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Rhino Page excited to defend title at U.S. Open


Rhino Page of Orlando, Florida, captured his first major championship last year at the U.S. Open, and the 35-year-old left-hander is looking forward to putting his title on the line this week in Wichita, Kansas.

Page (pictured above in the green jacket with the eagle trophy) will lead a field of 144 competitors at Northrock Lanes starting Friday, and the 2018 event will conclude Oct. 31 with a live broadcast of the stepladder finals on CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. Eastern. The winner will claim the $30,000 top prize and take home the famed green jacket.

The U.S. Open is the fourth and final major championship on the 2018 Professional Bowlers Association Tour schedule and is conducted jointly by the United States Bowling Congress and Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America.

At the 2017 U.S. Open in Liverpool, New York, Page bested fellow southpaw Jakob Butturff of Chandler, Arizona, in the title match, 256-222, to win his sixth career PBA Tour title.

In addition to the green jacket, Page also claimed the 2017 PBA Xtra Frame Kenn-Feld Group Classic title on his way to being selected as the winner of the 2018 Best Bowler ESPY award.

“It was everything you could dream of and more,” Page (right) said. “I get goosebumps every time I think about it. Confidence wise, it’s been very good for me. And, so far, it has been the defining moment of my career.”

Page’s 2018 season has had its share of ups and downs, and he recently experienced another rollercoaster week at the FloBowling PBA Fall Swing in Owasso, Oklahoma.

He was second overall with one squad left in qualifying at the PBA Wolf Open but finished in 10th place, missing the stepladder finals. At the PBA Bear Open, Page was unable to find the right look and finished tied for 64th place. He also missed a spot in match play for the PBA Tulsa Open, which included the top 18 competitors from the two events, based on their 24-game pinfall totals for the week.

Though the results last week at The Lanes at Coffee Creek may have not gone in his favor, Page feels the work he’s put in to get ready for the last portion of the PBA Tour season will pay dividends.

“It’s been a tough season for me,” said Page, who has a high finish of fourth place in 2018, which took place at the PBA Xtra Frame Kenn-Feld Group Classic.

“I was really close at the Wolf Open. I had worked extremely hard on that pattern, since it has been tough for me over the years. To be in second and drop to 10th was a little disappointing. Nevertheless, I felt I bowled very well. I’ve done a lot of prep work in the last two months, not only on the lanes, but at the gym, too, and I feel strong.”

One of the big challenges for competitors this week at Northrock Lanes will be facing four different lane conditions. At the 2017 event, there only was one oil pattern, and bowlers had to navigate different phases of the condition – fresh, burn and double-burn.

In 2018, all squads will be contested on a fresh oil pattern, and players will compete on three different conditions during the first three rounds of qualifying. The fourth oil pattern will be introduced starting with the cashers’ round Oct. 29 and be used for the remainder of the tournament.

Although Page knows this will be a big factor, he’s ready to rely on his strengths to make another run at the title.

“It’s going to take a lot of great shot-making,” Page said. “With four different patterns this year, it’s really hard to anticipate what’s going to happen, but I know physically I’m where I need to be. I’m going to have to focus on the mental aspect, keep an open mind and make sure my prep work each day is really good. At the end of the day, it’s still the U.S. Open, and spares are going to matter. That’s my strength, being able to grind my way through a tournament.”

Page has drawn motivation from different sports as he prepares to put his title on the line.

He watched 2018 PGA Tour Player of the Year Brooks Koepka successfully defend his U.S. Open title earlier in 2018, and Page feels ready to become the first player since USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Dave Husted to repeat as champion at one of bowling’s premier events.

Husted captured the title in 1995 and 1996, and he also won the 1982 U.S. Open (left, with BPAA president Bill Lacy). He’s one of just four players to win at least three U.S. Open titles.

“Seeing Brooks Koepka win back-to-back U.S. Open titles in golf was a very big motivator for me,” Page said. “If he can do it in his sport, I can do it in mine. I really used that as a driving force to get ready for this event.”

The 2018 U.S. Open will play a major role in determining a tightly contested race for the Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year award.

EJ Tackett (right) of Bluffton, Indiana, the 2016 Player of the Year, won his third title of the season at the PBA Bear Open last week, while Butturff, Andrew Anderson of Holly, Michigan, Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas, and Australia’s Jason Belmonte each have claimed two titles on the year. Belmonte is the reigning Player of the Year, having also earned the award in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Anderson is the only player in the group to have captured a major championship in 2018, winning the USBC Masters in April (left).

A total of 116 of the 144 competitors this week received a direct entry into the 2018 U.S. Open based on their on-lane performances during 2017. The final 28 spots will be awarded through a pre-tournament qualifier (PTQ), which will take place at Northrock Lanes on Wednesday at 2 p.m. Eastern.

The PTQ will feature eight games, with total pinfall determining who advances to the main event. Qualifying for the full field at the U.S. Open will begin Friday at 9 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 36 players for the cashers’ round, which will include an additional eight games to determine the 24 players for round-robin match play.

Match play will begin next Monday at 6 p.m. Eastern with the first of three eight-game rounds. Match play resumes Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern with the final two blocks, including a position round. The five finalists will be determined by total pinfall, including bonus pins, for 56 games.

Each round of the 2018 U.S. Open leading up to the stepladder finals will be broadcast live on PBA’s online bowling channel Xtra Frame on FloBowling. For more information on the U.S. Open, click here.

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Herbert Bickel

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