In town to compete in three top-tier national events, Kevin Valmonte of Upland, California, and Tarika Onishi of Carlsbad, California, ended their trip to Las Vegas in the best possible way – by finding the top of the leaderboard at the 2021 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.
By the time they were done with their singles sets Sunday at the South Point Bowling Center, they’d each bowled nearly 40 games, but a strong final push now has them as the players to beat in Standard Doubles and Classified All-Events.
Valmonte, a 37-year-old right-hander making his ninth USBC Open Championships appearance, led the doubles charge with games of 186, 248 and 215 for a 649 series. He was followed closely by Onishi, a 38-year-old left-hander who bowled games of 199, 214 and 219 for a 632 set and 1,281 total.
Brandon Didion of Indianapolis and Joseph Didion Sr. of Greenwood, Indiana, previously held the lead this year with 1,257.
“I knew what the number was coming into the event,” Valmonte said. “But I really didn’t know we had a chance until about halfway through the third game.”
Along with taking the top spot in the standings, the new leading total also is the highest doubles total in the short history of the Standard Division. The previous record of 1,274 was rolled by Jeremy Delby of Park Forest Illinois, and Gregory Mollett Jr. of Homewood, Illinois, on the way to the 2019 title.
The reigning champions actually bowled their team event Sunday night at the South Point Bowling Plaza, before which, they received their championship watches. The two will not be bowling doubles together again in 2021.
The first year of the Standard Division was 2017.
For Onishi, who made her second Open Championships appearance, the excitement did not end with the doubles success.
Having bowled games of 214, 186 and 147 for a 547 series during her team event Saturday, she entered singles with Classified All-Events leader Joseph Snyder of Pleasantville, Pennsylvania, and his 1,721 total, well within reach. She needed just 543 to take the lead.
Onishi stayed hot through singles, firing games of 196, 183 and 196 for a 575 series and the lead in the Classified All-Events with 1,754.
“I honestly had no idea I was anywhere close,” Onishi said. “When I found out I took the lead, I broke down in tears. I’m so happy.”
Now begins the gut-wrenching experience of scoreboard watching, which Onishi and Valmonte both admitted they were excited to do.
The 2021 Open Championships kicked off its 79-day run May 1 and will run daily until July 18. All team competition is taking place at the Bowling Plaza, and doubles/singles action is being held at the Bowling Center.
Standard Doubles at the Open Championships is for teams with combined entering averages between 311 and 350. Classified Singles and Classified All-Events are for bowlers with entering averages of 155 and below.
The other two events going on in Las Vegas this week are The National Bowling Association’s TNBA Week and the International Gay Bowling Organization Annual 2021. Both include meetings, activities, competition and more.
Another highlight for the trip was a 300 game for Valmonte during singles at the TNBA National Championship Tournament.