Former Junior Team USA members take doubles lead on second-to-last day of 2017 Open Championships

LAS VEGAS - With one doubles and singles squad to go at the 2017 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, Zachary Hattori of Henderson, Nevada, and Michael Coffey of Melbourne, Florida, now are the clubhouse leaders in Regular Doubles.

The former Junior Team USA members combined for games of 479, 516 and 483 at the South Point Bowling Plaza on Saturday and moved to the top of the standings with a 1,478 total. The father-and-son duo of Vince and Brandon Biondo of Carpentersville, Illinois, previously held the lead with 1,452.

Hattori, a 24-year-old right-hander, led the charge Saturday with games of 248, 289 and 279 for an 816 series, the fourth 800 of the 2017 USBC Open Championships, and first in doubles. The other three were bowled in singles by Ron Jacobson of Jupiter, Florida (804), Matt Gasn of Clarksville, Tennessee (802), and Steve De Kerf Jr. of Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin (802).

"To be honest, I didn't think I had that kind of look, even after shooting in the 240s the first game," Hattori said. "I didn't think I'd go 289-279 the last two. I just kept making little moves, and it ended up working out. I knew I could strike, but also knew I had to throw it well every shot. I just happened to throw it really well for the last two games."

Coffey, the 2015-2016 National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association Player of the Year while at Lindenwood University, added 231, 227 and 204 for a 662 series.

The 22-year-old right-hander missed almost his entire junior year of college bowling due to a serious back injury but rehabbed with help from exercise and a chiropractor just in time to make the semifinals of the 2017 Intercollegiate Singles Championships.

"I suffered a back injury, which included a herniated L3 disc in my lower back and a bulging disc on top of it in the L4 zone, and I wasn't able to walk for a while, but I kept working to get back despite every doctor telling me I was never going to bowl again," Coffey said. "Since then, things have been getting stronger, but I still have some days where I wake up and I'm just not having it. If I keep everything up, though, I should be fine."

The 2017 USBC Open Championships kicked off its 149-day run Feb. 18, and the final squad of the year will hit the lanes Sunday at noon Eastern.

During the 114-year history of the world's largest participatory sporting event, winners have been determined on the first day, last day and many days in between.

The late lead change this year is reminiscent of the 2006 tournament in Corpus Christi, Texas, where USBC Hall of Famer Wendy Macpherson, also from Henderson, became the first woman to win a Regular Division title at the Open Championships.

She rolled an 812 series, including a perfect game, on the second-to-last day of the 143-day event.

At the 2008 tournament in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jack Wilson of Centreville, Maryland, claimed the Classified Singles title with a 704 series on the final squad of the year.

On the other end of the competitive calendar, Fran Bax of Niagara Falls, New York, rolled an 833 series on the opening team squad of the 1983 event, in his hometown, and helped Doug Heim's Niagara Frontier Bowling Supply to the Regular Team title.

Bax, who was a college student and working part-time at the event, also was the Regular All-Events leader until being passed by Tony Cariello of Chicago on the second-to-last day of the tournament. Cariello rolled a 276 in his final game of singles to win by a single pin, and Bax was there to see the final two frames.

In 1990, scores posted by Mike Neumann of Buffalo, New York, on the first two days held up for the duration of the 123-day event in Reno, Nevada, to win the team, doubles, all-events and Team All-Events titles, tying Bill Lillard and Ed Lubanski for the most titles won in a single tournament.

"I knew that we were close but didn't know exactly what we needed," Hattori said. "Everyone else in our group knew the number but wouldn't tell us. Before the final frame, Darren (Tang) asked me if I wanted to know, and I told him no. I wasn't sure after I left a 2 pin to start the 10th, but they told us we already had made it. Everybody wants an Eagle. It's one of those prestigious titles every bowler dreams of having, and it's awesome to be in position to win."

Overall, this weekend's visit to South Point went extremely well for Hattori, Coffey and their two-team group, which included Team USA member A.J. Chapman of Manchester, Iowa, 2017 USBC Masters finalists Michael and Darren Tang of San Francisco and San Jose, California, respectively, and former Junior Team USA member Dean Richards of Tacoma, Washington.

Hattori added sets of 654 in singles and 624 in team to finish his third Open Championships appearance with a 2,094 all-events total, which is just outside the top 10 in Regular All-Events. Brad Angelo of Lockport, New York, leads with 2,176.

Coffey's sophomore campaign at the Open Championships included 761 in singles and 625 in team for a 2,048 total. His singles performance puts him just inside the top 20, and he was followed in the singles surge by Darren Tang (737) and Michael Tang (732).

The group also bowled well at the nearby Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC, where Chapman moved into sixth place in Open Singles with a 796 series and Richards cracked the top 10 in Open Singles with a 771 set, which included the event's 15th perfect game.

The 2017 Bowlers Journal Championships also got underway in February and will welcome its final squad of competitors Saturday night.

"We had a lot of little accomplishments within our group this week, between the Bowlers Journal and this, and the thought of winning an Eagle is crazy to me," Coffey said. "I didn't come here with any expectations, since it's just my second time out here, so I'm just happy it happened. This is such a prestigious title to be in position to win, and I'm very thankful."

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