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Defending USBC Open All-Events Winner Shoots Big Again

Matt McNiel of Chanhassen, Minn., arrived at the 2011 USBC Open Championships with his sights set on becoming the first bowler in history to win back-to-back all-events titles, and with one frame to go Monday night, that still was a possibility.

The 25-year-old left-hander averaged more than 252 in his first eight games at the National Bowling Stadium and stepped up needing one more strike to catapult himself back into the Regular All-Events lead. While he admits that he thrives on pressure, an errant shot left him with a 4-6-7 split and no chance of a second straight title.

McNiel finished with a 2,241 all-events total and settled into second place behind Ray Edwards of Middle Island, N.Y., who holds the top spot with 2,258. Last year, McNiel took home the all-events crown with a record score of 2,326.

"Coming into doubles and singles, I knew what I needed to do," said McNiel, who kicked things off this year with a 745 series in team Sunday night. "Things went really well today, and I put myself in a position to get it done. I've never been as nervous as I was in the 10th frame, but I love the pressure. You strive for that opportunity every time you put your bowling shoes on, and this time, I just didn't execute."

Although he fell short of one goal, McNiel turned in another record-setting performance that included a 300 game and 822 series in doubles as he helped Linds Cedarvale 2 of Eagan, Minn., sneak into the Team All-Events lead with a 10,027 total. All six games Monday were broadcast live on Cambridge 1 of Feeding Hills, Mass., previously held the lead with 10,023.

"You're not always going to get up and perform when you need to, but I feel grateful to have had the opportunity," said McNiel, who closed out his 2011 tournament campaign with a 674 singles set. "I may not be leading all-events, but this was an incredible experience, and I'm going away with so much. Take some of the attention away from me, and remember that we're leading Team All-Events. My teammates supported me the whole way, but they bowled great, too. That's the real story."

Jason Barnhouse added a 2,065 all-events total for Linds Cedarvale 2 and was followed by Matt Meyer (1,970), Brent Prentice (1,924) and Carl Fietek (1,827).

Fietek and Barnhouse also moved into third place in Regular Doubles with 1,440, while McNiel and Clayton Mohr are ninth with 1,418. The team also is eighth overall with 3,279. Charles Surina of Bolingbrook, Ill., and Bill Guszczo of Orland Park, Ill., lead doubles with 1,447, and Brian Brazeau Pro Shop of Ocala, Fla., tops the team standings with 3,439.

All of McNiel's recent success at the Open Championships has come with the same bowling ball, which he immediately put into a display case in his bedroom following last year's performance. He decided to break it out for his trip to the 2011 event, however, and ended up using it for the first eight and a half games.

McNiel now is one of only two bowlers in Open Championships history (the other is John Socha of Oak Creek, Wis.) with two 800 series on the championship lanes, and he is one of 28 bowlers who own both a 300 game and 800 series at the tournament. McNiel rolled a 299 game on the way to an 806 singles series last year.

This year marked McNiel's fifth trip to the Open Championships. In his first three appearances, he averaged 206.9. Over his last 18 tournament games, he has averaged 253.7 and brought his career mark up to 225.6.

"I absolutely love this tournament and all of its traditions, and I'm so fortunate for the success I've had here," McNiel said. "It has been an incredible couple of years, and now I'm excited to share the attention with my teammates. I couldn't have accomplished any of this without them."

by Matt Cannizarro and Emil Williams Jr.
USBC Communications
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