Matt Cannizzaro and Aaron Smith
GARLAND, Texas - Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, N.Y., dominated the opening round of match play to recapture the lead at the 2015 Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open on Friday night.
The 29-year-old left-hander averaged more than 250 on his way to a 7-1 match-play record and 9,348 total, including bonus pins, to put himself nearly 300 pins ahead of two-time U.S. Open champion Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., who is second with 9,053.
Five-time U.S. Open champion Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., is third with 8,978, two-hander Anthony Simonsen of Princeton, Texas, is fourth at 8,917 and defending champion Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, rounds out the top five with 8,916.
Ciminelli, who led after the second round of qualifying, quickly ascended back to the top of the standings after starting the block in third place.
The three-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour titlist has found continued success on the low end of the 58-lane AMF Garland Lanes this week, and he took advantage of his comfort level as the event transitioned to match play.
"I've liked the low end of the house and bowled on a lot of pairs that I felt comfortable on tonight," said Ciminelli, the lone left-hander to advance into match play. "I was just able to get into that zone where you go blank and start repeating shots. Every decision I made was with confidence. A lot has to go right to bowl a block like that, especially at the [U.S.] Open."
Ciminelli now has 16 more games of match play standing between him and his first championship round appearance at the U.S. Open. Competition resumes Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern. The top five will advance to Sunday's stepladder finals based on their 56-game totals, including bonus pins.
The finals of the 2015 U.S. Open will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern. The winner will take home a top prize of $50,000.
"I'm trying my best not to look at the leaderboard, but I'm a leaderboard watcher," said Ciminelli, who finished 24th at the 2013 U.S. Open. "I'm doing everything I can not to peek over at it and see what's going on. There are still a lot of games left, so I have to be focused at all times. I'm taking nothing for granted and hoping to get every pin I can. At the end, hopefully when I look at the leaderboard, I'm still in the show. Leading would be a bonus, but making the show would be a huge accomplishment for me."
The final round of qualifying took place earlier Friday, as the 92 players who advanced after Thursday's third round bowled an additional eight games to determine the top 24 players who would continue to match play.
Team USA's John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda, N.Y., paced the field through 32 games, while Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., earned the final spot with a 215.13 average.
All qualifying and match-play rounds are being broadcast live on the PBA's online bowling channel, Xtra Frame.
Bowlmor AMF, the largest operator of bowling centers in the world, committed to hosting and providing television sponsorship of more than $250,000 for the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open, which USBC Hall Famer Liz Johnson won at Brunswick Zone Carolier in North Brunswick, New Jersey, in September.