LIMA, Peru - Darren Tang's week at the 2019 Pan American Bowling Confederation Men's Championships might've ended one match sooner than he'd hoped, but overall, he's leaving Peru very satisfied with his Team USA debut.
Tang was one of five players from the United States to advance to the tournament-ending Masters event, which included the top 16 players from the all-events standings, based on their 24-game pinfall totals at the new Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA).
The 25-year-old right-hander's run at Masters gold came to an end in the semifinals, where he fell to Puerto Rico's Cristian Azcona, 2-1 (207-232, 228-226, 228-208), in the best-of-three match. Tang earned a bronze medal for his performance to go along with a team gold medal and silver medals in singles and all-events.
"Overall, I thought it was a great week," Tang said. "For my first time, I didn't really know what to expect. Obviously, our goal was to win gold medals. We accomplished that, which is awesome. We also picked up information every time we bowled and did a little better each time. Ultimately, we came away with a pretty good haul, and it was an amazing opportunity to be here representing our country."
The semifinal win earned Azcona a spot in the Masters final, where he was defeated by Colombia's Alfredo Quintana, 2-0 (230-190 and 213-190).
In the opening game, Quintana failed to strike in the first five frames, but he then rattled off six consecutive strikes for the early advantage. In the deciding game, Azcona never was able to get anything going, allowing Quintana to fill frames and claim the gold medal. Azcona settled for the silver.
Quintana defeated Puerto Rico's Jean Francisco Perez in the other semifinal to set up his meeting with Azcona. Quintana topped Perez, 2-1 (197-210, 224-217, 248-186).
The Team USA squad at the 2019 PABCON Men's Championships included four players competing internationally for the United States for the first time - Tang, Perry Crowell IV, Nick Pate and Sean Wilcox - along with world champion and five-time Team USA member AJ Johnson and United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer John Janawicz, a nine-time Team USA member and PABCON veteran.
Wilcox, Pate and Janawicz all lost in the first round of the Masters on Sunday. Johnson fell to Quintana in the second round. Crowell did not qualify.
Outside of the Masters event, Team USA had a very successful week in Peru. The group medaled in every event except trios, including sweeping the all-events medals, broke three records and rolled two of the week's four perfect games.
"The team came in very prepared, and they were able to adapt quickly to the environment and get comfortable in this setting," Ross said. "Getting to use your passport to go compete for Team USA for the first time can add quite a bit of pressure. They're looking to establish themselves and build a future with the team, so there's some added stress, but they all handled it well, and I'm proud of how the whole team performed this week."
A few days together at the International Training and Research Center kickstarted their team chemistry, and they grew closer and more comfortable as the week in Peru progressed.
Johnson and Wilcox beat the previous PABCON Championships doubles record by 145 pins on the way to this year's gold medal, and that performance propelled both of them to the top of the all-events standings. Johnson claimed the all-events gold medal with a record score, and Wilcox held on for the bronze medal.
The story was similar in the five-player team event, as Team USA broke the previous record by more than 100 pins and finished nearly 300 pins ahead of this year's 16-team field.
Both of Team USA's perfect games (Pate and Tang) came on the first day of the team event. The week's other 300s were rolled by Canada's Mitch Hupé (team) and Puerto Rico's Perez (Masters). Hupé's was the first one in the bowling center's short history.
Team USA also topped the medal table this week, claiming seven medals overall. Canada and Puerto Rico earned four each, Colombia grabbed three and Costa Rica nabbed one as well.
"They came together as a team quite well, especially considering they really hadn't worked together prior to this," Team USA head coach Rod Ross said. "We came in with two objectives, which were to win as many medals as possible and to get the team gold. It was just a nice bonus to set a few records along the way and really separate themselves from the pack. What I'm most proud of besides the team win is sweeping the all-events because that's such a long road and tough medal to win."
The 2019 PABCON Men's Championships was contested on the 41-foot World Bowling Rome oil pattern. The 100 bowlers competed for medals in singles, doubles, trios, team, all-events and Masters.
The tournament featured countries from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, including Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
The 2019 PABCON Men's Championships also was the first event to take place at the newly constructed bowling center, which is part of an expansive athletic complex that will be home to the 2019 Pan American Games this summer.
Based on the combined all-events totals of their top two performers, Bermuda and Panama became the final two countries on the men's side to qualify for the 2019 Pan Am Games.
Men's and women's teams each qualified separately through different events within PABCON during 2018 and early 2019.
Men's teams that already had qualified were Aruba, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela.
On the women's side, Argentina, Aruba, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela have qualified, while Peru automatically earns spots in both the men's and women's categories as the host country.
The Team USA men will be represented at the Pan Am Games by Pate and 2019 USBC Masters champion Jakob Butturff. The two Team USA women who will join them in Peru will be decided at the upcoming USBC Queens.
For more information on the PABCON Men's Championships, visit PABCON.org.
For more information on Team USA, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA.
2019 PABCON MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIPS
Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA)
(Winner advances, loser is eliminated from Masters competition)
(1) AJ Johnson, United States, def. (16) John Janawicz, United States, 2-0 (193-185, 288-166).
(2) Darren Tang, United States, def. (15) Jonaykel Conejo, Costa Rica, 2-0 (235-204, 248-180).
(5) Jean Francisco Perez, Puerto Rico, def. (12) Dan MacLelland, Canada, 2-0 (300-227, 259-214).
(9) Alfredo Quintana, Colombia, def. (8) Lucas Legnani, Argentina, 2-1 (271-205, 140-178, 235-224).
(10) Manuel Otalora, Colombia, def. (7) Mitch Hupé, Canada, 2-1 (221-258, 223-213, 255-212).
(11) Cristian Azcona, Puerto Rico, def. (6) Nick Pate, United States, 2-1 (279-181, 216-236, 236-231).
(13) Zachary Wilkins, Canada, def. (4) Francois Lavoie, Canada, 2-1 (237-221, 222-279, 279-234).
(14) Ildemaro Ruiz, Venezuela, def. (3) Sean Wilcox, United States, 2-1 (239-215, 215-243, 213-168).
(Winner advances, loser is eliminated from Masters competition)
Tang def. Otalora, 2-0 (184-166, 234-194).
Quintana def. Johnson, 2-0 (278-214, 244-235).
Perez def. Wilkins, 2-0 (247-217, 279-258).
Azcona def. Ruiz, 2-1 (193-267, 205-190, 268-259).
(Winner advances to finals, losers earn bronze medals)
Azcona def. Tang, 2-1 (207-232, 228-226, 228-208).
Quintana def. Perez, 2-1 (197-210, 224-217, 248-186)
(Winner earns gold medal, loser earns silver medal)
Quintana def. Azcona, 2-0 (230-190, 213-190)