BY GENE J. KANAK
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The 2022 Junior Gold Championships concluded Saturday when six champions were crowned after the stepladder finals in the 18-and-under, 15-and-under and 12-and-under divisions at Fairlanes Bowling Center.
This year’s roster of champions included Brandon Bohn of Jackson, New Jersey (U18), Landin Jordan of Sycamore, Illinois (U15) and Isaiah Durflinger of Beavercreek, Ohio (U12), in the boys divisions. The champions on the girls side were Erin Klemencic of Powder Springs, Georgia (U18), Avery Domaguin of San Diego (U15) and Sadrianna Erb of Farmington, New York (U12).
More than 3,200 United States Bowling Congress Youth members competed at Junior Gold 2022, traveling across eight bowling centers in the Grand Rapids area in hopes of winning a sizable portion of the approximately $ 500,000 scholarship fund, making a run at a national title and claiming a spot on Junior Team USA.
BowlTV.com livestreamed competition throughout qualifying and the double-elimination brackets from four of the eight centers, along with Saturday’s stepladder finals.
With the finals in each division being broadcast by BowlTV, the top overall seed for the stepladder had to be defeated twice in the true double-elimination format.
Brandon Bohn of Jackson, New Jersey, successfully defended his U18 boys title and collected his third Junior Gold national championship overall by defeating Carter Street of Dublin, Ohio, 247-202 during the final match of the 2022 Junior Gold Championships.
Brandon started quickly once the title match began, opening with a four-bagger to jump out to a 32-pin lead by the fifth frame.
Things grew a bit uncomfortable in the minutes that followed, however, as Brandon failed to convert a single-pin spare in the sixth frame and then left a 3-7 split in the seventh.
From the crowd, Brandon’s father, PBA-legend Parker Bohn III called out, “Just take one, kid,” knowing that with the lead in hand, the pin count could be helpful to Brandon down the stretch.
It’s hard to argue with the advice of a PBA Hall of Famer; nevertheless, Brandon chose to go his own way, trying for the conversion, which he pulled off to thrill the crowd and keep his 21-pin lead intact with just three frames to go.
“My dad’s my mentor, so I usually listen to him when he me gives me advice,” Brandon said. “But I knew I couldn’t afford two opens in a row against a great bowler like Carter, so I went for the make. I think that was the only time I picked that split up all week.”
Carter did his best to give Brandon something to think about heading into the 10th frame, but the pins just wouldn’t cooperate. Once Carter failed to strike in the eighth frame, the match belonged to Brandon.
Just for good measure, Brandon threw a closing five-bagger to put the finishing touches on another Junior Gold championship performance.
Despite now having won three Junior Gold titles, Brandon was having difficulty putting into words what this year’s victory means to him.
“There really aren’t any words I can use to say how special this is,” Brandon said. “I got to watch Justin win the U20 title last week, then my dad left for a few days and got another PBA50 win, and now this happens for me. It’s all just been unbelievable; that’s probably the only word I can use to describe it.”
Having already won two previous Junior Gold titles, Bohn hardly needed any extra help while attempting to secure his third; nevertheless, he earned an advantage by coming to the stepladder finals as the U18 boys top seed.
Since Bohn entered the BowlTV telecast undefeated, Carter or No. 3 seed Hayden Tarris of Bettsville, Ohio, would have to beat him twice to steal the title in Junior Gold’s true double-elimination format.
Before taking Brandon on for the title, Carter kicked off the U18 boys stepladder with an electric performance, becoming the first bowler to ever shoot 300 during a stepladder finals match at Junior Gold.
The perfect game gave Carter a 300-206 victory over Hayden, whose outstanding week of bowling netted him a third-place finish.
Erin Klemencic of Powder Springs, Georgia, came away with the U18 girls crown by virtue of her 223-210 defeat of Annalise O’Bryant of Ball Ground, Georgia, during the live BowlTV broadcast of the stepladder finals.
The title match didn’t get off to the start Erin had hoped for as her opening shot found the right gutter. Nevertheless, she quickly regrouped by making the spare.
Erin then proceeded to throw a four-bagger in frames two through five to jump ahead of Annalise by 14 pins.
Annalise doubled in the fifth and sixth, and when Erin was only able to put up spares in the sixth and seventh, Annalise had a chance to take the lead for the first time.
It wasn’t meant to be, however, as a 2-4-8-10 split in the seventh followed up by a 2-8-10 split in the eighth all but doomed Annalise.
