LAS VEGAS - Being 60 years old comes with its fair share of perks and discounts, and Mike Dias of Lafayette, Colorado, took advantage of the opportunity to compete in the Super Senior Classic this week by winning the 2018 edition of the event in his tournament debut.
The 61-year-old left-hander nearly was perfect in a 278-205 title-match win against Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Mark Williams of Beaumont, Texas, who left seven single pins in the loss at the Sam's Town Bowling Center.
Dias became the sixth different player since the inaugural event in 2013 to hoist the trophy at the Super Senior Classic, and he earned $8,500 for the victory. Williams, also a first-time participant, took home $7,000 as the runner-up.
"It feels really good, and it's always a great sense of accomplishment to achieve one of the goals you work so hard for," said Dias, also a two-time PBA50 champion. "The journey is most of the process, but when you win, it's such a nice bonus."
As the lone southpaw in the final round, Dias was in control of his own fate and made the most of the few practice shots he got on the championship lanes. He then tossed 10 strikes on the way to the win, leaving a 6 pin in the fifth frame and a 10 pin on his fill ball.
"I had an opportunity to practice and break down the pair a little bit, and being the only left-hander allowed me to set it up to my liking," Dias said. "Then, I just told myself before the match that if I could throw nine good shots, I was going to win the tournament. My goal was to stay in the process and just make good shots."
Williams wasted no time in his quest to meet Dias for a chance at the 2018 Super Senior Classic title by starting his semifinal match against Warren Nelson of Hemet, California, with six consecutive strikes, before being slowed by a pair of 10 pins.
Nelson struck once in the first five frames, but rallied with seven consecutive strikes after a missed 10 pin in the fifth frame, to keep the pressure on Williams, who advanced by a 257-237 margin.
"I battled some transition today and probably could've switched balls, though I didn't have to do that too much this week," Williams said. "I had a ball I thought about going to that would've rolled a little quicker and changed my entry angle, but it's just so hard to switch balls after a 250 game. Overall, it was a great week. I got more comfortable as the week went on, and I feel good with my game right now. I hadn't been bowling that well the last year or so, but I've had a few good tournaments in a row, and I'm looking forward to the rest of our time in Las Vegas."
On the way to the high-scoring match with Williams, Nelson survived a see-saw battle with No. 3 qualifier, Ben Hoefs of Mobile, Alabama, 191-181.
Both players missed single-pin spares early in the game and then exchanged splits - first a 7-10 split for Nelson, then a 4-9 for Hoefs - to keep things close. Doubles for Nelson in the sixth and seventh frames and again in the ninth and 10th frames, were the difference.
Nelson and Hoefs earned their spots in the championship round by winning their respective group stepladders earlier on Sunday.
In the Group A stepladder, Hoefs defeated Harry Sullins of Chesterfield, Michigan, 204-182, and Skip Pavone of San Jose, California, 235-214, while Nelson worked his way through the Group B stepladder with wins over Patrick Padden of Grand Lake, Colorado, 255-227, and defending Super Senior Classic champion Ron Mohr of North Las Vegas, Nevada, 234-224.
All 184 competitors this week at Sam's Town rolled 12 games of qualifying over two days, before the field was cut to the top 46 for the six game Cashers' Round.
The top 12 bowlers, based on their 18-game pinfall totals, advanced to round-robin match play, where they were split into two six-player groups - Group A and Group B - with all odd-numbered qualifiers going to Group A and all evens going to Group B.
At the conclusion of match play, the leader from each group automatically advanced to the final stepladder, earning the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds based on total pinfall for 24 games, including 30 bonus pins for each win in match play.
Dias, the Group B leader, edged Williams, who topped Group A, by five pins for the top seed, while the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 finishers in each group advanced to Sunday's simultaneous group stepladders.
In claiming the top seed for the finals, Dias was consistent in his command of the 41-foot oil pattern used for the Super Senior Classic. Subtle changes in surface and speed helped him navigate the fresh and the burn, though he faltered briefly in the Cashers' Round.
He then was able to use what he'd learned all week to get back on track for match play, allowing him to climb back up the standings from fourth place after 18 games.
"I stayed patient because I knew what I was seeing in the Cashers' Round was a result of the change in traffic on the left side of the lane, and I knew they were going to play differently in match play," Dias said. "I was patient and didn't worry about having a couple of games where I stumbled because I felt like it was going to come back to me."
In four six-game blocks this week at Sam's Town, Dias posted scores of 1,439, 1,434, 1,290 and 1,435.
Many of the Super Senior Classic competitors now will turn their attention to the United States Bowling Congress Senior Masters, the premier event for USBC members age 50 and older, which gets underway Monday with official practice.
All rounds of Senior Masters competition will be broadcast live on BowlTV, concluding June 10 at 1 p.m. Eastern.
For complete results from the Super Senior Classic or for more information on the Senior Masters, visit BOWL.com.
2018 SUPER SENIOR CLASSIC
At Sam's Town Bowling Center, Las Vegas
1, Mike Dias, Lafayette, Colo., 278 (one game), $8,500
2, Mark Williams, Beaumont, Texas, 462 (two games), $7,000
3, Warren Nelson, Hemet, Calif., 428 (two games), $5,500
4, Ben Hoefs, Mobile, Ala., 181 (one game), $4,000
Match No. 1: Nelson def. Hoefs, 191-181
Semifinal: Williams def. Nelson, 257-237
Final: Dias def. Williams, 278-205
Group A Stepladder
Semifinal: Ben Hoefs, Mobile, Ala., def. Harry Sullins, Chesterfield, Mich., 204-182 (Sullins finishes tied for seventh, earns $2,500).
Final: Hoefs def. Skip Pavone, San Jose, Calif., 235-214 (Pavone finishes tied for fifth, earns $3,200).
Group B Stepladder
Semifinal: Warren Nelson, Hemet, Calif., def. Patrick Padden, Grand Lake, Colo., 255-227 (Padden finishes tied for seventh, earns $2,500).
Final: Nelson def. Ron Mohr, North Las Vegas, Nev., 234-224 (Mohr finishes tied for fifth, earns $3,200).