LAS VEGAS –In life, your parents are there to protect you and prepare you to come out into the world.
On a smaller scale for Michael Clark Jr. of North Olmsted, Ohio, his parents were by his side on the lanes in the early years of his career at the US Congressional Open Bowling Championships, but as it has become more competitive for nearly three decades, their role has become more and more united.
With the help of Clark’s new on-track family, the prolific Michigan Turbo Grips contingent, his appearance at the 2021 USBC Open Championships is one they will all fondly remember after scoring the perfect ninth game of the tournament.
The 300 was the fourth of the year in the tag team competition at South Point Bowling Plaza and makes Clark the sixth bowler in the four-team group to accomplish the feat on the bowling’s biggest stage.
His parents were on hand for this milestone and he shared a special hug with his father immediately after.
“It was a big moment for him,” said Clark, a right-hander who made his first Open Championships appearance at the 1995 event in Reno, Nevada, and celebrates 26 years of participation this year in Las Vegas. “His eyes were foggy. I can’t say he was crying. His eyes were foggy. The fact that my mom and dad were there to see it makes him even more special.”
Clark’s day featured 188 and 235 bookend sets for a 723 series, and his individual success helped Turbo Grip 2 of Chesterfield Township, Mich., Take the lead of the regular squad.
The team played 1,066, 1,166 and 1,060 games for a total of 3,292, which is second behind The Bowlers Shoppe 1 of St. Louis (3,352). In the last two frames of the event, Turbo Grips 2 only managed three hits, and two were on filler balls.
Clark, who turns 49 on Friday, was joined by Brian Thompson (662), Jason Johnson (659), Dean Billings (656) and Eric Tulley (592).
Billings is one of 32 bowlers with several 300 on the championship lanes (2000 and 2013) and one of 36 bowlers with 300 and 800 (813 in 2013).
A pair of lanes to the left Thursday afternoon, Turbo Grips 1 also caught the eye and nearly chased its fellow team in the race to move up the standings.
Turbo Grips 1 contested 1,134, 1,011 and 1,112 for a total of 3,257, seventh overall.
James Koss led the effort with a 712 streak, fueled by a 299 in the final game. He was stubborn 7-pin to add to the group’s legacy at open championships. It was his second round perfectly with the same result. He played 299 doubles matches on his tournament debut in 2012.
Koss was followed by Justin Knowles, who had a 300 game at the Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC this week (697), Jeffrey Austreng (675), Cory Hines (601) and Chris Sand (572).
Along with Clark and Billings, Austreng, Jeff Mraz, Bob Chamberlain Sr. and Dave Bernhardt Sr. all had perfect matches at the open championships.
Now Clark is looking forward to the 2022 Open Championships, where he will be heralded as a celebrity for the first time.
“I can’t wait to be next year and hear my name claim a 300 in the 2021 team event,” said Clark. “It’s going to be a thrill.”
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