Was there any doubt Baton Rouge would be a great host for the 2017 USBC women’s championship? Tournament director James O’Connor said he didn’t have a doubt back in April, and he was just as impressed with the host city as the tournament ended.
Close to 4,500 four-member teams and their families were in town for the event, which ran from April 23 to July 10 on specially installed lanes at the exhibit hall in the Raising Cane's River Center, and another thousand or so bowlers and families were here for several high school, college and professional events during that time.
That should leave the city tax coffers satisfied, since the bowlers also spent time in restaurants, hotels and other attractions during their visit. That’s where O’Connor, in his second year as women’s tournament director, has seen Baton Rouge succeed as a USBC host three times in a 12-year period.
“I had worked the open championship for several years and worked Baton Rouge in 2012,” O’Connor said moments after the final shot was rolled last week. “We had a great time. I was anticipating having a great time, and Baton Rouge has not failed to deliver. The ladies loved it. They truly got their dose of southern hospitality, and we heard it from them all the time. … That’s really it. The ladies love (Baton Rouge). For me, when I’m running the event every day, I can’t get out and enjoy the area. But we do love it here. The team members love it. They couldn’t wait to come here.
“I’ve already talked to the folks at the open championships. They can’t wait for 2025 to come, even though that’s way off in the future. Everybody from the brass of the city to the folks at Visit Baton Rouge to the people at the River Center have been great. They have made this incredibly easy for us and supported us more than 100 percent.”
And while there have been multiple, and I mean multiple, Facebook discussion threads about the unknown lane patterns, the prize fund, the venue and everything else involved in the open in Las Vegas, there has been little of that here, and that’s why this event is a little different.
“It is amazing,” O’Connor said. “You will get Diamond division bowlers (the top averages), and you may have a Topaz bowler (the lowest average division) next to them. The best part is how well they get along with each other. It’s not, 'I’m better than you.' It’s a bunch of ladies going out and having a good time. Competing is important, but it’s almost secondary in many cases. The camaraderie and the friendship, that’s probably more important.”
I admit, by the end of the event, it just didn’t seem that important what the oil pattern was.
“That really does speak to our demographic, and that they are really here to have a good time,” O’Connor said. “The host city, the food, the time they spend together — that’s what is important. I’m not saying they don’t come to compete, because they definitely do, but it’s not first and foremost in their minds. That wasn’t a concern.”
As you saw if you read our top 10 last week, this event turned into a festival of the sport, showcasing high school, college, professional and, frankly, your basic league bowlers. That’s what really made this event so entertaining.
Now having had the chance to cover four of these here, including the past three at the River Center, this one had a lot of memories, and certainly the opportunity to cover major moments was something special. Thanks to all the people who worked the tournament and were so helpful to me and all the bowlers. Nice job, indeed.
Hate to say it, but 2025 can’t get here soon enough.
In all the changes happening on the leaderboard at the event on the final day, we missed one of the fine performance in all-events from Tulane grad assistant coach Jessica Cwik. In the Emerald division, Cwik posted 1,679 to finish fourth, adding to the many good finishes by area bowlers. … A lot of local bowlers are headed to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, for the annual Emerald Coast tournament. A big group will be there at the end of the month. … No Tap Doubles is the game for Monday’s next-to-last weekly tournament at All-Star Lanes at 6 and 8 p.m.
Honor roll highlights
T. J Wheeler at Premier Lanes shot 771 and a 300 game to lead things in the city over the past two weeks, while Sarah Broussard posted a very nice 741 at All-Star to lead the women. Easton Hollis shot 688 to lead youth leagues, while Jerry Delatte’s 728 led the senior leagues.
With this week’s column, we end our weekly USBC tournament coverage. We will return to joining you every other Tuesday starting Aug. 1, the official start of the 2017-18 bowling season and a year away from permanent change for Louisiana’s bowling associations. That’s a story for future columns. Until then, good luck and good bowling.