As the Hastings men’s bowling team continues their historic season, currently ranking third in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) poll, Senior Blake Earnest is adding to the list of accomplishments. On Feb. 16, the senior from Wood River, Nebraska qualified for the U.S. Open.
After invitations are sent out to members of Team USA and Junior Team USA, as well as other major winners on the PBA Tour, they run multiple qualifying tournaments to see who will make the 108-player field.
Earnest participated in the pre-tournament qualifier (PTQ) at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, Nebraska, the last-chance qualifier tournament, where competitors pay $500 to participate. This year, the top 20 placers from the PTQ were awarded a spot at this years’ U.S. Open. Earnest finished 13th in the eight games with a 204 average.
“These are still some of the best amateurs in the country, in the world even, so it’s really competitive and everybody’s competing for a spot in the most prestigious bowling tournament in the world. It’s a really competitive environment and taking 20 of the 64, that’s a pretty big ratio. It’s a little comforting if you get off to a good start, like I did,” said Earnest.
Earnest noted that his good start to the season allowed him to coast through the rest of the season.
“I didn’t have to bowl great. I just had to bowl better than 50 guys, which is what I did. So I mean, it was really for me, it was more of a relaxed atmosphere. I didn’t have to do a whole lot, just had to not shoot myself in the foot,” said Earnest.
On Wednesday, Earnest went back to Sun Valley Lanes to compete in Round One of the U.S. Open, competing in the C Squad.
“All week I hadn’t felt any nerves until the first frame of game one. Then once the nerves hit, I couldn’t get my mind or body to slow down. Once I settled in, I was better off but still never got anything really to go my way,” said Earnest.
Earnest finished 101st out of 108 bowlers on Wed. with an average of 192.63, well below his 204 average in the qualifying rounds.
“Seeing how the scoring pace was pretty high I was pretty disappointed in my first round block. I now have to put together two huge days to try and make it back into the cut,” said Earnest.
Earnest bowled his second round at 1 p.m. Wednesday and third round at 8 a.m. on Thursday.
“Today I feel like I can put together a big block for round two and then tomorrow’s pattern is going to be difficult but I also feel like I can put a number up on that pattern as well,” said Earnest on Wed.
The top 36 bowlers will make the cut after Thursday’s results, followed by the top 24 making the cut on Friday afternoon. The top 24 will bowl Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. The U.S. Open will wrap up on Sunday at 1 p.m. with the top five bowlers competing, which will be televised on Fox.