Idaho group steals spotlight, sets pace at 2022 USBC Open Championships

LAS VEGAS – Idaho is known for many things, including potatoes, gemstones, trout fishing and scenic mountain landscapes, but it’s now bowling that has the nation’s 43rd state in the spotlight.

Instead of scaling one of their home state’s thousands of mountains this weekend, a talented pair of Idahoans made their way to the South Point Bowling Plaza and managed to climb the leaderboards at the 2022 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships

Steve and Justin Studer, an uncle and nephew from Rupert, Idaho, were dominant during doubles and singles Sunday and left the 60-lane venue with the lead in four events.

The Studers surged into the lead in Regular Doubles on Sunday with a 1,389 total, and their momentum carried into singles, where they’re first and second in the standings, separated by a single pin.

Justin Studer, a 36-year-old right-hander, led the way in doubles with games of 237, 259 and 277 for a 773 series, while Steve Studer, a 64-year-old right-hander, added 180, 212 and 224 for a 616 set.

Steve Studer was able to string strikes in two of his games in singles and finished with 266, 177 and 258 for a 701 total. Despite being consistent and striking on seven of nine 10th-frame opportunities, the younger Studer fell short of his uncle’s performance and settled into second place with 700. He had games of 234, 244 and 222.

Justin Studer’s big second day helped him set the bar in Regular All-events with a 2,057 effort. He posted a 584 series in team Saturday.

Steve Studer got progressively better with each set at the Bowling Plaza. He had 579 in team and landed in second place in Regular All-Events with 1,896.

Both nine game totals were career bests.

“Yesterday, the plan was to stay right, and I wavered from that, which resulted in a 170 game,” said Justin Studer, who made his 14th Open Championships appearance. “Today, my plan again was to stay right, and if anything, move right. I’m aware of the differences in our games and knew what I needed to do. I got really lined up, but I hit a bit of transition and didn’t throw the ball as well the second set. But, it’s hard to be upset about shooting 700 again.”

The two admitted they were a little distracted during Saturday’s opening ceremony and team event because they were celebrating with another member of their group, Ryan Swalling of Burley, Idaho, who was selected as this year’s Joe Bowler.

With the selection came a great honor for Swalling – the opportunity to preside over the festivities with a cape, crown and scepter and throw the tournament’s ceremonial first ball.

“I think last night was a little distracting because we were all hooting and hollering for Ryan, and it took a while for us to get zoned back in,” Justin Studer said. “I used to come with some other people, but it’s now fun to be here with my customers and friends and really enjoy the experience. We come earlier because we have a lot of farmers in the group, and a benefit of that is a better chance to see our names on the leaderboard.”

Justin Studer is the owner of Burley’s Snake River Bowl, while Steve Studer is a farmer.

Because the 2021 Open Championships started in May, the elder Studer’s seasonal responsibilities forced to miss the event. His return to the tournament lanes this week marked his 17th appearance since his debut in 1984.

“We’ve had the opportunity to bowl doubles quite a bit here, and it was nice to be back after missing a couple years because of COVID and the delayed start last year,” Steve Studer said. “I wish I could’ve helped a little more in doubles, and I’m sure he’ll give me a hard time for saving it all for singles. The whole trip has been a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to getting some pictures with our names at the top of the leaderboard, before the next squad gets going and beats us.”

The effects of the pandemic still are being felt by Justin Studer as a business owner, and some staffing shortages this season have kept him from bowling as much as he normally would.

Once in Las Vegas, the teammates made their way to the nearby Bowlers Journal Championships, where a chance at some additional prize money may have been secondary to getting a look at the same oil pattern they’d be facing for doubles and singles at the Open championship.

The storied side event is making its 75th appearance alongside the Open Championships, this time at the 64-lane South Point Bowling Center, and the opportunity proved to be invaluable.

“It has been a tough year for me for bowling stuff because we’ve been so busy at the center and had some staffing shortages, but I think most of us still were in bowling mode,” Justin Studer said. “I probably have bowled more games here than I have all season in league, but we used the Bowlers Journal to get some reps in and get a feel for where we needed to play today. They broke down the way we thought they would, and we were able to execute pretty well.”

Even with some distractions, Justin and Steve Studer were able to help Snake River Bowl 1 into fourth place in Regular Team with a 2,785 total. Their success Sunday helped them to the top spot in one final category – Team All-Events – with an 8,576 five-player total.

Team All-Events is based on the combined all-events totals of all five team members. They were joined on the lanes this year by Nick Bywater (1,605), Dee Maier (1,543) and Wally Studer (1,475).

Sunday marked the first day of doubles and singles action at the 2022 Open Championships, which will run for 129 consecutive days from March 12-July 18.

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