Suffice it to say, things are going well for Jason Sterner on the bowling lanes right now.
On Sunday afternoon at Spring Hill Lanes, the Covington, Ga. native won his second straight event on the Professional Bowlers Association South Region tour, capturing the 27th annual Spring Hill Open, sponsored by Crystal Automotive.
“So excited. Back-to-back wins, never done that,” Sterner said. “Been bowling very good the second half of the season. The first half was pretty rough. It’s like I got some momentum going. I was able to talk to an older coach of mine and he kind of helped shed some light on some of the things I was struggling with. The last two mon ths has just been success and just riding it out for now.
“It’s definitely emotional. Because I went so long there without any wins, I think two years. Some seed of doubt started to come in, but you just keep working through it.”
The 31-year-old Sterner, who has one national tour title, the Don Carter Classic in Detroit in 2012-13, won the Gastonia Open in North Carolina on July 5.
“It’s going to sound silly, but just following my own moves. Paying attention to what I’m doing, where I’m standing, what the lanes are doing,” Sterner said of what spurred his recent hot streak. “Just breaking down each shot individually, which is quite a bit of a headache.
“I have to credit a lot of that to being aware of the surroundings and making good shots so I can get the proper feedback, so I can then turn around and make the next shot count. And that’s really been the motivation and the drive of the last two months.”
Sterner survived Saturday’s eight qualifying games, placing eighth with a 1,784 total, good enough to be among the 12 that advanced to Sunday’s match play.
After 12 games, in which he went 8-4, Sterner found himself as the top seed with a 4,888 overall tally.
In the stepladder finals, Sterner sat back and watched third-seeded Paul Koehler defeat fourth seed Chris Spoo, 222-181, and second-seeded Kyle Troup, 256-192.
Despite a roughly hour-and-a-half layoff, Sterner showed no rust. He started off with seven strikes in a row, including one in the second frame in which he benefitted from a late-falling 10-pin.
“I really felt like that was the momentum,” Sterner said. “I knew that I had to step up there and get on his throat, and try to put some pressure on him to make bad shots.”
Meanwhile, Koehler struck in the first frame but left a 5-pin in the second, then a 10-pin in the third that he missed for a critical open.
Koehler changed balls in the fourth, leaving an 8-pin, before throwing five strikes in a row to keep himself in the game.
“Unfortunately I lost the right lane with my Blue Hammer,” Koehler said. “It got so tight, there was so much oil carried down on that right lane, I couldn’t use it anymore. If I had made the switch a little bit quicker, I think it’d b een a different story. But you’ve got to keep at what’s got you there until it bucks you off, and that’s all I did.”
In the eighth, ninth and 10th, Sterner left pocket 10-pins, converting them all for spares. The last one was crucial, as a miss would have given Koehler a chance to come back by striking out.
“I really wanted to go over there and make a good shot, so I could leave something I could make,” Sterner said. “The 10-pin is always the easiest for me. I was happy to only see that. I would have liked if it had fell, but to leave me something I could make is all I could ask for.
“I think this is my fourth time (at this tournament) and every time I think I’ve made the finals other than one, but I’ve never made it this far. For whatever reason I just never could match up as well as the other guys, and this week, for whatever the case was, I felt like I had pretty good ball reaction and I just outsmarted the other opponents. I just let them kind of undo themselves.”
Among locals, 21-year-old Anthony Caso of Spring Hill finished the highest in 14th with a 1,753 on Saturday.
“Not very happy about it,” Caso said. “Seemed like either a lot of people whacked it, other people didn’t. I was kind of right in that little zone where I kind of had a good look, then it’d go away and I’d throw some bad shots. Right in the middle, nothing really spectacular about it, but it is what it is.”
A trio from Spring Hill finished 22-24, including two-time champion Jason Mahr (1,684), Chris Polizzi (1,682) and Kenny Riggs Jr. (1,678). Also from Spring Hill, Eric Martins placed 35th (1,590), Anthony Oliver took 41st (1,531) and Darian Curtis came in 49th (1,444).
First-place finishers from Friday’s pro-am were Brenda Dupler in the Regular Division (1,431), Don McLeod in the Senior Division (1,454), Joseph Rintrona in the Junior A (below 131 average) Division with a 1,486 and Noah Saul in the Junior B (above 131 average) Division with a 1,454.
Spring Hill Open Champions by Year
Year Winner Hometown
1989 D.B. Van Horn Atlanta, Ga.
1990 Jeff Bellinger Columbia, S.C.
1991 Mark Salka Tampa, Fl.
1992 Joe Viscomi New London, N.C.
1993 Bob Handley Tampa, Fl.
1994 Jason Couch Clermont, Fl.
1995 Darin Hays Tampa, Fl.
1996 Darin Hays Tampa, Fl.
1997 Jason Couch Clermont, Fl.
1998 Steve Hoskins Tampa, Fl.
1999 Darin Hays Tampa, Fl.
2000 Darin Hays Tampa, Fl.
2001 Don DuPree Fort Walton Beach, Fl.
2002 Walter Ray Williams Jr. Ocala, Fl.
2003 Roger Bowker Ocala, Fl.
2004 Ritchie Allen Columbia, S.C.
2005 Gary Morgan Atlanta, Ga.
2006 Tom Daugherty Wesley Chapel, Fl.
2007 Jason Mahr Spring Hill, Fl.
2008 Tom Daugherty Wesley Chapel, Fl.
2009 Vernon Peterson Winter Haven, Fl.
2010 Richard Langton Tallahassee, Fl.
2011 Mike Williams II Montgomery, Ala.
2012 Jason Mahr Spring Hill, Fl.
2013 Connor Pickford Charlotte, N.C.
2014 Sean Riccardi St. Petersburg, Fl.
2015 Jason Sterner Covington, Ga.
– Compiled by CHRIS BERNHARDT JR.