Showing the heart and determination that led her to a pair of U15 girls Junior Gold titles, Annalise didn’t give up, throwing strikes on three of her final four shots to finish at 210.
Nevertheless, Erin still only needed eight pins on her first shot in the 10th frame to capture the title. She got nine for good measure, converted the spare and then struck on her fill ball to cap off the impressive victory.
“It’s really amazing to come out here and do what I love to do and finally be rewarded by walking away with a championship,” Erin said. “To have this happen is a dream come true; it’s just awesome.”
Erin’s performance was pretty awesome all the way through Junior Gold 2022.
She just missed a top-ten finish during qualifying, and then she really turned up the heat once match play began, going 4-0 to advance to the finals as the U18 girls top seed.
That gave Erin a little extra breathing room once the stepladder began. That’s because as the top seed and only remaining undefeated bowler, Erin had to be beaten twice to lose the title in Junior Gold’s true double-elimination format.
Even though Erin had a get-out-of-jail-free card in her back pocket, she went into the match with Annalise hoping not to have to use it.
“It was nice to have that extra game if I needed it, but I knew that I could get it done in one if I just stayed true to my game and focused on what I had to do,” Erin said.
That’s exactly what she did, and that’s why she was able to collect her first national championship while simultaneously thwarting Annalise’s bid for Junior Gold title No. 3.
Annalise began U18 girls stepladder competition by dispatching Junior Team USA member Jillian Martin of Stow, Ohio.
Jillian’s success on the PWBA Tour and in other high-level competitions would have been enough to intimidate some opponents, but it certainly didn’t appear to intimidate Annalise.
Why should it? Annalise has done plenty of winning herself.
Seeking to move back into the winner’s circle once again, Annalise wasted no time seizing control once the semifinal match got underway.
Annalise struck on her first six shots before a soft 10 pin halted her run at perfection in the seventh frame.
Jillian fought valiantly to remain in the match, but when a high hit in the eighth frame resulted in a 4-10 split and open frame, the victory belonged to Annalise.
The 235-199 decision sent Annalise through to the championship match and gave Jillian a third-place finish to take away from her strong week at Junior Gold.
The U18 division featured 569 girls and 1,204 boys at the 2022 Junior Gold Championships.
Six boys and six girls from the U18 division also earned spots on Junior Team USA for 2023 based on their performances this week at the Junior Gold Championships.
The boys team will feature Bohn, Street, Jordan Malott of Austin, Texas, Bobby Habetler of Chicago, Chris LeSuer of Kent, Ohio, and Andru Blaney of Indian Head, Maryland.
Klemencic, O’Bryant and Martin will be joined on the girls team in 2023 by Haley Lindley of Greenwood, South Carolina, Brooke Salzman of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, and Brianna Rogers of Florence, South Carolina.
Landin Jordan of Sycamore, Illinois, successfully defended his U15 boys title by defeating Kai Strothers of Maplewood, New Jersey, 236-202 during the second and deciding game of the U15 boys championship match on BowlTV Saturday afternoon.
The final game started off dead even with both bowlers beginning with doubles that were followed up by consecutive frames of nine-spare.
Landin grabbed the lead from there, however, throwing three strikes in a row in frames five through seven to grab an 11-pin lead.
Kai fired back with a double of his own in the sixth and seventh, but a flat 7 pin in the eighth and a mixer 10 pin in the ninth halted his run. Unfortunately, the situation got worse for Kai after he was unable to convert the 10 pin.
The late open meant that Landin needed just one mark over the last two frames to win. As expected, he came through, sparing in the ninth and then taking a victory lap by striking out in the tenth to land in the Junior Gold winner’s for the second year in a row.
“Winning never gets old,” Landin said. “It makes all of the sacrifices and hard work worth it. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Landin has gotten to experience that feeling more than most, and that’s what helped him stay calm and focused on the task at hand when it looked like he may have to strike out in the ninth and tenth to match Kai at 236.
“I expected Kai to strike out, so I just got my mind focused on the three shots I was going to have to throw in the 10th frame to force the roll-off,” Landin said. “When his final frames didn’t work out and I realized I’d won again, it was a surreal moment.”
That moment was made even more difficult to attain since Landin came in as the No. 2 seed.
Because Kai entered the stepladder finals No. 1 as the only U15 boys bowler not to have lost a match up to that point, Landin had to beat him twice to take the title in Junior Gold’s true double-elimination format.
Instead of lamenting the fact that he had been unable to secure the top seed for the finals, Landin used his semifinal match to dial in and figure out the challenging oil pattern.
