it's over! The 15th New Mexico open held august 17-19

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Chris Barnes, 48, of Double Oak, Texas (a suburb of Dallas) needed all of his 41 years of bowling experience to throw a single strike and win the 15th New Mexico Open at hosting Tenpins & More in Rio Rancho Sunday.  Barnes unheralded opponent, top-seeded Brandon Grant of Las Vegas, also making his first appearance at the event, got 29 in his tenth frame requiring Barnes to get twenty to win.  Barnes comfortably converted a 10-pin this time (that he had missed in the first of the two-game set to give Grant a 9-pin lead, 210-201) then bowled the strike to ride out the ups-and-downs of an exhausting three days.

The PBA Hall-of-Famer barely qualified in 29th of the top 32 to make the bracket play at the 171-bowler tournament. He started slowly there too, with a 370-340 win over Steve Novak of Louisville, Kentucky then lost round two, shooting 337 to Dino Castillo's 446 to send him to the loser's bracket and "a long day at the office".  With a large crowd of interested local spectators behind him and drawing on his many PBA titles, a Bowling World Cup and multiple medals as a member of Team USA, the man's demeanor seemed worth a head-start once he got his act together.

He eliminated Chad Lusche of Las Vegas (222/256) 478-326, Alfred Wolfe lll of Denver, Colorado (300/258) 558-326, former US Open champion, Robert Lawrence of Austin, Texas (212/225) 437-412, Stu Williams of Phoenix, Arizona (225/192) 417-390 and Kris Koeltzow of Denver, Colorado (227/222) 449-410 to make the step-ladder championship round opening match against Castillo. Castillo, 47, another Texas veteran of decades of bowling "wars", had lost to Darren Tang 477-443 in round three then beat Morgan Moore with 410, 2017 US Open winner, Francois Lavoie of Quebec City, Canada with 450 and Emily Eckhoff of Denver with 405 to get a crack at Barnes.  Castillo, who suffered an early illness exit earlier this year at the USBC Masters in Syracuse, NY, simply as he put it, "ran out of gas". His 167/139 (306) was no match for Barnes' 224/175 (399). He finished fourth for $ 2,250.

Next up, Darren Tang of San Francisco, whose first loss came in round five to Grant in the final of the winner's bracket 372-389, a result that could easily have gone the other way. Tang's winning sets included 432 over Michael Steele 425 of Amarillo, Texas, 399 to 397 against Matt McNiel of Minneapolis, Minnesota, 477 over Castillo's 443 and 431 to Koeltzow's 398.  Barnes showed his reputation opening with 277 to Tang's solid 256. The 19-pin lead disappeared in the fourth frame but Barnes recovered with a turkey, as Tang closed with five consecutive single pin spares, some of which looked likely strikes on the 3lb,9oz Qubica/AMF pins, less than three weeks in the pinsetters. Tang received $ 3,000 for third.

Survival mode 479-467 that set up the final match against Grant, who couldn't believe his good fortune in getting to the title match. Barnes had to beat the number one seed twice - the opener was no contest as he cruised with 397 to his opponent's 292 by 105 pins, peppered with four missed spares, four unconverted splits and only four strikes.  The bespectacled Grant suddenly emerged as "Superman", starting the final match with six strikes in a row, as Barnes struggled early to carry.  Two late opens by Grant in the eighth and ninth gave Barnes a life going in to game two and a five-bagger by him in frames three through seven didn't hurt, after Grant opened his seventh frame.

The title was going to go down to the very end after Barnes left a blow-out 7-10 in the ninth, but his fill ball X got him over the line, as Grant was rewarded with $ 6,060 in his first big appearance in a major regional event from a total prize-fund of $ 56,250. 

Stu Williams picked up valuable World Bowling Tour points as the only bowler in the top 10 to bowl this new tier-3 event.

Next year's event dates August 16-18, 2019.


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