Rick Graham has become a familiar face around the bowling scene in York County over the past decade.
A resident of Lancaster, Graham has participated in some local bowling leagues, including one at Colony Park Lanes North, this summer. With Sunday's championship round of the Professional Bowlers Association Bowlers Supply/Storm Products East Regional being played at Colony Park Lanes North, it figured to be a good omen for Graham. That is just what the right-hander, who just eclipsed the three-year mark without winning an event, needed.
Seeded ninth in the 16-person bracket, Graham cruised to the semifinal round before taking down a couple of fellow pros to capture his third PBA regional title. He bested No. 5 seeded Jon VanHees by a 211-197 margin in the semifinals before hanging on for a 225-205 victory over Rusty Thomsen in the finals.
The victory earned Graham a nice $2,500 payday for his efforts.
"I bowl in leagues in York and to win in York County is great," said Graham, who received congratulations from nearly everyone in attendance. "To win in front of people that I bowl in leagues with is just nice."
Graham didn't bowl perfectly, but was able to take advantage of a couple of bad breaks dealt to Thomsen. The first came in the fourth frame when Thomsen left a 7-10 split, which he failed to convert.
"That wasn't my best shot," Thomsen said. "That was kind of bad break because it was my first open of the day. Ninth game of the day. It was kind of a bad break, but it wasn't a good shot. I was hoping (to leave) one or the other, not both."
Graham, however, suffered a similarly tough frame in the fifth when he left the 3-6-10 pins. After successfully converting every previous time over the two days of the action, Graham left the 10 pin.
That opened up a door for Thomsen, who closed to within a pin (117-116) after six frames. Graham closed it out by striking on his next four balls while his opponent settled for spares in the ninth and 10th frames.
After throwing a strike with his first ball in the 10th that clinched the title, Graham let out a loud "yes" to the satisfaction of his fans.
"Everything was just going my way," Graham said. "It's been a couple of years and I knew that I still needed to mark. And spares are no guarantee, especially on a tough pattern (Scorpion) like this one. Even (Ryan) Shafer left a 10 pin (in the quarterfinals). So to really throw a good shot and strikes was like: 'Yes, I did it'. It was a lot of close games today."
Despite bowling well, Thomsen was disappointed to not leave town with the title. He did, however, leave with his sense of humor intact.
"I'm 0-3 against him," he said. "So after we were done, I reached into his pocket and said, 'I'm still in there.' But we always have really good matches."
Sunday's triumph was no cakewalk for Graham, who had to receive some good fortune in the first and second rounds to advance. A couple of open frames, including one by PBA national tour pro and top-seeded Shafer, opened the door for the longtime PBA East Region tour standout to make his run.
After sweeping Shafer (223-195, 198-194) in the quarterfinals, Graham had to grind things out in his one-game semifinal and final showdowns. He led VanHees by 10 pins from the second frame on but couldn't extend that cushion. Both bowlers matched one another ball for ball until VanHees left three pins after his first ball of the 10th. He needed to match Graham, who had a nine-pin spare and a strike in his 10th frame, so the seven officially closed things out.
Graham was the only local bowler to make it to the second day of the tournament. York County Amateur Match Play champion Gregg Bruff and former three-time Match Play champ Adam Baer finished 30th and 31st, respectively, after eight rounds of qualifying. Another local bowler, Brandon Hinderer was 33rd while Justin Mong placed 57th.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.