ARLINGTON, Texas – In recent years, Sam’s Town Bowling Center in Las Vegas has become synonymous with top-tier senior bowling, and the venue is preparing to host a reunion of the world’s top talent, age 50 and older, for 10 action-packed days of competition.
The two-event extravaganza will bring the Super Senior Classic and United States Bowling Congress Senior Masters back to the 56-lane center for the fifth time, a familiar routine that began in 2016 and resumes after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Super Senior Classic, for USBC members 60 and over, will kick things off Sept. 9-13, while the USBC Senior Masters, for bowlers age 50 and up, will take the spotlight from Sept. 13-19.
BowlTV.com will provide wire-to-wire coverage of each event, including the stepladder finals.
Ty Dawson of Sunnyvale, California, and Amleto Monacelli of Venezuela were the champions in 2019, and they have waited 27 months for the chance to put those titles on the line.
Dawson was the top seed for the championship round of the 2019 Super Senior Classic, and the right-hander, now 68, piled on the strikes early in his match against Hugh Miller of Mercer Island, Washington, to help make sure his tournament debut ended with a trophy and winner’s-circle photo shoot.
After winning, Dawson was understandably emotional, and that will be amplified when he returns to the lanes for the 2021 tournament.
It wasn’t widely known, but a year before his 2019 victory, Dawson underwent brain surgery to correct a nerve issue that was affecting his left eye. Logically, there were potential complications, ranging from losing his sight to paralysis.
Following the operation, he spent four days in the hospital and had to learn to walk again, and hearing that makes his win against nearly 200 of the best super seniors in the world even more noteworthy.
While bowlers and fans beyond the West Coast may not yet have been familiar with Dawson, he wasn’t a newcomer to many of those with whom he shared the lanes.
In the mid-1980s, he enjoyed a brief stint on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour, before torn tendons forced him to return home and take a more traditional job.
He still had the PBA50 Tour to look forward to, even if it was a few years away, and he was able to enjoy local and regional success in the meantime.
“There was a time when I had a big decision to make – did I want to quit bowling all together, or did I want to compete when I could and enjoy all the aspects that made it so much fun,” Dawson said. “I’ve had some success at different levels, and I’ve had to make some changes along the way to keep competing, but the decisions were easy. It all has been worth it because I love the sport.”
Dawson said one of the best parts about his win at the Super Senior Classic was the response, recognition and respect from his fellow competitors.
There also was a boost of confidence that helped lead to a regional win the next week, along with him being selected as the 2019 Pat Patterson Award recipient for the PBA West Region. The award recognizes bowlers for contributions to the regional program, and winners are selected by the PBA’s regional managers.
Following his 227-214 win over Miller and the hoisting of the Super Senior Classic trophy, Dawson was careful to remain humble and focused.
He’ll head into the 2021 tournament with the same mindset, and he’ll have a little extra motivation. His father, who got to hear all about the 2019 victory, died recently, so this year’s performance will be dedicated to him.
“I’m excited about coming back to defend the title, and hopefully, I’ll do it well,” Dawson said. “After the win, the publicity was good, but I didn’t want to let it go to my head. I prefer to let my ball do the talking.”
Among the bowlers looking to dethrone Dawson at the Super Senior Classic is Monacelli, who with the shifting of the competition dates from June to September, now is eligible to compete in both tournaments. He turned 60 on Aug. 27.
“I’m excited in a way, but at the same time, wow, I just turned 60,” Monacelli said. “I do feel good mentally and physically. Even though I haven’t bowled as much recently because I was away coaching, I’ve kept up with my workouts, and I feel strong. I also spend a lot of time going over my process in my mind.”
The Super Senior Classic, which debuted in 2013 with just 28 entries, will feature a field of more than 160 entries, competing for a $ 7,500 top prize.
Qualifying will begin Friday and include 12 games over two days, six games each day, before the field is cut to the top 25% for the six-game Cashers’ Round on Sunday morning.
The top 12 bowlers after the Cashers’ Round, based on 18-game pinfall totals, will advance to round-robin match play and have a chance to advance to the unique group-stepladder portion of the event.
The group stepladders will take place Monday at noon Eastern, and those winners will claim the final spots in the championship stepladder, which will be broadcast live on BowlTV, beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern.
At the Senior Masters, considered a PBA50 major championship, a field of nearly 250 competitors will bowl 15 games of qualifying over three days, starting Sept. 14, to determine the 63 bowlers joining Monacelli in match play.
As the defending champion, Monacelli is guaranteed the No. 64 spot in the double-elimination bracket but can improve his seeding through qualifying.
The USBC and PBA Hall of Famer, earned every bit of his $ 20,000 top prize at the 2019 Senior Masters, averaging more than 246 over five games, while climbing the stepladder from the No. 5 spot.
He defeated top seed Stoney Baker of Canton, Georgia, twice to claim the coveted title for the second time. Monacelli first won the event in 2015, also requiring a pair of wins against the undefeated leader. That time, it was fellow hall of famer Pete Weber of St. Ann, Missouri.
Match play at the 2021 Senior Masters, which features three-game total-pinfall contests, will take place Sept. 17-18, with the stepladder finals concluding the action at Sam’s Town on Sept. 19 at 1 p.m. EDT. The champion again will earn $ 20,000.
In topping Baker to win the 2019 Senior Masters, Monacelli became the event’s eighth two-time winner. He’s now looking to become the first bowler to win three times, along with being the first to win in back-to-back events since fellow hall of famer Tom Baker of King, North Carolina, achieved the feat in 2007.
While he’ll enter the upcoming event fresh off his Super Senior Classic debut, his on-lane time recently has been limited due to his coaching obligations. He just returned from Guatemala, where he was on-site with the bowlers from the Dominican Republic.
However, his fitness routine is top-notch, his experience is hard to rival and his versatility is proven. Even when he’s not on the lanes actually throwing the ball, he’s able to use visualization techniques to stay in-tune.
“The Senior Masters is a tournament that is very difficult because anything can happen in that format, so I’ll just focus on my physical game, making good shots and being extra careful on my spares,” said Monacelli, who owns 10 PBA50 titles and 20 PBA Tour victories. “There’s also a lot you don’t know until you get there and see what the lanes are giving you. Then you come up with the best strategy.”
The Super Senior Classic and Senior Masters will follow the PBA50 Senior U.S. Open, which is underway in Brentwood, California. They’re the final three events on the 2021 PBA50 Tour schedule.
For more information on the Super Senior Classic, visit BOWL.com/SuperSenior. To learn more about the USBC Senior Masters, visit BOWL.com/SeniorMasters.