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Star-crossed LeClair gets a second chance

Brian LeClair has a dubious streak, and because of a unique circumstance, the longtime member of the Lumber Liquidators Professional Bowlers Association Tour has a chance to stop it.

Or grow it.

LeClair, 44, bowled his first PBA event in 1985, and has had 17 full seasons on tour. Yet, he's never won in 384 attempts, more than any winless player in history.

To punctuate that, LeClair is 76th all-time in events bowled, and Earl Anthony, who is No. 2 with 43 career titles, only bowled five more tournaments than the Athens, N.Y., right-hander.

"It's not a record you want," LeClair said after Thursday's first block in the Bayer Earl Anthony Medford Classic Round of 64. He finished the day in ninth place with an average of 216.71 over 14 games at Lava Lanes. "Now I have an opportunity to extend it. Lucky me."

He said it in jest, but a part of him does feel fortunate to have exempt status for the second half of the season, something that wasn't finalized until Tuesday.

Last season, LeClair didn't finish high enough in the point standings to earn his way back, so he went to the Tour Trials in June.

The top seven there made it to the tour. LeClair was eighth. Normally, the number would be 10, but several players returned from injury deferments to fill some spots.

That's where it got interesting. One of the players, Patrick Healey Jr., was to return but he chose not to, unexpectedly leaving an open spot. The tour went to last season's point standings and awarded the position to the next player, Ronnie Russell, which was in keeping with its policy, said Kirk von Krueger, vice president and director of the tour.

However, in a normal injury deferment case, the spot would have come from the Tour Trials — where LeClair was next in line.

After the season started, LeClair filed a complaint with Commissioner Fred Schreyer, saying he should have been awarded the position. That didn't happen, but LeClair bowled a half-dozen events, mostly through the Tournament Qualifying Round, in the first half.

"That was kind of hard," said LeClair, "to go week to week bowling TQRs when someone else was bowling (in what he felt was his place)."

Then the unforeseen happened. Exempt player Tommy Delutz Jr. had knee surgery over the holidays. Rather than replace him the rest of the season through TQRs, Schreyer awarded LeClair exempt status.

"The commissioner, being a fair guy, thought Brian LeClair's argument had merit," said von Krueger.

"They didn't have to give me the spot," said LeClair. "I think they just realized an error was made, and they did the right thing."

Now, he has half a season to play catch-up and try to earn enough points to maintain exempt status with a top-40 finish. He's bowled eight events and is in 65th place.

"I know it's going to be hard, but at least I have a chance," he said. "I need a huge second half."

Or a win, which would do the trick.

Clearly, that's easier said than done as he's only made seven shows in his career.

LeClair last made the championship round in 2001, losing an early match to Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III.

The only two times he was in a title match was 1996 — in a three-week span. And both, if you can believe it, were against Walter Ray Williams Jr., the winningest player in history.

"He struck out both times in the 10th to beat me by a pin," LeClair said, shaking his head.

Just when he thought he was making headway, a torn ACL in his left knee the following offseason set him back.

And he's still trying to make up ground.


SHANNON O'KEEFE'S bio in the Media Guide shows she lives in Arlington, Texas, but the Women's Series player graduated from Oregon City High in 1997 and was an All-American softball player at Portland State in her lone season with the Vikings.

"Then I quit and went on the ladies tour," said O'Keefe, who hit .415 as a freshman center fielder in college. "I didn't do very well and then the tour folded."

She regained her amateur bowling status and is in her fifth year as a member of Team USA.

O'Keefe bowled a 299 quarterfinal game on TV in the 2007 U.S. Women's Open and went on to place second. She then won the singles gold medal at the 2007 Women's World Championships, an event held every other year.

"I had a lot of momentum and confidence going," she said. "It was pretty cool."

Almost as cool as being on Team USA.

"To be able to represent your country and do something you love is pretty incredible," she said. "It's unreal."

She earned exemption through the Tour Trials.

"This is very nice," said O'Keefe, who has her dad in attendance this week. "As soon as I heard we were coming to Medford, it was a no-brainer. I was going to be there, no matter what."

O'Keefe has bowled four of six events coming in and made the cut each time. This time, she didn't, placing 13th. The top 10 advanced.


IT ISN'T EASY to get into the PBA Hall of Fame. It's even harder to get into the U.S. Bowling Congress version of the shrine.

Marshall Holman of Medford came close recently but still missed out on the USBC Hall of Fame, being named on 105 ballots, or 66.46 percent. The magic number is 70 percent. There were 158 ballots cast by a panel of veteran bowling writers and Hall of Famers.

Holman was inducted into the PBA Hall in 1990.

Mark Roth and Johnny Petraglia did make it in the USBC Hall this time, joining Wendy MacPherson in the Superior Performance category. Roth went into PBA Hall in 1987, Petraglia in '82.

Others to miss out this year were Del Ballard Jr., Dave Husted and Amleto Monacelli.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com