There are a lot of new things happening on the Lumber Liquidators Professional Bowlers Association Tour, most of them in conjunction with the season-long 50th anniversary celebration.
New oil patterns. Mixed oil patterns. A mixed doubles tournament. A plastic-ball event. An ultimate-scoring challenge. A "Versatility Swing."
Things will be different when the tour stops here, too, for this week's Bayer Earl Anthony Medford Classic at Lava Lanes. The Women's Series, which resumed in expanded fashion this season after debuting at the start of last season, will play its final regular event.
And, the 16 women, like their male counterparts, will try to negotiate an oil pattern that no one has ever competed on before.
It's the Earl Anthony Pattern.
The PBA has had five standard patterns in recent years, all named after animals: Shark, Cheetah, Chameleon, Viper, Scorpion. It added the Earl Anthony and Dick Weber patterns this season, the latter of which will be used at the Denny's Dick Weber Open early next month.
The Anthony Pattern figures to be among the most difficult the players see this side of the U.S. Open. For that major, a "flat" pattern is used, meaning the same amount of oil is put down on each board across the lane, which would be a 1-to-1 ratio. The Anthony specs are only 1.3 to 1.0.
Other patterns have five oil zones. This one has eight, meaning smaller areas, more change in conditions.
Another unique characteristic is that it widens as it goes away from the bowler, rather than tapering like the others.
The Anthony puts a premium on shot-making, which is appropriate because that's what its namesake was famous for in becoming No. 2 all-time in victories.
"It doesn't really resemble any other pattern," says Kirk von Krueger, vice president and tournament director of the PBA. "It's a brand new pattern. We can make guesses about how the players will play the pattern, but until we actually get out and bowl on it, we won't know. It'll be pretty interesting."
There could be some strange adjustments. As the oil breaks down, a right-handed bowler typically might move left to get his ball further down the right side, but on this set-up, a shift to the right to play outside and straighter might be the call.
"We've never built one like this," says von Krueger, "and we're anxious to see how it plays out for us."
The Anthony will be used again in the Etonic Marathon Championship in Indianapolis next month, when all the patterns but the Weber will be in use.
AS STATED, THERE'S a thing called the Versatility Swing this season, where players are ranked based on their performances on each of the animal patterns, plus the Earl Anthony.
Wes Malott, the defending champion in Medford, is well on his way to earning distinction as "Mr. Versatility." He made the TV finals on four of the five animal patterns in the first half — the swing is made up of just one tourney on each condition — and he looks forward to completing the mission here.
Malott's a big fella, going 6-foot-4, 250 pounds. As such, and because of the high revolution rate he applies to the ball, the "Big Nasty" is sometimes pigeon-holed as a power player.
So he's gratified to be leading this swing.
"It's not something they're going to do every year, so it would be kind of special to have that," says Malott. "It's bragging rights, or whatever you want to call it. I've always wanted to be considered a versatile player, not just a one-hit wonder who could only compete on this type of condition or that type of condition. I like to be able to use my power, but I've learned how to be competitive not doing that."
BRYON SMITH, THE former touring player from Roseburg who will again bowl here in the Tournament Qualifying Round Wednesday, should have good vibes coming back to Medford.
He bowled back-to-back 300 games Dec. 28 at the other center in town, Roxy Ann Lanes, during the Southern Oregon Junior All-Stars Junior-Adult Tournament.
"I got lucky," he says, "but it was cool."
Smith partnered with Roseburg High sophomore Jessica Friesen and won the event. There were five qualifying games, then five match-play games, then a one-game final.
The Roseburg duo defeated Whitney James, a senior on the South Medford team, and her partner, Greg Hafner.
Smith's 300s came in Games 5 and 6 — the end of qualifying and start of match play.
As for his hopes in the PBA event?
"I bowl three games a week in league, and that's it," says Smith, who competed for 11 years on tour and won the 2003 Masters, his only major. "We'll see what happens. Either I bowl good or I bowl bad. I'm probably not as sharp as I need to be. I'll come down and see all my old buddies and bowl seven games. If it works out good, great; if it doesn't, I'll do it again next year."