The 26th annual Spring Hill Open, a stop for the PBA Southern Region tour, is back this weekend at Spring Hill Lanes.
The tournament features up-and-coming professionals and established PBA veterans looking to stay sharp in the summer. Competition starts today and runs through Sunday, with an estimated top prize of $2,500.
The tourney previously has drawn PBA Hall of Famers Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Jason Couch, along with current tour standouts such as Rhino Page, Patrick Allen, Dick Allen, Tom Daugherty, Tommy Jones, and Jason Sterner.
Daugherty, a Wesley Chapel resident who owns the pro shop at Hudson Bowl, is one of three multiple winners of the Open, capturing titles in 2006 and 2008. Another is fellow local Jason Mahr. The Spring Hill resident became the first and only hometown bowler to win in 2007, then followed it up with the championship in 2012.
"There's a lot less pressure going into a regional with a win under your belt," Mahr said. "I remember bowling regional (tournaments) before I won (in 2007) and the pressure was always there because you want to win that first one so bad. When it happens, the weight that comes off your shoulders is indescribable."
Darin Hays, who lives in Wesley Chapel, holds the event record with four titles (1995, 1996, 1999, 2000). The 51-year-old still competes from time to time and was the Day 1 and Day 2 leader at the PBA50 Pasco County Open at Lane Glo Lanes in Port Richey, ahead of Williams, Parker Bohn III and Norm Duke.
Last year's victor, 2012 PBA South Rookie of the Year Connor Pickford, is expected to return to defend his crown against some of the toughest in the sport. Locals vying to become the next area winner include Vic Oliver and 2010 PBA South Rookie of the Year Chris Polizzi, both qualifying via the Spring Hill Sweeper last weekend.
Mahr is expected to return to the field along with Anthony Caso and Thomas Bosquez Jr.
"Growing up as kids, Caso, Polizzi and I all wanted to win the regional," Mahr said. "The honor scores with talented bowlers are inevitable but winning regionals doesn't come as frequently. It's something that we truly dream about, and on the weekend of the regionals, thinking about winning can keep you up all night."
In addition to the featured competition Saturday and Sunday, today's pro-am accompanies the lone professional sporting event to come to Hernando County every year.
"This is the moment where PBA Hall of Fame members, nationally ranked players, regional standouts and the best in local talent lay it all out on the line and see who brought their A game," Spring Hill Lanes owner Carlos Martins said. "If you are a bowling fan, this is a must-see event."