By Doug Halberstadt
Thanks to the Daytona 500 rain delay last Sunday (Feb. 26), I was able to witness bowling history. Normally, I would have been tuned in to coverage of “The Great American Race,” but because of a continuous downpour in Daytona Beach, Fla., I switched over from FOX to ESPN, and I’m very glad I did.
Somehow, it slipped my memory that ESPN was broadcasting the 69th U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone-Carolier. Fortunately, something (the rain delay?) caused me to switch channels at precisely the right moment. I didn’t miss a single frame of the coverage.
The stepladder finals format featured fourth-seeded Pete Weber against the No. 3 seed Ryan Shafer in the first televised match. Weber disposed of Shafer 223-191. He then faced off against the unique two-handed style of Australian Jason Belmonte. Weber once again prevailed. This time, he rolled a 225 to Belmonte’s 213. The stage was now set for history.
Weber was now only one game away from becoming the only bowler in history to win five U.S. Open titles. Standing in his way was the tournament’s top seed, Michael Fagan. The two did not disappoint. The match would come down to the 10th frame. Fagan closed out his game with three consecutive strikes. Weber needed at least a nine-count spare and strike to win, Weber threw a perfect pocket shot on his first ball, but left a 10 pin. After picking up the spare, he threw an identical shot that carried for a strike and earned him a spot in bowling history.
In winning the title, Weber broke a tie with his late father, Professional Bowlers Association legend Dick Weber, and his father’s close friend, the late Don Carter, who both won the forerunner to the U.S. Open — the BPAA All Star — four times.
“Dad, I know you were watching,” Weber said as he looked up toward heaven after the win. “I know you’re proud, and I’m sorry I broke your record.
“This is my greatest title ever,” Weber said. “To win five U.S. Opens and pass Dick Weber and Don Carter says a lot, but I’ll never say I’m better than them. They paved the way for us to be here. It was an honor and a privilege to join them when I won my fourth U.S. Open, and it’s even more of an honor to be the first one to win five.”
At age 49 years, 189 days, Weber became the oldest player ever to win the U.S. Open, breaking the record set by 46-year-old Norm Duke last year at Carolier. This victory also moved him into second place on the PBA’s all-time major title winners list with his ninth title. Earl Anthony holds the record with 10.
The PBA Tour’s next televised event will be the finals of the GEICO Shark Open. It will air at 2 p.m., this Sunday, March 4, on ESPN. I’ll try not to let this one slip my mind.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Feb. 29-March 6, 2012, issue