After completing his five games on the day’s opening squad and finishing at -51 at the 2021 USBC Masters, Chris Martinez was ready to pack up his car and drive back to Fort Collins.
His wife, Beth, told him to wait it out. It’s a good thing he listened.
“I was at -51 and the number hadn’t moved from -30 for two days,” Martinez rationalized. “I called my wife and said I was going to leave town. She told me to wait and see. I went to dinner with a friend of mine and then I was on speaker phone with my wife listening to FloBowling after the final squad. Once I found out I was the number, I relaxed. I was playing with house money now. I had nothing to lose.”
Martinez indeed bowled like he had nothing to lose today. After earning the final qualifying spot, the 64th-seeded Martinez dumped top-seeded Gary Faulkner Jr. into the contenders’ bracket when match play kicked off Friday morning. The Senior Financial Manager for the City of Fort Collins used six straight strikes in the third game to pull away for a 609-575 win.
For three days, 2015 PBA World Championship winner Gary Faulkner Jr. set the pace, averaging 214.67 over 15 games on a tricky pattern at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno. Over those same three days, 47-year-old career amateur Chris Martinez averaged just 196 and was so certain that he’d miss the cut to match play that he had one foot out of town.
Such is the cruel beauty of the match play format at the Masters.
“I came in with a mindset to stay focused, stay with the process and to not make the moment bigger than it needs to be,” said Martinez, while sorting through a massive pile of balls and bag. (“I have to bring everything with me,” he laughed. “I don’t have guys in the truck ready to drill a new ball for me at a moment’s notice.”)
“I was throwing it well but just wasn’t getting the carry,” he added. “This pattern’s MO has been that you can find the spot, but the carry is tough to gauge.
“Gary went through five or six balls. The lightbulb went off for him in that last game and he started striking. I changed balls then too and started striking. He was hitting the pocket. I just had the benefit of carry. It was a duel, but I stayed loose. I haven’t bowled against the pros, but I’m familiar with this kind of environment.”
For Faulkner, the morning was an exercise in frustration.
“Today I just couldn’t find it the first few games,” he said. “At the start of the second game when I went open in each of the first three frames, I tried different things with different balls and just couldn’t figured it out. We both figured it out at the same time and he just shot a bigger game than I did.”