SPRING HILL – Many signs pointed to a high-scoring Spring Hill Open this weekend.
The Sunday prior to the 26th annual Professional Bowlers Association South Region event at Spring Hill Lanes, sponsored by neighboring Crystal Automotive, a sweeper was held utilizing the same Chameleon oil pattern as in the pro tournament.
Scores went through the roof that day, and that trend continued in Friday’s pro-am.
It came as little surprise, then, that the pros combined to post seven 300 games and maintained an ultra-high scoring pace throughout the weekend.
St. Petersburg’s Sean Riccardi came away with the tournament crown thanks to his 256-214 victory over Dustin Ochoa of Carrollton, Texas in the stepladder final Sunday afternoon.
However, Spring Hill’s Jason Mahr, who had won this event previously in 2007 and ’12, paced three locals who cashed by advancing to the second day.
Mahr, who had one of the perfect games in the tournament, sat in seventh after Saturday’s eight games with a total of 1,952 – for a 244 average – to easily finish among the top 16 that moved on.
Anthony Caso, also of Spring Hill, ranked fourth through the qualifying round with a 2,021 (252 average) and fellow Spring Hill resident Chris Polizzi took eighth at 1,942 (242).
Tacking on 12 games of round robin match play Sunday morning, Caso finished seventh, upping this total to 5,013 while going 5-6-1.
That put him ahead of Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr., the Ocala resident and PBA all-time wins and money leader who had placed second at Spring Hill the past two years.
Williams was 12th through qualifying (1,908) and wound up eighth at 4.975, going 8-4 in match play.
Polizzi ended up 10th at 4,958, compiling a 6-6 mark. He collected $560, while Caso brought home $650.
As for Mahr, who went 8-3-1 through that initial match play, he made it through to the four-man stepladder final, seeded second due to a 5,223 that was behind only Riccardi’s 5,476.
In a microcosm of the tournament, the opening game of the stepladder saw two-time champion Tom Daugherty roll a 279, yet inexplicably lose to Ochoa’s 299.
Ochoa kept his hot streak going by defeating Mahr, 277-214.
Still, Mahr, who won $1,000, came away pleasantly surprised with his performance, admitting he had only put in a couple weeks of practice leading up.
“I knew after the practice session that it was going to be extremely high scoring and mentally I was prepared for that,” Mahr said. “Even though this condition wasn’t difficult, the mental grind of it was. I think personally being in these positions before throughout my career I know what my focus needs to be in order to succeed, but that doesn’t always mean you will strike automatically. If it’s meant to be, then it will happen.
“It means a lot no matter where you bowl, but to do it in front of the home crowd is always a little more exciting and gratifying.”
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Riccardi, who shot three 300 games over the weekend, struck in each of the first five frames of the championship match to get out in front of Ochoa and stayed there.
“Dustin just caught a little transition; the oil was carrying down a little bit,” Riccardi said. “I wasn’t going to tell him to make a ball change. He should have made a ball change in there, but I’m thankful he didn’t. He bowled a great game. He just got a couple bad breaks. Lucky for me I got the good breaks.”
After Ochoa converted a one-pin spare in the ninth, Riccardi struck in his ninth to seal the title, his second on the regional tour.
“I’m just having fun with it,” Riccardi said. “I knew the lanes they were very playable, a little soft. I knew when I didn’t strike; I didn’t try to get mad because I knew the big games were going to come. Just try not to shoot a 180 game because you’re going to lose a lot of ground on the field if you did that.
“I just try not to think about it. I knew the scores were going to be high. I was trying not to pay attention to my opponent because you know they’re going to strike and throw a couple of errant shots and get away with it.”
Among other Spring Hill bowlers, Victor Oliver took 31st (1,832) and Tom Bosquez Jr. placed 43rd (1,765).
In the pro-am, bowled under a 9-pin no-tap format, Clinton Washington won the Regular Division, benefitting from a perfect combined 900 series by his pros and adding a 762 himself, with a 300 in the third game. His total was 1,662.
Barry Riebau, who also got a 900 from the pros, took the Senior Division (age 55 and older) with a 1,696.
Jenna Williams won the Junior Division (131 average and up) with a 1,682, featuring a 300 and 298 in the second and third games respectively, and Tyler O’Mara captured the Junior Division (130 and below) behind a 1,740.
26th annual PBA South Crystal Automotive Spring Hill Open
Through qualifying round (8 games, top 16 advanced)
Pl. Name, Hometown Pins Avg.
1. Scott Newell, DeLand 2,156 269.50
2. Cody Mullis, Crystal River 2,091 261.38
3. Sean Riccardi, St. Petersburg 2,088 261.00
4. Anthony Caso, Spring Hill 2,021 252.63
7. Jason Mahr, Spring Hill 1,952 244.00
8. Chris Polizzi, Spring Hill 1,942 242.75
12. Walter Ray Williams Jr., Ocala 1,908 238.50
31. Victor Oliver, Spring Hill 1,832 229.00
43. Tom Bosquez Jr., Spring Hill 1,765 220.63
Through match play (12 games, qualifying scores carried over, top four advanced)
Pl. Name, Hometown Pins W-L
1. Sean Riccardi, St. Petersburg 5,476 10-2
2. Jason Mahr, Spring Hill 5,223 8-3-1
3. Dustin Ochoa, Carrollton, Texas 5,215 8-4
4. Tom Daugherty, Wesley Chapel 5,195 6-6
7. Anthony Caso, Spring Hill 5,013 5-6-1
8. Walter Ray Williams Jr., Ocala 4,975 8-4
10. Chris Polizzi, Spring Hill 4,958 6-6
No. 3 Ochoa def. No. 4 Daugherty, 299-279
Ochoa def. 2. Mahr, 277-214
No. 1 Riccardi def. Ochoa, 256-214
Spring Hill Open Champions
- Compiled by CHRIS BERNHARDT JR.
Year Winner Hometown
1989 D.B. Van Horn Atlanta, Ga.
1990 Jeff Bellinger Columbia, S.C.
1991 Mark Salka Tampa, Fl.
1992 Joe Viscomi New London, N.C.
1993 Bob Handley Tampa, Fl.
1994 Jason Couch Clermont, Fl.
1995 Darin Hays Tampa, Fl.
1996 Darin Hays Tampa, Fl.
1997 Jason Couch Clermont, Fl.
1998 Steve Hoskins Tampa, Fl.
1999 Darin Hays Tampa, Fl.
2000 Darin Hays Tampa, Fl.
2001 Don DuPree Fort Walton Beach, Fl.
2002 Walter Ray Williams Jr. Ocala, Fl.
2003 Roger Bowker Ocala, Fl.
2004 Ritchie Allen Columbia, S.C.
2005 Gary Morgan Atlanta, Ga.
2006 Tom Daugherty Wesley Chapel, Fl.
2007 Jason Mahr Spring Hill, Fl.
2008 Tom Daugherty Wesley Chapel, Fl.
2009 Vernon Peterson Winter Haven, Fl.
2010 Richard Langton Tallahassee, Fl.
2011 Mike Williams II Montgomery, Ala.
2012 Jason Mahr Spring Hill, Fl.
2013 Connor Pickford Charlotte, N.C.
2014 Sean Riccardi St. Petersburg, Fl.