That didn’t take long as Landin came out striking against No. 3 seed Keegan Alexander of Killeen, Texas, who he defeated 228-202 in the opener to earn his shot at Kai.
Despite the eventual outcome, early on it seemed like Keegan was poised to end Landin’s run after Landin left the Big 4 (4-6-7-10) split in the sixth frame. The defending champ recovered quickly though, doubling in the seventh and eighth to put the pressure squarely back on Keegan’s shoulders.
Keegan responded by throwing a pair of quality shots, but a stone 9 pin in the eighth frame slowed him down. He came back with a strike in the ninth, but after leaving the bucket (2-4-5-8) on his first shot of the 10th frame, the victory belonged to Landin.
The win pushed Landin through to the title match and forced Keegan to settle for third place in the U15 boys standings.
Avery Domaguin of San Diego captured the U15 girls title by defeating Samantha Kanehailua of Pearl City, Hawaii, 179-152 during the live BowlTV finals.
Avery controlled the challenging oil pattern masterfully all game long, staying locked in on the 1-3 pocket from the very first ball of the championship match and never letting go. She only managed to strike twice, but she stayed clean early to put keep the pressure on Samantha.
Samantha hung tough, but the transitioning lanes eventually caught up to her. She left a 4-10 split after coming in light in the fifth frame. That open allowed Avery to grab the lead for the first time in the match.
Sensing trouble, Samantha made ball changes in consecutive frames in the hopes of recapturing the striking power she displayed in the semifinals, but the moves had the exact opposite outcome.
Instead of striking, Samantha split in the sixth and seventh and washed out in the eighth, allowing Avery to increase her lead to 38 pins and effectively put the game out of reach.
Avery finally opened after leaving a 4-9 split in the 10th frame, but it didn’t matter as the outcome had already been determined.
Avery’s conservative title-match strategy was a bold one considering how successful Samantha had been the match before, but it worked to perfection and allowed Avery to walk away a national champion.
“This doesn’t feel real right now,” Avery said when discussing her victory. “I’m usually very nervous, but all week I stayed relaxed and just focused on myself. I trusted the process, and, obviously, it worked out.”
Avery would do well to employ that same strategy going forward since it allowed her to have a far better Junior Gold performance than she ever expected.
“I just came in hoping to make match play again since I got that far last year,” Avery said. “I wanted to get past the third round since that’s when I was eliminated last year. Thankfully, I did.”
Not only did Avery make it past the third round, she advanced to the stepladder finals as the only competitor not to lose a match in U15 girls match-play competition. That meant that Avery would have to lose twice during the BowlTV telecast to lose the title in Junior Gold’s true double-elimination format.
Avery didn’t feel like dragging things out, however, so she wrapped the title match up in a single game. However, that was no easy task when facing a talented competitor like Samantha, who came into the title match with considerable momentum.
Samantha opened stepladder play in thrilling fashion, throwing the front eight strikes in a row before a solid 10 pin stopped her bid for 300 in the ninth; nevertheless, the outstanding start was more than enough to help Samantha defeat No. 3 seed Kailyn Bloch of East Islip, New York, 266-192.
However, the transitioning conditions slowed her pace considerably during the title match, forcing Samantha to settle for a runner-up finish.
The U15 division featured 307 girls and 629 boys at the 2022 Junior Gold Championships.
Four boys and four girls earned spots on the Junior Team USA Developmental Team from U15 competition.
In addition to the three stepladder finalists in the boys division, Landin, Kai and Keegan will be joined by Landin’s brother Griffin Jordan, also of Sycamore, Illinois.
Avery and Samantha will represent the Developmental Team, along with two-time Junior Gold champion Katelyn Abigania of San Diego and Kaitlyn Stull of Raleigh, North Carolina.
The U12 boys title went to Isaiah Durflinger of Beavercreek, Ohio, who defeated Ryan Campbell of Clinton, South Carolina, 203-189 during the second game of a two-game battle that was exciting from start to finish.
Ryan used a split conversion in the first frame and strikes in frames three through five to jump out to an early 32-pin lead in the deciding game.
Isaiah responded like a champion, however, making a ball change and then rattling off three strikes of his own to cut the deficit back down to just one pin by the seventh frame.
Ryan delivered a clutch pocket shot in the seventh, but the hit resulted in a solid 9 pin. He covered that spare, but he was unable to mark in the eighth or ninth frames, giving Isaiah the opportunity to step up and shut him out.
