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Bay area native wins bowling title

SPRING HILL — The Professional Bowlers Association has made its way to town every year for more than two decades, and sometimes one fact gets overlooked: The PBA's Spring Hill Open is the lone regular pro sporting event in Hernando County.

The 22nd annual tournament last weekend at Spring Hill Lanes featured all of the festivities that fans have come to expect.

From the pro-am, where the pros dazzled local bowlers to start off the weekend, to the crowds that turned out to watch the lively head-to-head matches in the finals, Spring Hill Lanes proprietors Carlos and George Martins were beaming with pride at how everything went.

In the end, it was Richard Langton of Tallahassee who walked away with the regional title.

A St. Petersburg native, Langton has been competing in this tournament since 1994, and his father competed in it before him. He has three professional titles to his credit, but this was his first since 2007. The 35-year-old was especially excited to win one close to where he grew up.

"The sound of the pins falling here is familiar," Langton said. "There's something about walking into this center that is different from the others."

Langton's road to the championship was not an easy one. In the finals, he squared off with Trip Roberts of Richmond, Va. Roberts finished with the highest pin total of the tournament (5,182), but his tough bracket finally seemed to catch up with him during his match with Langton.

Roberts broke out to a fast start, striking on five of his first six balls, but Langton continued to hang around, marking in almost every frame. When the strikes stopped for Roberts, they began for Langton. He struck eight times in a row to win 246 to 236.

"It's easier to come from behind because you have nothing to lose," Langton said. "Your muscles aren't tight."

Roberts couldn't survive back-to-back grinders for the title. He had just been in a tough match against A.J. Rice of Salem, Ala., in the semifinals. In that single-game elimination, the tables were turned.

Rice, the lone two-handed bowler in the field, made things difficult on Roberts and forced him to come from behind. Needing a strike on the second-to-last ball in the 10th frame, Roberts defeated Rice 234 to 227 to qualify for the championship match.

It was Roberts' third second-place finish of the season, a bittersweet feeling for the pro with a history of success in his family. His older brother, Kip Roberts, is a 10-time champion on tour.

"I'm always the bridesmaid and never the bride, I guess," Roberts said, "but there were a lot of adjustments I had to make today. Nothing came easy."

What makes the Spring Hill stop on the tour exciting for the pros is the fan and spectator support they receive. Many claim that it's unlike anywhere else. While the economy has hurt the sport, which depends on out-of-pocket entries, there is still a solid amount of interest in the Spring Hill championship.

"This is what you practice for, and this is what you bowl for," Roberts said. "You don't see this kind of interest in what we're doing up in Virginia."

Only three years ago, there were close to 200 participants in the tournament; this year the number was down to 92. Even last year's champion, Vernon Peterson of Winter Haven, didn't return to defend his crown.

Among those who were in this year's field, however, was Jason Mahr of Spring Hill. Mahr, who currently competes only part time, won the Spring Hill Open in 2007 — the only local bowler to ever do so. This year, he finished 33rd (1,730).

Chris Polizzi of Spring Hill, the 2009 PBA Southern Region Tour Rookie of the Year, made it to the brackets and was defeated by Rice. He finished 15th and won $600 as the top local bowler.

PBA Spring Hill Open champions

1989 D.B. Van Horn Atlanta, Ga.

1990 Jeff Bellinger Columbia, S.C.

1991 Mark Salka Tampa

1992 Joe Viscomi New London, N.C.

1993 Bob Handley Tampa

1994 Jason Couch Clermont

1995 Darin Hays Tampa

1996 Darin Hays Tampa

1997 Jason Couch Clermont

1998 Steve Hoskins Tampa

1999 Darin Hays Tampa

2000 Darin Hays Tampa

2001 Don DuPree Fort Walton Beach

2002 Walter Ray Williams Jr. Ocala

2003 Roger Bowker Ocala

2004 Ritchie Allen Columbia, S.C.

2005 Gary Morgan Atlanta, Ga.

2006 Tom Daugherty Wesley Chapel

2007 Jason Mahr Spring Hill

2008 Tom Daugherty Wesley Chapel

2009 Vernon Peterson Winter Haven

2010 Richard Langton Tallahassee

2010 Spring Hill Open standings

1. Richard Langton, Tallahassee 5,137 $2,500

2. Trip Roberts, Richmond, Va. 5,182 $1,300

3. A.J. Rice, Salem, Ala. 4,710 $900

4. Brandon Baker, Tempe, Ariz. 4,419 $900

15. Chris Polizzi, Spring Hill 3,506 $600

17. Bill Huckvale, Hudson 2,920 $425

33. Jason Mahr, Spring Hill 1,730

35. Kevin Williams, Brooksville 1,716 $250

73. Shay Weeks, Spring Hill 1,542

77. Tom Bosquez Sr., Hudson 1,521

79. Charles Sonnenblick, Spring Hill 1,514

90. Frank Billy, Spring Hill 1,339

92. Kun Yu Chen, Spring Hill 1,199

PBA Spring Hill Open champions

1989D.B. Van HornAtlanta, Ga.
1990Jeff BellingerColumbia, S.C.
1991Mark SalkaTampa
1992Joe ViscomiNew London, N.C.
1993Bob HandleyTampa
1994Jason CouchClermont
1995Darin HaysTampa
1996Darin HaysTampa
1997Jason CouchClermont
1998Steve HoskinsTampa
1999Darin HaysTampa
2000Darin HaysTampa
2001Don DuPreeFort Walton Beach
2002Walter Ray Williams Jr.Ocala
2003Roger BowkerOcala
2004Ritchie AllenColumbia, S.C.
2005Gary MorganAtlanta, Ga.
2006Tom DaughertyWesley Chapel
2007Jason MahrSpring Hill
2008Tom DaughertyWesley Chapel
2009Vernon PetersonWinter Haven
2010Richard LangtonTallahassee

2010 Spring Hill Open standings

1. Richard Langton, Tallahassee5,137$2,500
2. Trip Roberts, Richmond, Va.5,182$1,300
3. A.J. Rice, Salem, Ala.4,710$900
4. Brandon Baker, Tempe, Ariz.4,419$900
15. Chris Polizzi, Spring Hill3,506$600
17. Bill Huckvale, Hudson2,920$425
33. Jason Mahr, Spring Hill1,730
35. Kevin Williams, Brooksville1,716$250
73. Shay Weeks, Spring Hill1,542
77. Tom Bosquez Sr., Hudson1,521
79. Charles Sonnenblick, Spring Hill1,514
90. Frank Billy, Spring Hill1,339
92. Kun Yu Chen, Spring Hill1,199

Bay area native wins bowling title 08/11/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 8:21pm]
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