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December 20, 2014

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Fans bowl with PBA’s best at TOC pro am

Week-long tourney concludes with today’s televised finals

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Keith Shimada

Larry (left) and son, Caesar Coriea (9), watch Michael Haugen Jr. give an autographed bowling pin to Robert Coriea (10) during the PBA’s H&R Block Tournament of Champions pro-am bowling tournament on Saturday, Jan. 24 at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas.

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Pro Ritchie Allen bowls during the H&R Block Tournament of Champions pro-am tournament, Saturday, Jan. 24 at Red Rock Lanes.

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Amateur bowler Arnie Altman (center) waits for his turn during the H&R Block Tournament of Champions pro-am tournament, Saturday, Jan. 24 at Red Rock Lanes.

Beyond the Sun

Red Rock Lanes became a bowling fan’s dream Saturday.

Many of the 50 greatest bowlers in the history of the Professional Bowlers Association, as well participants in this week’s H&R Block Tournament of Champions, all gathered at the facility to participate in three pro-ams events.

The functions allowed awestruck supporters the chance to mingle, get autographs and compete against their favorite bowlers.

The tournament of champions has played out at Red Rock since Tuesday and concludes with today’s ESPN televised stepladdder finals. The TOC. is being held in conjunction with the announcement of the PBA’s 50 greatest bowlers of all time, who were honored at a dinner Saturday night.

Michael Haugen, who won the tournament a year ago, said he was happy to meet with fans of his sport.

“They love the game, and they love being around us,” said Haugen, who lived in Summerlin from 2003-2006. “This is a very exciting time to give back to them a little bit. And if you can see something they’re not doing right while bowling, you can fix it for them, and they get a big smile on their face.”

For some fans, meeting the world’s top bowlers was like catching up with an old friend.

Mike Aulby, who was named No. 6 on the PBA’s Top 50 list, said some fans even asked about his family.

“Most of them were just wondering what I’ve been doing, how things are going or how old my kids are now,” said Aulby, who’s been retired for five years. “Some were telling me about past tournaments they may have been at that I won. I’ve had a great time. A lot of these people are very friendly and happy to see me.”

Many fans were able to go from bowler to bowler, hunting for autographs. A commemorative book for the top 50 bowlers of all time and bowling pins were the most popular items fans had signed.

Jason Couch — who won the tournament of champions in 1999, 2001 and 2002, and is listed as the No. 24 bowler of all time — said he enjoyed being in Las Vegas.

“Vegas is one of the better spots in the country for bowling,” Couch said. “For one, they have the nicest bowling centers. Also the fans are really knowledgeable here. They know who everyone is. That’s a great thing when they come up to us and ask us for things.”

Las Vegas Valley resident George Conditto said he enjoyed seeing so many great bowlers in one place.

“It’s nice seeing a lot of the old timers who I grew up watching,” Conditto said. “I’ve seen some of these guys bowl for 30 years. You like to see how they’re doing today.”

Karen Frazier, another local who has been a bowling fan for 20 years, said it was a thrill to bowl with competitors she is used to seeing on television.

“It’s exciting,” Frazier said. “It’s a little embarrassing with the way that I bowl, but I’ve had a lot of fun. I like to wish these guys luck and tell them I’ve been following them for years. They’re usually very friendly.”

In addition to locals, many out-of-state fans made the trek to Summerlin for the chance to see the PBA’s best.

Jamie Gardner of St. George, Utah, returned to the pro am for the second straight year.

“I came last year with my friends and got autographs and took pictures while they bowled,” Gardner said. “So this year I wanted to come back and bowl.

“It’s a lot of fun. The pros are really nice and really cool to bowl with.”

Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected]

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