It’s that time of the year again. 19 years Martin Luther King Jr day has been marked on bowlers calendars. A new year, and a new Storm Northwest Tour season comes upon us and with it comes one of the toughest tests in bowling. What started out as a tournament to find the next Storm staffer, has evolved to much more. It’s history is filled with moments we will never forget, most recently, an emotional Josh Link winning after a significant loss in his life and completing the repeat, Randy making the 4-7-8-10, then striking in the 10th to win, Josh Blanchard being the first to repeat since Scott Norton in the tournaments first 2 years, Clay winning a record setting third title, and the list goes on. The most prolific names in the northwest and some from all over the country sit at the table of champions here at the Storm Utah Open. Norton, Flynn, Kinney, Turner, the late Bob Scadden, Rees, Hackleman, the late Jeff Conradi, Harrington, Groat, Blanchard, Link, and Miles. Now, bigger than ever, what moments will we witness this year? Who among the 600 plus who will test their might and come out Sunday night a champion? Who will add their name to the exclusive list of Storm Utah Open champions? Someone new? Or a name we already know.
I know I say this a lot, how stacked the field is and how hard it is to pick just 13, but I mean it this time. Never have I had a roster where so many names have resumes like this event. Surely I will snub someone, but this time, I have no choice. Some names to look out for that did not make the list are past champion Chuck Groat, Mike Sagers, Carolyn Dorrin Ballard, KT Simpson, Rob Lund, Brandon Smith, and Riley Woodard. As our biggest event we have covered to date, we here at Championship Bowling hope you enjoy it as much as we will. Let's dive into the bowlers I think have the best shot at winning the biggest iteration of this tournament ever.
8. Randy Miles - Randy enters this weekend as the defending champion. No one has a bigger target on their back than he does. Rand hit the 30 clean jackpot twice and sealed the deal in the finals against Josh Link in the most electric finals we have ever covered besides the CB Masters. This year, the pattern will play very differently in my opinion than it has in the past. Urethane is absolutely in play and I see it being very hard later in the block. I can see the left side looking very good, and Randy matches up to this place well. Where I do pause for concern is, the left will most likely start out good, but how many lefties will be in the finals? How will the righties getting ultra deep affect the left side of the pattern? There are a lot of talented bowlers on this list hungry to sit atop this mountain. Will Randy be able to fend them off? That we shall see.
7. PJ Haggerty - PJ makes his return to the SNWT and the Storm Utah Open after a multi year hiatus. PJ is a world class bowler who's a multi time PBA Regional player of the year. He has some experience in this center, but it has been a few years. Can he bring that experience from the PBA Regional circuit to Sparetime Lanes? I think his ball roll will match up very well to this pattern early on. A recurring theme here is the transition? Who will be able to manage it best? We know PJ is an extremely versatile bowler and will most likely find something, but will it be as good as the rest of the field? I know someone will crack the code, who that will be I’m not sure yet. PJ though, might just be that guy.
6.5 Brad Miller - Yes I know, I forgot Brad freaking Miller. Regardless this is where he would have gone anyway. What I like about Brad is 1 he's coming off a coaching with Jasnau, and historically he has bowled well after that. And 2, his ball ro9ll will help control the friction down lane. Can he throw urethane though and score with it? Like I’ve mentioned earlier, You are going to want to stay as far right as possible for as long as possible because once you move in, it will be a massive jump. Brad hasn’t bowled competitively too much out here if at all, and that could potentially hurt him down the stretch. Regardless, I am really excited for just how many talented bowlers we are going to get to see down the stretch on Sunday.
6. Jake Peters - Jake makes his return to Utah after winning the PBA Regional in Lehi. He also did this by throwing urethane most of the time. Jake also is one of the most experienced PBA bowlers in the field. As long as urethane is on play he will be a serious threat to win this tournament. His game is well rounded, he can manufacture scores when he needs to, but will he strike enough late on Sunday? This center is savage and you really have to square up the pocket to strike, which is different from Lehi, the pins flew fairly well there. All in all, Jake has a very good shot at adding his name to the list of Storm Utah Open winners.
5. Darren Tang - Darren is also making his return to the Storm Utah open after a multi year hiatus. In years past this tournament landed on the opener for the PBA tour. Darren may not have had the most ideal run last time he was here but he has grown as a bowler tremendously since then and has secured several PBA National and Regional titles. Darren finished 2nd to Jake Peters last time he was in Utah after winning the previous Beehive Open. Now after making Team USA last week in Vegas his eyes are set on a SNWT title and adding his name to the table of winners. We know Darren loves urethane and is really good with it. We saw him struggle to manage the transition in Lehi during the regional, and a similar case could happen this weekend. Can Darren keep his mental game focused and lock in late Sunday when the cut gets close? We hope so, that will make for some amazing action when we get to the final rounds of eliminations.
The 2023 Storm Utah Open begins at 3 PM Friday January 13th with the first of 10 qualifying squads LIVE on Championship Bowling’s YouTube page! https://www.youtube.com/c/ChampionshipBowling
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