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GP's Warren delights fans with fine showing

The loudest cheers in the center were for the tiny bowler from Grants Pass Friday in the PBA event at Lava Lanes.

And Chris "Squeaks" Warren reveled in every clap, every shout of "Attaboy!"

"When you're in your home environment, you want to do good," Warren said after yet another stellar block that ushered him to the Round of 16 — which would determine Sunday's TV finalists. "You have all these people around to support you, and you don't want to let them down. It's not you. It's them. They're why I'm here."

They had reason to cheer as he climbed to seventh place. Alas, Warren's run ended in the evening. He needed to crack the top four but finished 13th.

Still, it was by far his best showing in six tries here and easily his strongest effort of this season.

"It does me a lot of good to have people cheering for me," he said. "I'm enjoying it. It's a good feeling."

Warren has had a roller-coaster career dating to his first full season in 1986. In 1990, he won four titles, made six TV shows and earned nearly $200,000. Seven years later, he was on his way out, a casualty of drug addiction.

Warren, who then lived in Texas, eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest, turned his life around and relocated to Grants Pass, where he owns the pro shop at Caveman Bowl.

Last season, he made it to one TV final, had 12 match-play appearances and earned $39,420. He retained his exempt status by placing 31st in the world point rankings for the second straight year.

Momentum didn't carry over this season. Until this week, he placed better than 30th only once. He said he didn't get many breaks and produced "a whole lot of bad bowling."

He's 55th in points, and the odds of him turning it around in Medford weren't good. His best place here was 46th two years ago. Others were in the 60s, 70s and above.

But, something has clicked.

"I've bowled good all week, actually," said Warren, 45. "I had a couple of what I call hiccups, where I made some bad decisions. I was making them all day. My good ones are good and my bad ones are bad. I'm glad I'm making more good ones than bad ones now."

Indeed, though he said games of 164 in the first block and 156 in the second on Thursday were "probably the worst two games of anyone in the top 16," he fought through it.

Friday morning, all nine games were over 200.

"I'm pretty impressed with that," he grinned.

He saved the best for last, backing up two spares with seven straight strikes to the delight of the faithful audience. In the seventh, when a lone pin trundled toward a defiant 10-pin, the fans' anticipation rose with it until, finally, it tapped the straggler for another 'X.' Yep, the fans roared.

And Squeaks couldn't help but smile.

U

WHEN TOMMY JONES talked of missing a flight from Portland Wednesday, thereby missing a scheduled practice session, it reminded me of what Wes Malott said earlier.

The defending champion has little need for practice.

"I don't know what it is with the practice thing," he said. "If I keep making shows, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. If I'm bowling bad, you'll see me practicing."

He hasn't had too many bad outings.

"With the success I've had, it's almost become one of those superstitious things, even though I'm not superstitious," said Malott.

Practice can work against him. If a ball works well in practice, he might be inclined to stay with it too long, missing out as the lanes transition.

He gets ribbed occasionally about not practicing but thinks his peers are envious.

"If I was them," he said, "I'd be jealous, too."

U

THE FORMAT IN use this week is different from previous years here and caused some confusion.

Rather than best-of-seven matches on Friday, round-robin match play was used in two nine-game blocks, cutting the field from 32 in the morning to 16 in the evening, from which the four finalists emerged.

The matches didn't determine who advanced, however. Total pin fall did. The matches did provide an opportunity for extra pins: 30 for a win and 15 for a tie.

After eight morning matches, the 32 were slotted and bowled one more position round. The top 16 moved into the evening session, where the same format was used.

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

Chris Warren finished 13th at the Earl Anthony Classic.