By Matt Cannizzaro and David Waswo
LAS VEGAS – Barry Mortimeyer of Roseville, California, not only took the lead at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, he did it in a big way.
The 69-year-old right-hander rolled games of 213, 231 and 230 to claim the top spot in Classified Singles with a 674 total, flying past Joseph Snyder of Pleasantville, Pennsylvania, who previously held the lead with 608.
After shooting 542 at the South Bowling Plaza on Sunday to help his team earn a spot in the top 10 of the Classified Team standings, Mortimeyer struggled in his first three games at the South Point Bowling Center and felt he let down his doubles partner.
“I was disappointed that I didn’t help my partner in doubles,” said Mortimeyer, who posted a 431 series in doubles Monday. “When I moved on to singles, things just clicked, and my carry was amazing.”
The story gets more interesting for Mortimeyer, who didn’t start bowling seriously in 2008, when he already was in his 50s. That same year, he made the first of his 11 trips to the USBC Open Championships.
“I had bowled a bit recreationally when I was younger, but I never picked it back up,” Mortimeyer said. “I play a lot of golf with USBC Hall of Famers Larry and Betty Laub, and I decided it was time to get back into bowling.”
In his first decade on the tournament lanes, Mortimeyer’s highest set in singles was 511, which came at the South Point Bowling Plaza in 2017. His highest series overall was a 535 effort in doubles at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada, in 2013.
His lead-taking performance this week was the second-highest series of his entire bowling career and marked the highest Classified Singles series at the Open Championships since Glen Brown of Renton, Washington, shot 690 to win the title in 2011.
As the strikes added up for Mortimeyer on Monday, so did the questions about a few Open Championships records.
The highest series rolled by a Classified bowler on the tournament lanes was a 761 set by Kathy Ruminski of Michigan City, Indiana, during doubles in 2002.
The tournament’s oldest champion was Glenn Smith of Grove, Oklahoma, who picked up a Booster Team title in 1996 at age 75.
The Booster Division began in 1916 and only included the team event. Until 1936, teams in the division were confined to the host city area. In 1937, the division opened to all teams, and champions formally were declared.
In 1999, the name of the division was changed to Classified, and doubles, singles and all-events champions were crowned for the first time.
Nowadays, the Classified Division is one of three average-based divisions at the Open Championships and includes bowlers with entering tournament averages of 155 and below.
Mortimeyer finished his 11th trip to the tournament with a 1,647 all-events total, the best of his career by nearly 200 pins and second in this year’s Classified All-Events standings, but well short of Snyder, who tops the list with 1,721.
The 2021 Open Championships got underway on May 1 and will run for 79 consecutive days, concluding July 18. More than 7,700 five-player teams will take the lanes at South Point during the run, with team competition taking place at the Bowling Plaza and doubles/singles squads being held at the Bowling Center.
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