (Previously A-B) Qualifying (5 Games)
4 p.m. — B Squad (Previously C-D) Qualifying (5 Games)
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10
12 noon — B Squad (Previously C-D) Qualifying (5 Games)
4 p.m. — A Squad (Previously A-B) Qualifying (5 Games)
Cut to the top 25% of the field (cashers)
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11
10 a.m. — Top 25% Qualifying (5 Games)
Cut to the top 63 bowlers, joined by defending champion John Nolen
4 p.m. — Double Elimination Match Play begins (64 Bowlers)
5:30 p.m. — Match Play continues
7 p.m. — Match Play continues
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12
10 a.m. — Match Play continues
11:15 a.m. — Match Play continues
12:30 p.m. — Match Play continues
4 p.m. — Match Play continues
5:15 p.m. — Match Play continues
6:30 p.m. — Match Play continues
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13
1:30 p.m. — Pro-Am
4:30 p.m. — Pro-Am
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14
12 noon — ESPN finals