by Frank Weiler

VICTORVILLE – Steve Smith is the 2018 Citrus Belt USBC Association (KELLY C.) Masters Champion. Steve outperformed a strong field of scratch bowlers, on a difficult oil pattern, proving himself to be one of the top bowlers in CALIFORNIA.

This season’s Masters Tournament was one of the best in years. It featured one of the strongest fields in memory and was competed on probably the most difficult oil pattern used to date. There were many exciting matches, with surprises and sudden turn arounds galore. MATCHES WON AFTER APPARENTLY BEING LOST AND MATCHES LOST AFTER SEEMINGLY BEING WON.

Most matches were close with some decided as late as the TWENTIETH FRAME!!! Each match was decided by total pin fall for two games, i.e. 20 frames. As is customary, the tournament finals was contested as a double elimination affair with the champion being the only bowler who didn’t lose two matches. No competitor was undefeated this year but our champion was the only bowler who didn’t lose twice. It took thirty-one matches to crown Steve Smith our champion.

DARRON PETERS was the top qualifier, averaging 231. During match play defending champion KEVIN GAGNON was the high scorer with a 240 average. Kevin had the high match play score of the finals 579 (300 – 279). Perfect 300 games were rolled by Gagnon and MARK DYER.

There were many twists and turns during match play. Unexpected open frames in the twentieth frame decided some matches. In other matches the bowler striking out would win after just a few strikes early in the game. Some matches were high scoring while others low. Through it all the bowlers demonstrated a great amount of constraint, sportsmanship and professionalism.

After winning his first four matches, including a big fifty pin win over Steve Smith, it appeared that MICHAEL DURAN had the tournament won. Coming out of the winners bracket he needed only one more win to claim the title. Mike looked unbeatable to me and he himself spoke of winning one more match and the title. On the flip side the bowler coming out of the loser’s bracket (Smith) would have to defeat Mike twice. Everyone thought Duran had it in the bag.

The hand of fate can be fickle. It is said that the battle of Hastings was won when a falling acorn distracted King Edward at an inopportune time. William won that battle and became a conqueror and a king. But for a falling acorn. Fate.

We are taught that Newton discovered gravity because an apple fell from the tree he was sitting under. Fate? Destiny? Are some of us destined to win while others are destined to lose? Can we alter our fate?

Well, Michael Duran was determined to win and went on the offensive right out of the gate. He rolled one big hook ball after another. But it wasn’t to be. The more Mike hooked it the more things went bad. Split after split. The harder Mike rolled his ball the more the corner pins stood. There was nothing Mike could do to stem the tide of defeat.

The hand of fate seemed poised against him and no adjustment would alter the outcome. Smith defeated Duran two consecutive matches and won the title.

Taking a closer look at the circumstances surrounding those matches and the “talking heads” would probably say that it wasn’t fate at all that Smith won. They would say that Smith won because he was better able to adjust to the adverse conditions confronting the bowlers that day. At the low end of the house, where the final matches were contested, the lanes were “bone dry”. Duran’s game is inside, channel to channel. Give Duran oil and he can beat any bowler in the world. Put him on dry and he is like Samson shaved.

Samson sheared. Those “bone dry” lanes were Duran’s doom. Those “bone dry” lanes were Duran’s Delilah. Was it fate that the final matches were on dry lanes and cost Duran the title or were the “talking heads” right saying that Smith seized the moment and was the better bowler that day?

Something more about Steve Smith. In addition to his superior bowling talents Steve is a great person. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word. He handles adversity extremely well, no excuses, no complaints and no theatrics. He goes about his bowling business in a calm workmanlike manner while having a knack for winning. Steve Smith is a true professional.

Steve Smith is an outstanding addition to the list of previous Citrus Belt Masters Champions. That list includes such CALIFORNIA bowling greats as: BOBBY CAMPAGNALE, MIKE DE VANEY, EDDIE VAN DANIKER, MIKE RICK, DAVE WODKA and VINCE WOOD to name a few. This list includes four PBA champions, including two National PBA Champions, a “900 Bowler” and a bowler who had a streak of 123 consecutive strikes during “ACTION PLAY”.

The TOP FIVE finishers in this years Masters were:
1. Steve Smith $1,000
2. Michael Duran
3. Eric Cox
4. Brient Killings
5. Kevin Gagnon & Mark Learned

Other finalists included Mark Dyer, Mike Hoffman, William Johnson, Derrick Jones, Terry Lankster, Scott LaRiviere, Alan Mojado, Darron Peters, Mike Rick and Vince Wood.

Citrus Belt President MIKE RADDEMAN would like to thank VICTOR BOWL for hosting a great tournament and KEVIN GAGNON for working hundreds of hours to make this seasons event a huge success. My thanks to the BOWLING NEWS for supporting our CALIFORNIA bowlers.