As champions often do, Isaiah came through when it mattered most. He struck in the ninth frame and then collected the mark he needed in the tenth to officially close the door on Ryan and capture the U12 boys title.
“Ryan was a great competitor; he pushed me harder than anyone,” Isaiah said. “But I bowled extremely well during this whole tournament, so I’m really happy with my performance. I didn’t expect to get this far, so I’m super excited about winning. I’m already excited for next year too.”
It was difficult to tell what emotions Isaiah was experiencing during the match as no matter what transpired, he appeared cool, calm and confident.
It would’ve been very easy for Isaiah to panic after he lost the first game and fell behind Ryan by a sizable margin during the early stages of Game 2, but panic just isn’t in Isaiah’s vocabulary.
Instead, he focused on what changes he could make to see better ball reaction and give himself more room to find the pocket. That approach led to the ball change that got him back into the match and ultimately led to victory.
“A friend of mine had been telling me to make a ball change the whole time, and when I finally listened and decided to make it, I got into a ball that gave me more miss area and a little more luck, and that pulled me through,” Isaiah said.
Thankfully, Isaiah had the luxury of waiting until the second game to make that critical ball change; he didn’t have to win the first game.
That’s because Isaiah entered the stepladder as the U12 boys lone undefeated bowler. As such, Ryan had to top Isaiah twice to win the title in Junior Gold’s true double-elimination format.
Ryan accomplished Step 1 by taking advantage of a late open from Isaiah and throwing a closing four-bagger of his own to win the first game 219-183, but the momentum stopped during Game 2, allowing Isaiah to walk away with the win.
Ryan earned his title bout with Isaiah by defeating Ridgely Potter Jr. of Clearwater, Florida, 213-170 during the seminfinals.
Ridgely led the U12 boys field throughout much of this year’s tournament, but he was never able to lock in on the 1-3 pocket during the TV finals, striking just three times.
He stayed solid and converted most of his spares, but Ryan’s seven-strike performance was simply too much to overcome.
Sadrianna Erb of Farmington, New York, became the U12 girls national champion by defeating Kennedi Spears of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, 159-141 in a match that was close throughout.
Sadrianna and Kennedi matched one another shot for shot in the early going with neither bowler able to open up more than a five-pin lead.
That all changed when Kennedi opened the seventh, eighth and ninth frames, which allowed Sadrianna to increase her lead to 11 pins heading into the tenth.
Kennedi came up strong in the 10th frame, however, striking on the first ball and then delivering a closing spare that got her to 141 and forced Sadrianna to mark to capture the title.
Sadrianna knew exactly what she needed when she stepped up on the right lane to bowl the last frame.
After taking a few deep breaths and doing her usual arm-swing exercise, Sadrianna began her approach, but she backed off just a couple steps in after being distracted by something off set.
Refusing to rush the all-important shot, Sadrianna calmly restarted her pre-shot routine. Once ready, she stepped back up on the approach and delivered the strike needed to defeat Kennedi and claim the U12 girls national title.
“I was doing the math in my head, so I knew what I needed when I got up for the 10th frame,” Sadrianna said. “As I was about to throw my first shot, I thought I heard someone say my name. I’m not sure if they actually did or not, but it got in my head, so I knew I wasn’t going to throw my best shot if I kept going.
“I just decided to start over because I wanted to throw a good shot. Once I saw the 10 pin fall down, all of the pressure melted away because I knew I had done it.”
What Sadrianna did was win a Junior Gold title in just her second tournament appearance. Also, she handled the pressures of bowling on a live broadcast like a seasoned veteran.
“The TV finals were pretty scary, especially at the beginning, but I was able to focus and tune out the distractions better than I expected once the match got going,” Sadrianna said. “I’m glad I did because it feels really good to win.”
Even had Sadrianna failed to come through during the 10th frame, she would’ve gotten a second chance at defeating Kennedi. That’s because Sadrianna entered Saturday’s stepladder as the only undefeated bowler in the U12 girls bracket. As such, she needed to be beaten twice in Junior Gold’s true double-elimination format.
Kennedi earned her place in the title match by defeating Kourtlyn Hopkins of Dickinson, Texas, 202-141 in the semifinals.
The U12 division featured 108 girls and 227 boys at the 2022 Junior Gold Championships.
Junior Gold 2022 kicked off July 11 with U20 competition. Justin Bohn of Jackson, New Jersey, and Anna Callan of La Crosse, Wisconsin, won titles in their respective divisions.