Those who pay a visit to Spring Hill Lanes this weekend should notice something different.
As part of a major remodel taking place over the past few weeks, the local bowling center has installed 46-inch flat-screen monitors on their lanes, as well as 22 extra monitors between each pair of lanes for the purpose of advertising and general television watching.
That goes along with redone bathrooms, as well as fresh lane surfaces and approaches on the horizon.
This weekend’s 26th annual Spring Hill Open, a PBA South Region event sponsored by neighboring Crystal Automotive Group, will offer a glimpse into Spring Hill Lanes’ revitalized look.
“We’re undergoing a lot of changes,” co-owner Carlos Martins said. “Things are a little hectic, but progress is being made.
“Though all the changes are not done, you can begin to see the modification that has started. If bowlers are not bowling in the summer, when they come in for the fall they’ll be in for a big change.”
One thing won’t change at this year’s tournament, the presence of perhaps the sport’s biggest name, Walter Ray Williams Jr.
The PBA’s all-time leader in wins and earnings, the Ocala resident won at Spring Hill back in 2002, and has finished second each of the past two years.
“We’re fortunate that he does come,” Martins said. “Hopefully that sparks customer interest and if we let people know he’s coming we can get a good crowd to watch.”
There’ll also be an opportunity to bowl with Williams, as well as the other pros, in Friday’s pro-am tournament.
Three squad times are available: 2, 4 and 7:30 p.m. The cost is $20 for the Junior Division, $30 for the Senior Division (age 55 and older) and $35 for the Regular Division.
Trophies will be awarded in all three divisions, as well as cash for Regular and Senior.
This will be a 9-pin no-tap tournament, meaning whenever bowlers knock down at least nine pins on the first shot they will be credited with a strike. Pros will rotate lanes over the course of three games.
“We’re expecting about the same type of turnout. We’re expecting around 200 participants,” Martins said. “I am a little disappointed that the pro turnout for Saturday and Sunday is down a little bit. But we’re hoping that doesn’t put a damper on it.”
Unlike in years past, Saturday’s opening round of the pro tournament will only feature one squad bowling eight games starting at 10 a.m.
The top 16 will advance to round robin match play Sunday at 9 a.m., then the top four will move on a stepladder final.
As of Thursday, 68 bowlers had signed up, including Tom Daugherty, a two time champion in 2006 and ’08 with one national title to his credit, and Scott Newell, another bowler who has won a tournament crown on the PBA Tour.
Defending champ Connor Pickford of Charlotte, North Carolina and the region’s current points leader, was not among those confirmed, though the entry list won’t be finalized until the last minute.
Region manager Sam Zurich admits the recent downward trend of regional entries has continued this season.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Zurich said. “My senior events, the entries are pretty good. My regular events, entries have been down a little bit and it may have something to do with the economy.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher for these guys. The travel expenses go up and up and there are not a lot of breaks. We’ve had a tremendous host at Spring Hill Lanes. The Martins family has been the absolute best host you can ask for, for 25 or so years.”
Spring Hill resident Jason Mahr, tournament champion in 2007 and ’12, joins a contingent of locals participating, including Anthony Caso, Victor Oliver and Chris Polizzi.
Polizzi gained entry by winning this past Sunday’s sweeper at Spring Hill Lanes, a tournament that saw numerous high scores on the same Chameleon pattern bowlers will see this weekend.
Polizzi won with a 1,537 total across six games, ahead of Oliver with 1,475 and Widmar Vargas with a 1,449. All three were awarded a spot this weekend.
“We had a very good turnout for the sweeper,” Martins said. “It has been quite a few years since we’ve seen that many. They shot very well on the Chameleon program, so I expect the pace to be high-scoring.”
“The Chameleon, when played properly, it can break down to be a very high-scoring pattern,” Zurich said. “I’m very optimistic about what I heard about the sweeper. The scores were good, which means guys were playing the shot correctly. If that’s any indication, we should have a great event.”
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.