2015 Event Recap By Johnny Campos
Apparently, all of the participants, parents and other folks involved survived the recent Junior Gold event that hosted a record number of entries.
There were a few glitches, but overall, it was a job well done by the USBC staffers, who worked long into the night to keep the tournament going smoothly.
But one of the major issues was that the event grew too fast, too soon.
That’s good news for junior bowlers who are trying to get as much experience on challenging conditions as possible while also building up their SMART fund accounts.
There also were other events surrounding the Junior Gold tournament and the USBC Youth Open, such as the Turbo Tech Collegiate Expo at Town & Country Lanes in Joliet and the DV8 Scholarship Shootout at Parkside Lanes in Aurora.
The sold-out Collegiate Expo, hosted by Turbo Grips and supported by several bowling companies, was awesome and went off without a hitch. Amleto Monacelli’s nephew, Rodolfo Monacelli Jr., was the boys winner, while Julia Huron won the girls division in the sweeper that closed the event.
The DV8 Scholarship Shootout was an amazing event to attend. I went after getting an invitation to watch the event from Travis Sparks, who has been running the scholarship tournament for almost 10 years now as a satellite event wherever Junior Gold is held.
I first met Travis more than 20 years ago when I was the tournament director for the PBA Senior Tour (now PBA50 Tour) and running the Wyoming Valley Senior PBA Opens in 1993 and 1994 in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
He and his wife, Jen, now live in York, Pa., and are very involved with junior bowling.
“This is the third year DV8 has been on board with us,” Sparks said. “At the beginning, I had just called it by whatever cities we were in.”
I showed up on the Friday night following the Joliet event, and walked into a house full of junior bowlers. Make that overflowing with juniors. The line to sign up for the scheduled 7:30 squad seemed to go on and on in the 54-lane establishment. Brunswick PBA Tour Rep Chuck Gardner and some of the Brunswick staff members were there. Gardner even presented last year’s winners with his award prior to the start of the late session.
The squad started about an hour (or so) late and ended up with almost 200 entries -- almost half of the 421 eventual participants in the event.
There was $18,200 in scholarship money handed out, and about 400 DV8 Vandal balls distributed.
The winners were Chris DiPaola ($3,200) for the boys and Jordan Newham ($1,500) for the girls.
“Kamron Doyle and Cassie Leuthold (University of Nebraska) won this event in years past,” Sparks said. “John Szczerbinski won it the first year, and Emily Strombeck, who won a national championship with North Carolina A&T, won it as well. So I’ve had some nice names make it through here.”
About 10 years ago, Sparks and a few friends came up with the idea for the event, which might have given the USBC the idea to hold the Youth Open.
“I’d like to think that, but I don’t know that for sure,” Sparks said. “But the Youth Open started in ’09, and I think USBC realized that they didn’t have anything going on for the kids right before Junior Gold starts. All the bowlers had to do is come in and check in on Saturday, and then they have nothing for them to do until Sunday, when practice started.
“So then I think they figured it out, and they moved things around, so practice is Saturday and Sunday now, and they’ve got the Youth Open to take care of a couple of things beforehand. Before that, in ‘08, they didn’t really have anything to do.”
So Sparks and his friends came up with the idea for the scholarship shootout.
“Back in ’06, we knew the ’07 Junior Gold was going to be in Buffalo,” he said. “On the back porch of (Parker) Bohn’s house, it was Parker, Doug (Kent), Matt Himmelreich (who helps me run the event), my wife Jen, who was my girlfriend at the time, and a couple of other friends. I think John Wilcox was there, because there was a regional going on.
“We had talked about running a warm-up tournament to Junior Gold, because nobody had ever done it before. So we gave it a shot, and Doug offered his center to do it the first year.”
The first year of the event, 243 bowlers made the 90-minute trip from Buffalo to Newark, N.Y., and the scholarship event was born.
“The first year it was just called the Doug Kent Shootout, and we were lucky because he was Player of the Year that year,” Sparks said. “The following year we just called it the Michigan Youth Shootout.
“And after that, we said let’s just call it juniorbowling.com Scholarship Shootout, and we’ll keep the name going throughout the year.”
It was an immediate hit.
“We had kids from all over the country who came around,” Sparks said. “And, ironically, that first year, on the last squad of Saturday night, Chuck Pezzano’s daughter, Mandy, wanted to bowl one more time. She ended up winning!”
Since then, the tournament has given out more than $200,000 in scholarships.
Sparks said the 10th anniversary event will be held at Hindel Bowl in Indianapolis next year.
And you can bet that Sparks and his wife will be taking a week’s vacation again to be there and keep it going for the junior bowlers.
It should be another great event.