LAS VEGAS - While generations of bowling fans may see the familiar and seemingly effortless style of Venezuela's Amleto Monacelli as timeless and unchanged, even decades after his most dominant years on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour, the 55-year-old right-hander has a secret.
His bowling game actually is a constant work in progress as he tries to stay relevant on the lanes, despite changes in his body as he ages and advancements in the sport, and he proved Tuesday at the 2017 United States Bowling Congress Senior Masters that recent changes to his game are starting to pay dividends.
Monacelli is a week removed from his eighth PBA50 Tour title and emerged as the opening-round leader at the USBC Senior Masters with a 1,274 five-game total, a 254.8 average.
He used a 289 final game to catapult to the top of the standings after Tuesday's burn squad, and it proved to be just enough as USBC Hall of Famer Sam Lantto of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and Brian LeClair of Delmar, New York, a two-time winner on the PBA50 Tour this season, nearly chased him down on the final squad of the day at the Sam's Town Bowling Center.
Lantto started his five game block with games of 278, 290 and 242 for an 810 series, before adding 203 and 258 for a 1,271 total. LeClair was more consistent, posting a low game of 238 and a high game of 268 (twice), to match Lantto's effort.
Michael Tountas of Tucson, Arizona, is fourth after the first of three days of Senior Masters qualifying with a 1,243 total, while John Dougherty III of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, owner of one of the two perfect games Tuesday at Sam's Town, is fifth with 1,210.
"I've been working a lot on my game lately, concentrating on angles, axis rotation and ball motion, and I think the muscle memory for all the changes is starting to kick in," said Monacelli, a USBC and PBA Hall of Famer who also owns 20 PBA Tour titles. "I had a couple of recent weeks where I was close, and then last week I was able to get the win. That shows me the changes are starting to work and pay off."
More open-minded later in his career, the 1989 and 1990 PBA Player of the Year has been willing to adapt his physical game as bowling technology - from lane oils with more viscosity to stronger and stronger balls - has changed. He's also known for all the time he spends making sure he's in peak physical condition, which helps him endure the different event formats.
Monacelli's recent win at the PBA50 Northern California Classic, presented by MOTIV included a 229-198 win over Hugh Miller of Mercer Island, Washington, in the championships match, and helped him enter this week's Senior Masters more confident about his preparation and more relaxed on the lanes.
On the first day of the 2017 Senior Masters, Monacelli found success by staying slow and taking his time, while also taking advantage of a favorable ball reaction on the 41-foot oil pattern being used at the Sam's Town Bowling Center this week.
The lanes only will be oiled once each day, with all competitors getting the chance to experience the three phases of the pattern - fresh, burn and double-burn - with five games being bowled each day.
"At this event, with qualifying and match play being so different, you really just have to focus on the things you're doing well and continuing to make the right decisions," said Monacelli, who beat an undefeated Pete Weber of St. Ann, Missouri, twice in the championship round to win the 2015 Senior Masters. "Eventually, you'll have to consider who you're bowling and where you're bowling them, but even then, you still have to make the right choices and decisions to succeed."
All 277 competitors will be back on the lanes at Sam's Town for the second round of qualifying Wednesday, with squads taking place at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Eastern.
Qualifying will conclude Thursday, and 15-game pinfall totals will determine the 63 bowlers who will join Weber, the defending champion, in the double-elimination match-play bracket.
Weber is in 22nd place after Tuesday's opening round with a 1,138 total. The USBC and PBA Hall of Famer is guaranteed the No. 64 seed if he falls out of the cut, but he can improve his seeding for match play during qualifying.
After five games, Robert Pohlman of Cedar Park, Texas, sits in 64th place with a 1,071 total, a 214.2 average.
All rounds of qualifying and match play are being broadcast live on BowlTV, and the five players who advance through the bracket will battle for the title in the stepladder finals Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.
The Senior Masters is open to USBC members age 50 and older and has a top prize of $16,000.
For more information on the USBC Senior Masters, visit BOWL.com/SeniorMasters.
2017 USBC SENIOR MASTERS
At Sam's Town Bowling Center, Las Vegas
QUALIFYING - ROUND 1
(Five games - top 100)
1, Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 1,274. 2(tie), Brian LeClair, Delmar, N.Y., and Sam Lantto, Eden Prairie, Minn., 1,271. 4, Michael Tountas (a), Tucson, Ariz., 1,243. 5, John Dougherty III, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., 1,210. 6, Mark Williams, Beaumont, Texas, 1,205.
7, Doug Becker, Clermont, Fla., 1,204. 8, Kevin Croucher, Grants Pass, Ore., 1,194. 9, Eddie Graham, Centerville, Ohio, 1,190. 10, Chris Warren, Grants Pass, Ore., 1,181. 11, Patrick Shipley, Spring Valley, Calif., 1,176. 12, Ernie Segura, Taylor, Mich., 1,170.
13, Curt Rasnic (a), Fairborn, Ohio, 1,165. 14, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 1,157. 15, Lewis Elting, Carlsbad, Calif., 1,155. 16, Tony Rodriguez Jr., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., 1,152. 17(tie), John Debenedetta (a), Las Vegas, and Dale Traber, Cedarburg, Wis., 1,149.
