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Francois Lavoie prepared for title defense at U.S. Open


Canada’s Francois Lavoie rolled a historic 300 on his way to victory at the 2016 U.S. Open, and the 24-year-old right-hander is ready for his title defense, which begins this week as the 2017 event heads to Liverpool, New York.

The U.S. Open will make its eighth trip to New York and kicks off Wednesday at Flamingo Bowl. It will conclude Nov. 1 with a live broadcast of the stepladder finals on CBS Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The champion will earn a $30,000 top prize and coveted green jacket.

The U.S. Open is the fourth of five major championships on the 2017 Professional Bowlers Association Tour schedule and is conducted jointly by the United States Bowling Congress and Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America.

On the way to the title in 2016, Lavoie made history as the first player to roll a perfect game during the event’s TV finals. He tossed 12 consecutive strikes in his 300-211 semifinal win against Houston’s Shawn Maldonado.

The momentum carried into the championship match, as Lavoie went on to win his first career PBA Tour title by defeating top seed Marshall Kent of Yakima, Washington, 228-194.

Lavoie’s win at the South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas helped him become just the second foreign-born player to claim the title, joining Finland’s Mika Koivuniemi, who won the U.S. Open in 2001.

“I had expectations for myself when I first went out on Tour, and one of my goals was to win a PBA title,” Lavoie said. “But, I certainly didn’t expect it to happen that fast, and it was a very special moment for sure.”

During Lavoie’s historic semifinal performance, his demeanor was business-like as he focused on his title tilt with Kent, who led the field through 56 games by nearly 275 pins.

Nearly a year later, Lavoie is able to enjoy the moment through his fans.

“When it was happening, I was just trying to do my job and get to the next match,” Lavoie said. “I didn’t realize how special it was. Now, a year later, people still come up to me to talk and ask about it, and it’s great to witness how special it was from other people’s points of view. It was definitely something special.”

Lavoie’s overall success throughout the 2016 season earned him PBA Rookie of the Year honors, and he added a second title at the PBA Shark Championship (left).

His third career title came in June at the PBA Xtra Frame Greater Jonesboro Open, and Lavoie finished July with back-to-back European Bowling Tour victories and a gold medal for Canada in doubles, with Dan MacLelland, at the World Games in Wroclaw, Poland (right).

Despite the run of success, Lavoie constantly is fine-tuning his craft. After returning from Europe, he struggled with a few aspects of his game but worked through them to regain his feel, winning a pair PBA regional titles this month.

“There have been some very high highs, but I’ve had to work through some lows as well,” Lavoie said. “I’ve been working on a few things to get my touch back, so hopefully I can keep that going with a busy end of the year. I always make sure I’m prepared heading into an event, and I still think there are a few things I need to tweak before getting started at the U.S. Open.”

Although his game is a constant work in progress, Lavoie will focus on the same mentality that has helped him in the past as he looks to become the first champion to successfully defend a U.S. Open title since USBC Hall of Famer Dave Husted in 1996.

“I’ve been fortunate to find success early in my career,” Lavoie said. “I think a lot of that success has happened because as I approach an event for the first time, I keep an open mind and don’t necessarily set my expectations too high. I try to enjoy the moment and do the best that I can. I’m going to try and keep that mentality going throughout my career, even though first times are becoming fewer and fewer.”

Lavoie will lead a select field of 144 of the best bowlers in the world.

The participants in the limited field earned their spots primarily through invitations based on their on-lane performances throughout 2016. Some spots will be earned through a pre-tournament qualifier (PTQ), taking place at Flamingo Bowl on Wednesday.

The PTQ will consist of eight games, with total pinfall determining the competitors who advance to the main tournament. The full 144-player field will begin qualifying Friday at 8 a.m. Eastern.

Qualifying will consist of three eight-game blocks over three days. After 24 games, the field will be cut to the top fourth (36 players) for Monday’s cashers’ round, which will consist of an additional eight games to determine the top 24 players for round-robin match play.

Match play will begin Monday at 6 p.m. Eastern with the first of three eight-game rounds. Match play resumes Tuesday at 10 a.m. Eastern with the final two blocks of qualifying, including a position round. The five finalists will be determined by total pinfall, including bonus pins, for 56 games.

Starting Friday, each round of the 2017 U.S. Open leading up to the stepladder finals will be broadcast live on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the PBA. For more information on the U.S. Open, click here.

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