LAS VEGAS (June 10, 2019) – Boosted by a 300 game, defending champion Mika Koivuniemi of Finland, began his Suncoast PBA Senior U.S. Open title defense Monday at the Suncoast Bowling Center with the first-round lead in the season’s third major for players 50 and over.
The PBA Hall of Famer, who was inducted into the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame in May, bowled a 1,465 six-game pinfall total (244 average) with games of 203, 253, 300, 229, 234 and 246 to hold a 63-pin lead over fellow countryman Kimmo Lehtonen in second with 1,402.
“I don’t think I bowled 10 bad shots the whole round and when you do that it makes everything else easier,” said the 52-year-old Koivuniemi, who owns three Go Bowling! PBA Tour major titles including the 2001 U.S. Open. “I was able to use the same ball and the main adjustment I had to make was in the middle of the first game when I started putting more forward roll on the ball which helped me carry the 10 pins.
“I could tell by the third or fourth frame of the third game I had a really good shot and it was probably going to be a matter of just kicking out the 10 pins and a 300 was certainly going to be possible,” the 14-time PBA Tour winner added.
As top qualifier for the stepladder finals, Koivuniemi won the 2018 Senior U.S. Open by defeating Brian Kretzer of Dayton, Ohio, 259-237, in the title match for his first PBA50 Tour win.
Because of his commitments as the head bowling coach for the United Arab Emirates national bowling team, the Senior U.S. Open is the only PBA event Koivuniemi plans to bowl this year.
“For the past two months I started practicing regularly about three or four games a day, five or six games a week to get ready,” he said. “Nothing very strenuous – just enough to stay in good playing shape.”
Rounding out the top five after the first round were Jeff Johnson, Freeport, Illinois, 1,358; Don Moser, Menifee, California, 1,347, and PBA Hall of Famer and 2011 Senior U.S. Open winner Ron Mohr, Las Vegas, 1,327.
A day after winning the USBC Senior Masters for his fifth PBA50 major and ninth career title, PBA Hall of Famer Amleto Monacelli is in 20th place after the first round with a 1,276 pinfall bowling games of 211, 198, 224, 193, 222 and 228.
The 57-year-old Monacelli, who is trying to become the Senior U.S. Open’s first three-time champion after winning back-to-back in 2012 and 2013, says he has had to put the Senior Masters win out of his mind in preparation for the U.S. Open.
“I need to refocus my mental concentration and keep my emotions stable,” said Monacelli, a 20-time PBA Tour winner. “There’s a lot of talent and experience out here (on the PBA50 Tour) so for me it comes down to the mental game, trusting my instincts and just figuring out how to win. Sometimes I’m so focused, I don’t even know what frame I’m in.”
Former Major League All-Star pitcher John Burkett, who has a best finish of ninth this season that came in the Northern California Classic, withdrew after the second game with a knee injury.
The Senior U.S. Open – the season’s final major – is streamed live in its entirety by PBA’s streaming partner FloBowling. For subscription and schedule information visit www.flobowling.com.
Qualifying continues Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with six-game rounds beginning at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. PT. The field will then be cut to the top 38 players for match play which will begins Friday at 8 a.m. After Friday’s second match play round at noon, the top five players will be determined for the stepladder finals scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.