ANGOLA — Ronnie Russell entered the championship round of Sunday’s PBA Angola Central/Midwest Open tournament at Angola Bowl with a 79-pin lead over opponent Patrick Dombrowski.
Russell started the day strong. So strong, in fact, that even a late dip in production never took him off the No. 1 spot on the leaderboard. The final field of eight championship contenders — withered down from a field of 60 at the beginning of the event — took part in a round robin-style round to determine championship placement.
The total number of pins and average game score determined placement on the leaderboard. At one point, Russell averaged close to 20 points more per game than the next closest competitor, and had a lead of more than 80 pins.
In his final match, he would have had to lose by 50 pins to surrender the trophy and $2,600 cash prize.
He trailed for only three frames.
Russell defeated Dombrowski 177-173 in the first-place match, a battle in which he said he was never really pushed to his limits.
“I just wasn’t challenged,” Russell, a Marion native, said with a hardy shrug. “I didn’t play very well those last few games, but it didn’t even matter.”
Russell overcame a fast start by Dombrowski, who bowled two strikes and a spare in his first three frames, but also failed to knock down all 10 pins in three of the final five.
Russell became the only multi-time winner of the event since it began being held in Angola in 2012. He was also the only member of the final eight from the state of Indiana, a field that consisted of bowlers from all across the central and midwest regions of the PBA, which extends, roughly, from Iowa to Pennsylvania.
“Oh yeah, there’s a bit of a state rivalry. You always like to keep the trophy in the Hoosier State,” Russell said as his statement was met with good-natured boos by a few participants from Ohio and Michigan.
Matthew Staninger of Centerville, Ohio, placed second in the event, with Dombrowski, from Parma, Ohio, finishing third.
Angola Bowl has hosted the event on the same weekend in July every year since its inception. The product of a lifetime of hard work by owner Bill Burke, the event has grown steadily over the years, bringing a community together in the process.
“I’ve been a bowler all my life, and it was always a dream of mine to own a bowling alley and host a PBA event,” said Burke, who is a member of the PBA himself.
The event is sponsored by a slew of local businesses and individuals. Several have donated to the event all seven years, while others, such as Scoops Ice Cream, were first-time contributors in 2019.
Angola Bowl raised a total of $6,500 for the event, which is plenty for a regional tournament and up considerably from what it used to bring in. A national tournament requires a minimum of a $15,000 purse, and even more if you want the event televised.
Representatives from Angola Bowl thanked the community and its sponsors profusely after the event.
“It really could not be done without them,” said Angola Bowl general manager John Goodman. “There’s been years when it’s turned into a door-to-door fundraising effort for me, and there are always businesses that are willing to step up.
“It’s something that brings the community together, and just shows how great of a fanbase we have here in Angola.”