Defending champ has chance to achieve rare feats at BowlerMaxx York County Match Play

BARRY SPARKS
717-505-5403/@ydsports
Eric Smith

The defending champion at the BowlerMaxx York County Match Play Tournament always faces an inherent amount of pressure.

However, the 2021 champion, Eric Smith, admits he's feeling more pressure than normal.

First, he has the opportunity to become just the second bowler in the tournament's 26-year history to earn back-to-back titles. Adam Baer accomplished that feat in 2010 and 2011.

Second, he can become only the second bowler to win more than two Match Play titles. Baer has won the tournament five times, while Dave Zelger, Steve Carbaugh, Greg Bruff and Smith have each won twice.

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"I've thought about those things, and, frankly, it just puts more pressure on me," said the 38-year-old right-hander. "So, I try not to think about them."

Smith gets his chance to join Adam Baer as the most elite Match Play bowlers when qualifying begins with six games at Colony Park North, at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 2. Qualifying concludes with six more games at Suburban Bowlerama at 10 a.m., Sunday, April 3.

The top 12 bowlers advance to match play the following weekend. South Hanover will host six games of match play on Saturday, April 9, and the tournament concludes with six games at Hanover Bowling Centre on Sunday, April 10.

The field of 50-plus bowlers is expected to include 10 past Match Play champs. First place is worth $1,000.

Smith said the history of the tournament proves how difficult it is to win even once, much less twice, or to repeat.

"Winning my second Match Play title last year was quite an accomplishment," Smith said. "But your past performance doesn't count for anything. You still have to qualify to make match play every year. It can be nerve-wracking."

Smith knows a number of past champions have failed to qualify for match play the following year.

"The 12-game qualifying format in two centers is one of the factors that makes this tournament very challenging," Smith said. "You need a strong mental game to advance to match play. You have to stay focused. You can't dwell on a bad game, get down on yourself, or panic."

To alleviate some of the pressure, Smith makes a habit of not looking at the standings posted after every game. 

Past BowlerMaxx York County

Match Play Champions

Dave Zelger         1996, 2000

Billy Heltzel Jr.    1997

Tony Lewis          1998

Jeff Hamme          1999

Brian Lafko          2001

Steve Carbaugh   2003, 2005

Chris Lakatosh     2004

Scott Farley          2006

Ken Dixon            2007

Adam Baer           2008, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2017

Terry Miller          2009

Greg Bruff            2012, 2015

Jerred Poff            2013

Mike Spangler     2016

Eric Smith            2018, 2021

Ritchie Wolfe       2019

Reach Barry Sparks at sports@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ydsports.