In the past three years, my column has come up in The Advocate literally hours after I have finished bowling in the USBC Open Championship.

I think it is good I have had a week to think about my trip to El Paso for this year’s event. It’s given me time to think through what I want to say.

First of all, El Paso has done a tremendous job hosting the tournament and the convention center is a very special venue. There are 52 competition lanes plus 10 lanes for practice and the Bowler’s Journal event.

Here’s a trivia question: There are actually 63 and a half lanes in the building. The half-lane is in the photo area of the squad room and between the Showcase and Competition Lane is a hidden lane where the Kegel conditioning machines are tested prior to putting the shot down on the lanes.

People in the city were very friendly and frankly, the thing I liked most was they knew there was a tournament in town and made the effort to make everyone feel welcome.

Bowling wise? Now let’s get the facts on the table. I’m a 170-something average bowler in the classified division. I know the thinking as to why the decision was made to put a shot down that was tougher and different than the past couple of years in Reno. I also know a tough sport condition versus my spare shooting and shot making do not match up in any way, shape or form. I also realize that I am about to make a comment that my friends at USBC may not be enamored with:

The shot at the USBC Open is too darn hard for me and I think it may be pretty hard for the majority of bowlers in the classified division.

Here’s another point I would like to make: Why would I want to average over 180 any more in league if I have to bowl in the upper average division when I go bowl nationals? The chances in the other division aren’t there for me. Will I think about what I’m averaging next season in league if it comes to that point? I don’t know that answer and maybe the answer should be I hope not.

I averaged 137 for nine games out there and I’m lucky to have averaged that. I can’t explain it. I know the trip is primarily a vacation for me to enjoy the city, but being a little bit competitive would be nice. That wasn’t competitive. It was personally embarrassing. But if that’s what it is, I certainly can accept that it’s a nice break from work with a lot of good people and I’ll just go throw the ball and see what happens. But, being a little competitive wouldn’t hurt.

The bigger question is what will the USBC Open look like when it comes to Baton Rouge in 2025? No one can begin to guess. Will teams still be five members? Will there be more than two divisions? Will entries top 6,000?

One fascinating thing is that even though tournament teams are down to around 7,300 unofficially, entries at the Bowler’s Journal event on site and the BTM/No Tap at Bowl El Paso are up significantly. The Bowl El Paso events are already nearing double entries this year from the last two. The BJ is almost wall-to-wall entries every shift. That’s a good thing to see because side tournaments are also a part of the bowling trip experience (full disclosure: didn’t bowl any better in those either).

So let’s see: good trip, good venue, good to see old friends, good food, bad bowling. That’s four positives and a negative which means I’ll see you in Reno next year. Why not?

Spare notes

All-Star Lanes had its league bowlers appreciation day Sunday and Duke Koontz and Mary Mansur were named their bowlers of the year … Also, the house announced the recipients of the Walt Hilborn Memorial Scholarships for youth bowlers and it’s a well-deserving group:

Chad Conard, Averi Laughlin ($400 each), Nicholas Stevens, Bailee Chapman ($200 each) and Jarryd Cornelious, Austin Bertrand, Ashley Hewes and Alanna Coward ($75 each).

Honor roll

John Amedee led the scoring with an 803 series and a 299 game, while Bernadine Thompson (279-745), Tristan Senegal (704-268) and Cheletta Arthur (703-277) were all over 700 for the ladies. Jarryd Cornelious had the best youth set of 653 with a 256, while Roland LeGleux (660) and Diane Smith (597) led in the senior leagues.

Darrin Senegal just missed perfection at Circle with a 298, while Ron Gathercole at Premier had 11 strikes in a 290 game. Senior bowler Ron Lokken had a good day as he finished 50 pins over average.

Back with you in two weeks on May 26. Until then, good luck and good bowling.