|3-Time DPBA Tour Champ, Bernie Hipkins|
Bernie Hipkins of Frederick, Maryland has steadily been making a name for himself on the Duckpin Professional Bowlers Association, as he recently bagged his 3rd pro tour victory in a little more than a year's time. The tall and lanky right-hander captured his latest star at Johnson's Lanes in Connecticut over Stewartstown, PA's Mark Callahan, denying Callahan in his bid for back-to-back tour wins. And Bernie did it in dramatic fashion by the narrowest of margins in a 1-pin victory that went down to the last ball of the tournament.
The tour at Johnson's featured a ladder that was somewhat of a mixed bag, showcasing some little-seen faces as well as veterans of the stepladder format.
In the opening contest of the 4-match ladder, Severn, Maryland's Chuck Paris faced the wildcard—a favorite of the College Park, Maryland area, Tony Zangla.
Zangla's story is quite a sensational one, as he hasn't bowled any leagues for over 10 years, and only recently—within the past year or two—has he returned to tournament play.
Remarkably, Tony led the entire contingent of participants in the preliminary round with an awesome score of 1301, which was comprised of eight consistent and superior games—165, 168, 158, 154, 154, 187, 151, and 164—all at an unfamiliar bowling center that's 300 miles away from his home. Zangla maintained his poise on the final day with a pinfall total of 787, which led to his 4-1 match play record, landing him in the eventual wildcard position.
In the opening match, Paris, knowing the capability of his opponent, was immediately on his game, and outscored the tough Zangla, 166-146.
In the second matchup of the ladder, it was a battle of the big boys in terms of height—Chuck Paris vs. Bernie Hipkins—with both players topping the 6 foot mark. The first 3 frames would ultimately prove to be the difference in the match on the heels of Bernie opening with a spare and then a double-header, compared to Chuck's opening strike followed by 2 open frames. Hipkins had a 68-38 lead after 3 boxes, and although Paris cut the lead in half by the 6th frame, Bernie resurged to reclaim a 30-pin advantage at game's end, 171-141.
Hipkins then faced the 2nd seed, John (T.) Zikis, who was undefeated in match play with a resounding 829 pinfall total. Again, Hipkins started at a torrid pace, with 3 spares and then a double-header. Zikis fought back valiantly, but Bernie continued to mark up through the 8th frame, and was able to coast at the end, winning 187-142.
The finale for the championship was most intriguing. On the one hand, there was the top seed, Mark Callahan, who had won the Labor Day tour stop from a month prior, and was hungry to repeat as DPBA champion. Callahan had posted a whopping 834 total in pinfall in a tough division that included 5 bowlers who scored over 800 in the semi-final round. Then there was Hipkins, who was sharp and not showing any signs of letting up. Both bowlers had 2 career DPBA tour wins coming into the match, so it was going to be a classic case of the irresistible force vs. the immovable object.
With the final match underway, neither bowler was about to give an inch. Hipkins opened fast with 2 spares, but Callahan hung tough, and trailed by 3 pins after 4 frames. Bernie added a strike and 2 spares in frames 5 through 7, but Mark answered with a double in the 6th and 7th boxes, and trimmed the lead back down to a 2-pin advantage for Hipkins after 8. Bernie proceeded to post an open frame in 9th box, and the veteran Callahan took advantage, capturing the lead with a strike in his half of the foundation frame. In the 10th box, however, Mark met with misfortune, but managed to count the maximum—9 on the strike and 10 out, for a 140 score. Hipkins had 122 after 9 boxes, and from a mathematical standpoint, the task was simple—he needed a mark and 9 to claim victory.
With tension at its highest point for the day, the cool-headed Hipkins took his time and delivered a good, but high hit that momentarily left the 6-7 split. But a delayed kick-out on the 6 pin left him a lone single pin spare attempt as his next order of business. Hipkins was solid and covered the 7-pin full. The all-important count ball was all that was left to close out the tournament for Bernie.
Again, Hipkins was methodical in his setup, approach, and delivery, and planted the final shot firmly in the pocket for a quick 9 drop, to nip Callahan, 141-140 in a thrilling finish.
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