Anthony Pepe had to deal with several close calls this weekend at the PBA Bowlers Supply/Storm Products Eastern Open.
The 26 year-old New Yorker nearly missed participating in Saturday's qualifying session, making it to Colony Park Lanes North with barely five minutes to spare. That obstacle didn't set Pepe, a sales rep for Storm Products, too far behind. The left-hander finished qualifying in third place.
The other close call he encountered came perhaps at almost the worst time. In the semifinals against Ryan Ciminelli, Pepe tore the skin on the outer part of his left thumb. Cruising up until that point, he had to battle and got a big assist from Ciminelli, who had an open 10th frame, to advance to the finals opposite two-time runner-up and fellow left-hander Travis Celmer.
Scrambling to do his best to continue, Pepe got another big assist from another tour pro, Ryan Shafer. Shafer, who qualified first overall but lost in the first round to David Knight Jr., had a band-aid with him that Pepe was able to apply to stop the bleeding. It also provided enough cushion to allow the Elmhurst, N.Y., native to play on.
Suffice it to say, Pepe may never bowl again without that bandage. Somewhat improbably, the left-hander bowled the best game of his tournament, downing Celmer 278-246 to claim his first PBA title as a card-carrying member.
"Personally, I didn't know if I was going to compete in the championship round," he said. "My thumb just ripped completely open. I tore the skin off it and it was bleeding profusely. So I got this patch, which I got from Ryan Shafer. Now Danny (Wiseman) was helping me put it on and thankfully it held up."
It not only did that, it also helped him concentrate on remaining consistent with his approach on every shot.
"I just thought to myself, 'keep it one shot at a time,'" said Pepe, who took home $3,100 for his efforts.
Pepe did that with remarkable accuracy, throwing six strikes to start the match. His only hiccup came in the seventh when he left the 6-8 pins standing for a split. And just like every other obstacle he encountered this weekend, Pepe converted the spare opportunity.
"When I left that split in the seventh frame, I wasn't really trying to make it," Pepe said. "Thankfully it worked my way."
Pepe finished with five more strikes to close out the match and send Celmer, who left an open 10 pin in the seventh frame, home with this third runner-up finish in four years.
"The first shot (in the seventh) I just got out a little too fast," said Celmer, who earned $1,600. "So the second shot I just over-compensated."
Notes: The tournament, which featured the PBA Tournament Chameleon pattern, seemed to especially benefit the left-handers. Sunday's bracket, which featured the top 16 qualifiers, included eight left-handers, four of which squared off the in the semifinals.
Celmer, the No. 8 seed, knocked off Gary Haines, 228-181, to advance to the finals, while the No. 3 seeded Pepe downed fellow lefty Ciminelli, the No. 7 seed.
It was clear there were no hard feelings from Wiseman, who fell to Pepe in the quarterfinals (203-174, 184-164). The 2013 PBA Hall of Famer and 12-time PBA Tour winner may have a future in medicine after he retires from bowling. He took to his role as Pepe's doctor with ease.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com
PBA Bowlers Supply/Storm Products Eastern Open
Position, name and hometown.
1. Pepe, Anthony, Elmhurst, N.Y.
2. Celmer, Travis, Wernersville, Pa.
3. Haines, Gary, West Babylon, N.Y.
4. Ciminelli, Ryan, Cheektowaga, N.Y.
5. Knight Jr., David, Folcroft, Pa.
6. Wiseman, Danny, Baltimore.
7. Donovan, Kevin, Painted Post, N.Y.
8. Elder, Brian, Newark, Del.
9. LeClair, Brian, Albany, N.Y.
10. Ostrander, Greg, Freehold, N.J.
11. Haas, Stephen J., Enola, Pa.
12. Shafer, Ryan R., Horseheads, N.Y.
13. Andretta, Darren, New Hyde Park, N.Y.
14. Costanzo, Joseph, Bethpage, N.Y.
15. Coco Jr., Thomas (g), Cortland Manor, N.Y.
16. Florie Jr., Victor, Richmond, Va.