Chicago-area bowlers take doubles lead at national tournament

The names at the top of the standings had remained the same for nearly two weeks through the middle of June at the 2023 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships before new leaders emerged in two events over a 12-hour stretch Tuesday at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada.

Damon Horst of Oswego, Illinois, and Ryan Liddell of Palos Hills, Illinois, were the first to race to the lead Tuesday, posting a 1,261 total in Standard Doubles to roll to the top spot by 45 pins.

David Farmer of Hamlet, North Carolina, and James Fairley of Rockingham, North Carolina, had held the lead in Standard Doubles for more than two months after combining for 1,216 on April 12.

Bobby Johnson of Villa Rica, Georgia, was the next to strike at the Taj Mahal of Tenpins, finding his look in singles on the way to games of 225, 225 and 207 to take the lead in the Classified Division with 657.

Brenden Davis of Acworth, Georgia, had set the pace in Classified Singles on June 6 with a 640 series.

Horst led the way in the doubles effort, posting games of 234, 220 and 214 for a 668 series. Liddell added 213, 200 and 180 for 593.

Horst, a 52-year-old right-hander, continued strong in singles to finish with 641 and also make his way to third place in Standard All-Events with 1,862. He had 553 in team Monday.

Matthew Grunzke of Albert Lea, Minnesota, leads Standard All-Events with 1,926.

For Horst, several stops at the Bowlers Journal Championships helped him put together his plan, and it showed that the work he's been putting in at home is paying off, too.

The Bowlers Journal Championships features the same oil pattern as doubles and singles at the USBC Open Championships.

"I bowled three sets at the Bowlers Journal and knew urethane was in play," said Horst, who made his 18th tournament appearance. "I've been working with that for about a month trying to figure out some stuff with (urethane), so it worked out pretty well. I knew I had to stay right for as long as I could, and once I moved in, I found something in singles, too."

Liddell, a 41-year-old right-hander, also started with urethane and felt like they did a great job of keeping up with the moves during their run to the top.

"We worked with urethane, and then I made the right adjustment at the right time and was able to switch to something a little more aggressive," said Liddell, who made his 11th Open Championships appearance. "We read the lanes correctly and made the right adjustments."

The pair has bowled together for the past couple editions of the Open Championships, and their group at the event offers a lot of support, too.

There isn't any added pressure to competing on one of bowling's biggest stages, but the communication stays open as they try to navigate the challenging oil patterns at the tournament.

"We see what we see, and we tell each other what we're seeing," Horst said. "There's really no ego with it, and we don't expect much out of each other. We just expect that everyone goes out and makes the best shots they can."

They now have the chance to see if their score will be enough to share in victory at the tournament, and it would mean something a little different for each of them.

"It would mean a lot, because it wasn't expected," said Liddell, who added sets of 635 in team and 523 in singles for 1,751. "I haven't bowled the greatest at this tournament, so to do it once would be pretty awesome. We did our best, and that's all we can do."

"It would mean a ton to me and my family," Horst said. "They'll be coming out here next year, and having the kids experience that and see that and appreciate what the tournament is all about would be great.

"I don't know if it has really sunk in yet. Maybe when I get home, I'll be worried about it. But, for right now, I'm just happy with where I am."

Standard Doubles features bowlers with combined entering averages of 311-350. Standard All-Events includes bowlers with entering averages of 156-175.

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