19, Michael Austin, Conroe, Texas, 1,148. 20, Michael Klosin (a), Windham, N.H., 1,147. 21, Doug Kempt, Arcadia, Calif., 1,140. 22, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 1,138. 23, Tish Johnson, Colorado Springs, Colo., 1,133. 24, Alvin Lou (a), El Cajon, Calif., 1,131.
25, Ed Silva, Manteca, Calif., 1,129. 26, Donald Herrington, Ballston Lake, N.Y., 1,128. 27, Michael Lucente, Warren, Mich., 1,125. 28, Bob Learn Jr., Boynton Beach, Fla., 1,124. 29, Russ Davies, Las Vegas, 1,121. 30, Marv Sargent, Temecula, Calif., 1,114.
31(tie), Ted Staikoff, Black Hawk, S.D., and James Lord, Fort Mill, S.C., 1,112. 33(tie), Joe Salvemini, Yuba City, Calif., and Dave Washburn (a), Las Vegas, 1,109. 35, Andrew Frawley, Australia, 1,107. 36, Tim Shirlock, Las Vegas, 1,106.
37(tie), Dave Sill, Titusville, Fla., and Dana Wright, St. Paul, Minn., 1,105. 39(tie), Mike Monyak (a), Las Vegas, Hugh Miller, Mercer Island, Wash., and Lennie Boresch, Kenosha, Wis., 1,101. 42, Christer Petersson, Sweden, 1,100.
43, Gerald Sikora (a), Huron, S.D., 1,099. 44, Scott Merritt, Iowa City, Iowa, 1,095. 45(tie), Michael Owen, Gainesville, Fla., David Cirigliano, Phoenix, and Bruce Hall, Westborough, Mass., 1,094. 48, Roy Gaskins (a), Valdosta, Ga., 1,092.
49(tie), Scott Kraye (a), La Habra, Calif., and Mark Scroggins, Canyon, Texas, 1,088. 51(tie), John Chovanec (a), Sugar Land, Texas, and Dean Hebner (a), Vancouver, Wash., 1,087. 53, James Campbell (a), Clearwater, Fla., 1,081. 54(tie), Michael Haugen Jr., Phoenix, and Ronald Cleveland (a), St Paul, Minn., 1,078.
56, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Oxford, Fla., 1,075. 57, Brian Cooper, Henderson, Nev., 1,074. 58(tie), Doug Kent, Newark, N.Y., Mike Nogle (a), Canby, Ore., Tony Johnson, Canton, Ohio, and Ron Mohr, North Las Vegas, Nev., 1,073.
62(tie), Joe Fulner III, Ocala, Fla., and Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich., 1,072. 64, Robert Pohlman (a), Cedar Park, Texas, 1,071. 65, Roger Kossert, Lithia, Fla., 1,070. 66, John Dudak, Orland Park, Ill., 1,069.
67(tie), Doug Hayes, Clarksville, Tenn., and Don Jackson, Bonita, Calif., 1,068. 69, David Smith (a), Fort Worth, Texas, 1,062. 70, Terry Rohrer (a), Fort Wayne, Ind., 1,061. 71, Mike Faliero (a), W. Seneca, N.Y., 1,060. 72(tie), Harry Sullins, Chesterfield, Mich., and Henry Dawson (a), Elma, Wash., 1,059.
74(tie), John Burkett, Southlake, Texas, Kevin Anderson, Mt. Juliet, Tenn., and Robert Worrall II (a), Colorado Springs, Colo., 1,056. 77, Brian Miller, Springfield, Ohio, 1,053. 78, Brian Kretzer, Kettering, Ohio, 1,051.
79, Ector Rodriguez (a), Penrose, Colo., 1,049. 80(tie), Andy Neuer (a), Lewisburg, Pa., and Paul McCordic, Sugar Land, Texas, 1,048. 82(tie), Nile Konicek, Gilbert, Ariz., and Timothy Myers, Milwaukie, Ore., 1,046. 84, Emilio Mora, Defiance, Ohio, 1,045.
85, Christopher Keane, Cape Coral, Fla., 1,044. 86, Sam Ventura, Norwich, N.Y., 1,043. 87(tie), Mike Keough, Stockton, Calif., and William Nichols, Bella Vista, Ark., 1,039. 89, Michael Karch (a), Edgewood, Wash., 1,037. 90, Jeff Suma (a), Auburn Hills, Mich., 1,036.
91(tie), Mike Scroggins, Amarillo, Texas, and Bryan Goebel, Shawnee, Kan., 1,035. 93(tie), Brian Voss, Centennial, Colo., Stephen Kenyon, Dade City, Fla., and John Hricsina (a), Las Vegas, 1,034. 96, Ross McDonald, Clarksville, Md., 1,032.
97, Jim Dougherty, Oklahoma City, 1,031. 98, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 1,030. 99(tie), George Szczublewski (a), West Seneca, N.Y., and Mark Scime, Winter Garden, Fla., 1,028.