Close to 430 bowlers crowded the lanes at Main Bowling Center in Greensburg on Sunday, competing for a tournament championship that is worth $1,500 to the winner.
The 30th Greensburg Open bowling tournament resumed Sunday at the center, attracting bowlers from throughout Western Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio, West Virginia and even as far as New Jersey, said Jim Heater of Southwest Greensburg, tournament director and bowling center manager.
The tournament will stretch over the next two Sundays, with the championship being decided on March 17, when 32 bowlers will battle for the crown, Heater said.
“It’s still really popular,” Heater said.
One of the bowlers who has bowled in all 30 tournaments is George Ross of Mt. Pleasant, who bowls in a league at Main Bowling Center. Ross, a winner of the 2011 tournament, said he looks forward to the competition at the annual event.
Mark Sternick of Greensburg has competed in almost all of the 30 tournaments.
“It’s almost an annual tradition,” said Sternick, who said he grew up bowling with Heater.
Sternick has come close to winning the tournament and was a runner-up one year.
“You’ve got a lot of good bowlers here,” Sternick said.
Among those good bowlers was Jim Petzel, 49, of Plum, who won the tournament in 1994, the first time he entered. Such is the level of competition that he still is seeking his second championship.
“I’ve got hooked and have been here ever since,” said Petzel, who started bowling as a young boy in Connellsville.
Heater created the tournament in 1990, combining different formats from other tournaments “and put them into one,” he said. That first year, there were about 90 bowlers. Last year, there were more than 400.
Because of the large number of competitors, the preliminary round takes place over three weekends — March 3, 10 and 17. The first preliminary round started Sunday morning
Each competitor bowls four games in the preliminaries. Their worst game is dropped from their score.
The 32 bowlers with the highest combined score go on to the finals, which will be held March 17.
There are additional cash prizes for bowlers who come in 60th place or better, and bonuses for seniors, women and youths.
Among the few women in the competition was Justyne Falbo of Hempfield, who has been bowling in the tournament the past five years.
“The competition is really tough,” said the 23-year-old bowler, acknowledging how difficult it will be to win.
“Maybe this time,” Falbo said.