Men’s bowling: Princeton Masters Tournament
PRINCETON — Fierce yet friendly competition, ninth-frame splits, and close winning margins were the order of the day Sunday afternoon at Pin Splitter Lanes for the 2020 Princeton Bowling Association Men’s Masters Tournament.
The field of 24 were whittled down to a final five runoff between J.T. Dant, A.J. Egan, Chris Stier, Randy Dalrymple and Joe Zokal, with Stier the lone bowler without a previous championship.
Many eyes were on Stier as he made a charge throughout the whole tournament, winning 16 matches with a 220.33 overall average, but a split late in the final allowed Zokal to capture the title with a 228-200 win.
“I was following Chris the whole tournament,” said Zokal, who won his previous championship in 2014. “I was in fourth, then third, then second, and I took over first today so I only had to play that one match, but I was chasing him all day.”
Zokal won 18 matches and collected 122.41 points in his tournament run, with an overall average of 227.49.
“You know, the field is a lot tougher, and the kids are getting better,” Zokal said. “It’s getting harder, and I’m one of the ‘old guys’ now. But, it was fun to do and very competitive.”
Known for his distinctively colorful attire as for his bowling prowess, Zokal was only too happy to accept congratulations to go along with the usual good-natured ribbing from fellow bowlers and spectators alike.
“Yeah, you can definitely see me from outer space in this outfit,” Zokal said with a laugh. “The Hammer staff always tell you to stand out in a tournament, and I wanted to make sure everyone could find me. Just all part of the fun of playing.”
Dant, the Pin Splitter Lanes owner, was the first to bow out in the first roll-off match of the final five, a rematch of last year’s title game with defending champ A.J. Egan.
Egan won, but at a closer margin than last year, 259-245. Dant finished the tournament with 14 match wins, collected 116.24 points, and held a tournament average of 223.07.
“Yeah, it goes back to last year when we had the head-to-head in the finals,” Dant said. “We both knew it was comin’, and I can’t miss against a guy like that. When I missed that spare, it gave him the momentum he needed.”
Egan’s momentum for a repeat title was short lived, edged out by Stier 226-224 in the second roll-off game.
“Just a bad break, that’s all it was,” Egan said. “I’ve had an up-and-down battle most of the time. First weekend was good, yesterday I couldn’t bowl at all, today I came back. I threw the ball the best I could.”
Egan won 13.5 matches over both weekends with 117.17 in points and an overall average of 226.28.
Stier moved on to the semifinal and got a razor-thin 191-190 victory over Randy Dalrymple, with spares in the final frames again a deciding factor.
“I lost to a good bowler,” Dalrymple said. “Last Saturday I finished 12th, last Sunday moved up to fifth. Yesterday I bowled pretty well and moved up to third, then second today. That late split definitely made a big difference.”
Dalrymple won 16 matches and 122.03 points in this year’s tournament, with a tournament-best overall average of 230.95.
Stier’s run, however, ended in the final against Zokal, as the late frame split that visited others came to call on him.
“I just wasn’t getting the hits I would normally get. I was in the pocket, but not getting the ones I wanted,” Stier said. “The frame that I missed the 1/10, that hurt a lot, especially after five strikes in a row.”
Stier, who finished with 16 matches won, 117.45 points, and a 220.33 overall average, had an unusual start to play in this year’s tournament.
“Normally, guys don’t get a new ball before a tournament, but I ended up getting one,” he said. “Took all six games the first day, and I kept goin’ with it. I had a little luck, too, maybe even a little divine intervention (laughs).”
Eric Webster, after years of watching his father Bill play, won the Sportsmanship Award in his debut in the Men’s Masters.
“It’s a tremendous honor. It was fun, a blast,” Webster said. “I was just trying to beat my old man, honestly (laughs). He went neck and neck with me the whole tournament.
“I’m just bowling in the Sunday league, but these guys bowl a lot, and it shows. I felt lucky to be asked to play (in the tournament).”
Tournament director Dave Camp indicated that this year’s level of play was just as he expected.
“They expect the finals to be like this,” he said. “Good bowling with lots of ups and downs, and anybody can win it.”
• Notes: The pins will be flying again this weekend with the start of 2020 Women’s Masters, again at Pin Splitter lanes in Princeton.
2020 Princeton Masters Top 10
1. Joe Zokal
2. Chris Stier
3. Randy Dalrymple
4. A.J. Egan
5. J.T. Dant
6. Matt Gapski
7. Randy Allen
8. Randy Hanson
9. Michael Camp
10. Chris Smith