BY JEFF FALK
An unparalled learning experience. An opportunity to see how one’s game stacks up to some of the best in the world. A chance to enhance the reputation and honor of the locale’s elite.
For the Lebanon County bowlers who compete in it, the CAP Card Scorpion Open is a great many things to a great many people. But one thing they can agree upon is that the Lebanon stop on the Profressional Bowlers’ Association’s East Region tour is a positive thing for the local bowling community, as well as a positive thing for the County as a whole.
Yeah, some of the top bowlers in the country have rolled into Lebanon’s Cedar Lanes for the ninth event on the PBA East Region’s 15-tournament schedule. And awaiting them will be a group of seven talented local bowlers who are anxious to see how their games compare.
“Honestly, in my mind, I think I can cash,” said Darren Zombro, Jr., a 33-year-old Lebanon resident who works at Cedar Lanes. “Plus, I love the sport. I’ve been so close so many times that I think I can do it. Am I looking to win? No, not with the talent that’s here.”
“My goal is to win it,” said Lebanon’s Shaun English, who’s competing in his first CAP Card tournament. “I wouldn’t be entered if I didn’t think I could win it. I wouldn’t do it if I thought I could just cash or just wanted to show my face.”
“These guys are way better than I am,” said Michael Houtz of Myerstown of the touring professionals. “I can compete on a good day. They’re at the top level everyday. I’m more curious to see how the other local guys are going to do. This year there’s more local guys than ever.”
This marks the 14th summer that the PBA East Region tour has made a stop in Lebanon. The event is sponsored primarily by Royal Oaks and Monroe Valley golf courses, and secondarily by 30 other local businesses.
A Friday evening pro-am will kick off the festivities, while the event will be contested in earnest on Saturday and Sunday. The tournament has attracted 96 competitors from the Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and New York region, including the top three money winners on the PBA East Region circuit.
Hopefuls plopped down $220 or $285 for the right to compete. The winner will walk away with a first-place prize of $2,500, while the lowest cash prize will be $400.
“It’s important to the community,” said Darrin Armel, one of Cedar Lanes’ owners. “They have supported it (the event) since its inception. As long as the community continues to support it, we’ll continue to have it. The pro-am event typically fills both squads. That’s our local people coming out to support the event.
“No, we don’t make money,” Armel continued. “We haven’t lost money, but we haven’t made money. It’s about bowling. As long as we can provide it for the community and don’t have to take money out of our pocket, we’ll do it. We’re all in business to make money.”
“This is my home house,” said Houtz, who has competed in six PBA regionals this season. “I bowl here on Wednesdays over the summer and I’ll probably bowl on Thursdays during the winter. No it doesn’t give me an advantage. But I’m comfortable here.
“I think it’s a good event,” Houtz added. “I think it’s the longest running event in the east region. It’s my house. I definitely will support this house, no matter what the pattern.”
“It’s an honor to have these guys come in here to our county,” said Zombro. “If you’re a bowler you rarely get a chance to come and see some of the guys who bowl on TV. We get quite a few people (spectators) out here. It’s not empty and it’s not overly packed. If you’re a bowler from this area its a once-in-a-year experience to see the guys you see on the TV.”
“This is the 14th year for the event and I think this is the biggest turnout from the area,” said English. “It’s grown into a big event for the local top bowlers. You’ve got to be on top of your game. There’s no room for error.
“Obviously there’s a lot of talent here, and if I don’t make the cut I’m going to root for some of the other guys from the area,” added English. “And if they don’t make the cut I’m sure they’ll root for me. The area is like a brotherhood. You want to stick by their side.”
In addition to English, Houtz and Zombro, Annville’s Jeff Smith, Jeremy Overdier of Lebanon, Ben Boyer of Lebanon and Lebanon junior Isaac Kim will also compete. No Lebanon County resident has ever won the event.
“In February I did OK at the U.S. Open and that was a major step in my decision to enter,” said English, 34. “I’ve accomplished everything I could in Lebanon County – 300s, 800s. The confidence I have right now pushed me into it.
“With all the talent compared to a local tournament, this is bigger and better,” English added. “You need to throw the ball the best you can, and you need to have some luck. You have to carry some pins.”
“I haven’t done as good as I should have,” said Boltz of his prior experiences at the CAP Card. “That’s my recollection. Last year I bowled horribly on my favorite pattern. Scorpion is not my favorite pattern either, so I’ll have to see how I do this year.
“I’d like to make match play,” continued Boltz. “I’d settle for cashing. Hopefully, I’ll at least cash.”
“That’s really good,” said Zombro, who finished 38th two years ago. “I was 11 pins away from cashing. Competing against the excellent talent is awesome. It’s a great learning experience. My goal every time is just to try to have a really good showing. Just to always try my best.
“The goal for tomorrow is to play my game,” Zombro continued. “And don’t worry about my score. If the score’s good, the score’s good. And if it’s not, treat it like a learning experience.”