Young bowler overcomes self doubts to win York Masters championship

BARRY SPARKS
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Terry Miller, left, proprietor of Suburban Bowlerama, congratulates Zachary Ilgenfritz on winning the 2021 York Masters. Ilgenfritz collected $700 for the win.

Zachary Ilgenfritz confesses he has a lot of self doubt.

The 24-year-old right-hander, however, erased much of that self doubt on Sunday when he defeated Brandon Updike, 205-165, to capture the York Masters Tournament at Suburban Bowlerama.

Ilgenfritz hadn't planned on bowling in the challenging tournament until 2019 York Masters champ Ritchie Wolfe offered to pay his $70 entry fee as a birthday present. Ilgenfritz topped the field of 24 bowlers and collected $700 for the win.

"It's an amazing feeling," Ilgenfritz said. "I'm speechless."

Ilgenfritz, who qualified fifth, kept his emotions under control as he advanced to the finals by defeating Jimmy Plessinger in a two-game match (392-356) and top-seeded Eric Smith (196-158).

An extremely demanding lane condition kept scores low. Smith was the only bowler in the field to average above 200 for five games of qualifying.

"I thought I would pass out a couple of times," said Ilgenfritz, discussing the tension and pressure. "I don't have as much experience as most of the other bowlers. But I told myself, 'Breathe and roll the ball. Breathe and roll the ball.'"

Ilgenfritz took control early in the final match against 22-year-old Brandon Updike. He struck in five of the first six frames to build a 40-pin cushion.

"I wanted to keep doing what got me to the finals," he said. "And, that was maintaining a slower approach and a slower ball speed. That kept me in the pocket."

Updike, competing in his first adult singles tournament, said: "Zach had a good look in the finals, and I didn't. He got ahead early and kept the pressure on, just like you're supposed to do.

"I'm very satisfied with how I bowled. No disappointment. I achieved what I wanted to do."

Updike, a walk-in entry, was second in qualifying. He received a bye in the first round and advanced to the finals with a 190-186 win over Cody Shoemaker.

Ilgenfritz and Updike, the two youngest bowlers in the field, said the tournament was definitely a confidence booster for them.

"Winning my first tournament on a demanding lane condition and against a very competitive field tells me I can compete with the big guys," Ilgenfritz said. "I just have to remember not to doubt myself so much."

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