DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – When Team USA’s Jakob Butturff joined his teammates for their non-stop flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Dubai this week, he experienced a mix of emotions and had a 15-hour journey to put it all in perspective.
The trip to the 2021 International Bowling Federation Super World Championships came on the first anniversary of his mother’s death and marked his first international Team USA outing in nearly three years.
Even if declining the opportunity to compete in the event ever crossed his mind, the 27-year-old left-hander knew his mother, Bridget, would want him to be at the Dubai International Bowling Centre chasing his dreams and redemption on one of the sport’s biggest stages.
Butturff’s two previous appearances at the IBF World Championships were subpar for him personally, though he was able to help the United States to the team gold medal in his hometown of Las Vegas in 2017.
He took a huge step in the right direction Saturday by averaging nearly 247 over five games on this year’s 44-foot oil pattern, and while he may not be the overall leader at the halfway point of singles, the hot start gave him a lot of confidence at a tournament that has tested him mentally.
Butturff led the first of the two men’s squads with a 1,233 total, which included a 194 start.
He finished the day in third place behind fellow southpaw Jesper Svensson of Sweden (1,345) and Saudi Arabia’s Abdulrahman Alkheliwi (1,313). Korea’s Kang Heewon is fourth with 1,208, and Bahrain’s Yousif Falah is fifth with 1,207.
“Being with the team on the anniversary of my mom’s passing (Nov. 2) and getting to practice and hang out and travel took my mind away from it, and I’m grateful to everyone for being there and being supportive on a tough day,” Butturff said. “Being on the plane for that long definitely gave me some time to think about it, but I know my mom is looking down on me and wouldn’t want me to be upset. She’d want me to be here doing what I love, and I know she’d be proud no matter what.”
Svensson’s effort Saturday included games of 269, 259, 279, 279 and 259 for a 269 average, and Alkheliwi, whose day started and ended with perfect games, became the first Saudi bowler in the tournament’s history to roll a 300 game. He also is the first man to toss two in the same tournament.
Team USA’s Chris Barnes is the only other man with two in his career, a feat matched on the women’s side by Team USA’s Liz Johnson and Kelly Kulick. Both of Johnson’s 300s came at the 2015 IBF World Women’s Championships in nearby Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Kulick also found success in Abu Dhabi, winning gold medals in 1999 and 2015, and she’s back in the mix this week in Dubai. She, too, led her singles squad Saturday, and she finished the day in second place with a 1,218 total.
England’s Verity Crawley, a player-of-the-year contender on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour this year, set the bar with a 1,224 effort, a 244.8 average.
Sweden’s Joline Persson Planefors is third (1,210), and Singapore’s Iliya Syamim (1,205) and Cherie Tan (1,204) are fourth and fifth, respectively.
Syamim rolled the event’s first 300. It was the first of five on the day. Guatemala’s Marvin Leon and Norway’s Georg Skryten also achieved the feat.
Singles at the World Championships traditionally has been six games, and the format change in 2021 is one of many new things on the horizon in the coming days.
Competitors from dozens of countries are competing for medals in singles, doubles, trios, team and mixed team. Medals also will be awarded to the most valuable athletes and top-performing federations.
The second half of singles, another five-game block for all competitors, will take place Monday. Pinfall totals for 10 games will determine the 32 bowlers in each gender classification advancing to group match play.
Each group will include eight players, and they’ll all bowl seven games of round-robin match play.
Points will be awarded for each win in match play, and the top two players in each group, based on points, will advance to the bracket-style quarterfinals. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be one-game matches, and the championship match will be a best-of-two battle, with a ninth- and 10th-frame roll-off being used if a third game is needed.
After five games of singles, Team USA’s AJ Johnson is 11th (1,175), first-time participant Kristopher Prather is 26th (1,122), Andrew Anderson is tied for 48th (1,075).
On the women’s side, Missy Parkin is 10th (1,148), Jordan Richard is 19th (1,105) and defending singles champion Danielle McEwan is 34th (1,043).
Before the second half of singles at the Dubai International Bowling Centre, the attention will turn to doubles. Qualifying will take place throughout the day Sunday.
The Team USA pairings will be Butturff/Johnson, Anderson/Prather, McEwan/Richard and Parkin/Kulick.
Doubles also will mark the shift to the first variation of the Baker format. During the two-player event, one team member will bowl the odd frames, and the other team member will bowl the even frames.
Doubles will be structured the same as singles. All teams will bowl 10 Baker games Sunday, and the field in each classification will be cut to the top 32 teams for group match play, which will take place Tuesday.
The IBF Super World Championships is the first of three events being held in Dubai, concluding Nov. 15. It will be joined by the inaugural IBF Para Bowling World Championships and followed by the IBF Masters (formerly Senior) World Championships.
IBF is providing livestream coverage and complete results at strikecloud.com.
For more information about IBF, visit bowling.sport.