03/28/09 — Goldsboro native Hill will bowl in U.S. Open

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Goldsboro native Hill will bowl in U.S. Open

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on March 28, 2009 11:20 PM

When sports fans think of the term "U.S. Open," a few moments stand out.

For some, it's Tiger Woods hobbling to a major tournament victory on an injured leg. For others, it's Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi trading forehand winners on center court that comes to mind.

For Clarke Hill, the words "U.S. Open" bring a prominent smile and a single word --opportunity.

The Goldsboro native will be travel to Brunswick, N.J. to participate in the Professional Bowling Association's U.S. Open. The six-day event that is widely regarded as the nation's toughest tournament.

"I really don't have a lot of expectations," said Hill. "I would love to go out and play really well on the first day and set the tone for the week."

Play begins on Monday at the Brunswick Zone Carolier, one of the top bowling houses on the east coast. Hill expects the conditions to be extremely challenging.

"They are going with a '40-foot flat' oil pattern and that means there isn't going to be any room for error," said Hill. "At a local bowling alley, an average player might have 13 boards of wiggle room. At the U.S. Open, it's more like two boards."

A field of approximately 500 players from across the country will assemble in Brunswick. Everyone from World No. 1-ranked player Wes Mallott to a myriad of regional qualifiers will take part in the three-day opening round which begins on Tuesday morning.

The field will get narrowed to the top 25 percent, based on total pins, on Thursday.

"I would honestly love to make it through Thursday," said Hill. "That's when the money play begins."

The "Cashers" round, where the field will again be cut, is Friday. The top 24 players advance to the weekend. The final two days will be played bracket style in the head-to-head matchplay format.

ESPN will broadcast the final four matches nationally.

"Those guys that make the TV show will have gone through a grind," said Hill. "To make the finals a player will have to throw about 90 games."

Both the mental and physical tolls make the Open bowling's biggest challenge. Rigorous practice and constant preparation have filled Hill's schedule for the past several weeks.

"I have been bowling about 12 games a day to get ready," he said. "Playing in a U.S. Open isn't something that you can just wake up and do. You have to be able to play at your peek physically for several days in a row."

A former PBA tour player, and an avid local keggler, Hill qualified for the open by maintaining a 215 average in three different leagues for three consecutive years. He has been entering tournaments statewide as a tune-up for the big event.

Hill will be sponsored at the U.S. Open by Turbo brand grips.

"I will have 24-25 balls with me, and of those, 10 won't even be drilled," he said. "None of the balls will have the same core or the same surface so I can adjust to the lanes and the oil as it gets worn out."

Hill's progress during the tournament can be tracked online by going to www.pba.com.