|Mt. Airy Bowling Lanes proprietor and PWPT champ, Joe Rineer|
During the weekend of May 14-16, 2011 at Southside Bowl in Hagerstown, MD, the Pop Whitten Pro Tour played host to what many would consider the most unique matchup of the year. Not that the bowlers are of 2 different breeds, but the final contest featured players who parallel each other in many ways.
In a match-up of what today's media might mistakenly refer to as "old-timer's day", the truth of the matter is that it was a matchup of 2 veterans who have kept their skills honed over time to where each bowler's current capability would be 'the prime' of the majority of today's up and coming bowlers. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 years of bowling experience between the two of them, this was truly a contest of experience. Ironically, this was also a battle of bowling proprietors, as the eventual champion of the event, Mt. Airy Bowling Lanes owner, Joe Rineer, took on the top seed, Dale Gustavson, who owns and operates Luray Lanes in Luray, VA. The prospect of Mary- land vs. Virginia was just another side issue that made the matchup even more intriguing.
But It wasn't "reputations of years past" that brought these two into the finals—they bowled their way to that point. Admittedly, both are sexagenarians (athletes in their sixties), but at the rate they're going, it'll conceivably be another couple of decades before they're ready to step down from the competitive ranks.
A field of 92 entrants made up the tournament. In addition to the prestige of bowling for a 'star' on the Pop Whitten tour, the Southside stop was a timely event as it was great preparation for the bowlers who would compete in Turner's "World Classic", which would occur 2 weeks later in the same bowling center.
The opening match featured a clash between Waldorf, MD's James Simon against Hagerstown's Jim Mitchell. As is often the case in stepladder finals after the short delay upon conclusion of 'divisional play', both bowlers were slow to get their bearings. Simon did open the contest with a strike to gain the early edge, but Mitchell captured an eventual 2-pin lead with a spare in the 2nd. It was at this point that both contestants struggled a bit. By the 5th frame, Simon had used a spare with a low count to ease back in front by a pin. Simon later struck in the 7th, but Mitchell answered the call in the 8th with a spare, and regained the lead by 2 pins. Simon then retaliated with a strike in the 9th with a heavy count, and Mitchell was faced with needing a '20 box' to eke out a 1-pin victory. Mitchell proceeded to leave the 1-6 baby split in the 10th. Jim took his time and made a quality shot to pick up the spare, but fell short on the count he needed, and James Simon won in a nail-biter, 121-117.
Simon then waited for Baltimore's Tim Bosley, the Number 3 seed, to step onto the lanes. Both bowlers started fast with marks in the 1st and 2nd frames. Tim was able to count a little better on his spares and added another mark by the 7th to gain a 106-86 advantage. James fought back with a pair of marks in the 8th and 9th, but Bosley kept his distance from Simon with his own mark in the 9th, and trudged his way to a 144-129 victory.
Bosley was now ready to face the #2 seed, Joe Rineer. Both bowlers were sluggish in the first 4-frame block of the match, which led to a 3-pin lead for Joe. Rineer then got his game in gear, striking in the 5th, followed by spares in the 6th and 7th boxes, while Tim continued to be hampered by splits. Bosley made a valiant comeback, however, with spares in the 7th and 8th frames. Needing a strike in the 9th to knot the match, Tim 'went for the jugular', but proceeded to chop out the 1-5 clean on his count. Rineer then put the game away with a double-header in the 10th frame for a 147-113 win.
Finally, the much-awaited match had arrived—Mt. Airy Bowl vs. Luray Lanes— Maryland vs. Virginia—Joe Rineer vs. Dale Gustavson. Joe 'took it to the hoop' early with spares in the opening 2 frames, while Dale was late coming out of the starting blocks and opened twice. Gustavson got his first spare in the 4th frame, but Rineer matched him, and held a 19-pin lead at that point. Joe came up with an unanswered mark in the 5th, and the lead had grown to 28 after the smoke cleared in the 6th frame. Gustavson stood his ground though, nailing a single pin spare in the 7th, but couldn't follow up, and in the 9th frame, Rineer sealed the victory with a foundation strike. Dale did finish strong, but Joe had more than enough to earn his first win on the Pop Whitten tour with a 136-117 conquest.
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