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From its humble beginnings 17 years ago, the Teen Masters has evolved and grown to become America's Premier High School Championship Event! What began in 1997 as a single event in Akron, Ohio that awarded $5,000 college scholarships to both its male and female champions, has now surpassed $1,000,000 in total scholarship awards, has received coverage by Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and had its championships nationally televised!

A Dream is Born
In 1996, Gary Beck returned to the United States from Hong Kong, where he had been heavily involved in the creation of the now highly successful Asian Bowling Tour. Beck – a former collegiate champion and member of Team USA – was immediately confronted with the almost appalling sight that was the Coca-Cola National Youth Championships. Averages for that event were as high as the upper 250’s, kids as young as 12 had to compete with those as old as 22 and it seemed the integrity of the sport Beck loved had been compromised.

The soaring scores and lack of equitable competition, Beck realized, were destroying the sport. He also realized that if substantial and truly meaningful change were to occur, that change would have to happen at the youth level. Only then could bowling’s ship be righted, the sinking feeling reversed…

Faced with these issues, Beck set out as an agent of change to create a new standard for youth competition. Less than a year later, the “Teen Masters” was born.

A Dramatic Debut
Originally known as the “Youth Masters,” Beck advertised his new tournament as the

1997 Winners: Tiffani McCoy - Michael Fagan
“Toughest Test of Skill in Youth Bowling,” with the tag-line, “Bring Your Spare Game.” For the first edition of the event, separate divisions were offered for teenage boy and girl bowlers, and the top scholarship award in each division was (just) $5,000 guaranteed.

Looking back, though, it’s quite clear that the tournament was a resounding success from the get-go. The scholarship money may have been less, but the 1997 results were no less outstanding than those since. Tiffani McCoy of Dallas, TX, and Michael Fagan of Greenlawn, NY, captured the inaugural titles, and Erin Landford – now wife of PBA player Chris Loschetter – and Tony Speed of Hamlin, NY, finished second in their respective divisions. If the names sound familiar, it’s because they are; almost all bowlers who have done well at the Teen Masters have continued to do so as their careers have progressed.

The (Sometimes Difficult) Development of a Champion
The following year brought more success – and really, really, really tough lane conditions. In fact, it was the 1998 Teen Masters that secured for the tournament its reputation of “the toughest test of skill in youth bowling.”

1998 Winners: Brian Hatcher - Kari Schwager

Due to some (minor!) miscommunication, the lanes used for the 1998 competition were oiled to 43 feet, rather than the desired 25 feet buffed to 43. The result? Only one bowler – Amber Gazverde of Flower Mound Texas – managed to average over 200 for the 18 games, and she didn’t even win the event! Instead, Kari Schwager of Montgomery, IL, defeated Diandra Hyman (now Diandra Asbaty) for the girl’s title, and Brian Hatcher of DeWitt, MI, defeated Chris Jones of Marion, IN, for the boy’s title.

1999, like the year prior, also gave tournament bowlers plenty to drop their mouths at.

1998 Winners: Scott Savage - Amanda Burgoyne
Athletes who had competed in the 1998 Teen Masters and still returned the next year received a commemorative “I Survived” t-shirt that Click to Enlarge - Re-click out or ESC to close became a badge of honor for the 1998 alumni. Equally surprising for many was the start of the tournament: 46 pinsetters dropped down to reveal lane after lane of stunning PBA gold pins, and the lane conditions – which most had predicted to be softer than the year before – proved just as difficult. Amanda Burgoyne of Newport, MN, and Scott Savage of Elwood, IN, took home the hard-fought championship, and Erin Landford and T.J. Ruggiero placed second.

2000 Finalists with PBA Stars
The coming of the new millennium coincided with a series of dramatic and remarkable changes to the tournament. Already proving to be one of the most successful annual youth tournaments, the Teen Masters in 2000 eclipsed all previous expectations. Beck and his team set out to make the Teen Masters the showcase of youth bowling, and pulled out all the stops along the way in order to help accomplish this goal. The scholarship fund exploded to $100,000, with an eye-popping 25 grand going to the national champion. In a similar vein, the format also changed – now, youth athletes would bowl in regional qualifying tournaments, and the final matches were moved to Chicago so as to coincide with the PBA’s Tournament of Champions.

2000 Winner: Chris Jones
Four boys survived the grueling competition, and the event blew right by its media goals when USA Today ran a front-page results column and even carried a page-three feature article on eventual winner, Chris Jones. Moreover, Fox Sports had all four finalists bowl in studio and conducted on-air interviews. The championship match between Erik Vermilyea and Chris Jones was taped by the PBA on a championship pair, and highlights aired as part of ESPN’s coverage of the Tournament of Champions. Finally, Beck thought, his wildest dreams were becoming a reality for youth bowlers everywhere.

2002 Winner: Josh Harper
Minor scheduling changes occurred the next year, when qualifying competition was held in 2001, and the finals were held in March 2002, in conjunction with Killer 'B' Promotions’ Battle at Little Creek. The championship match – held this time in an arena setting – was again taped, and highlights aired during ESPN’s live coverage of the Battle At Little Creek. Josh Harper of Hopkinsville, KY, snared the top prize, while Marc D’Errico of Rochester, NY, finished second. In third? Just a certain fellow from Anchorage, AK, named Sean Rash…

2002 Third Place: Sean Rash

2003 Winner: Jason Sterner
Following the events of 9/11, another shift in the event’s format was made for 2003. Sixteen regional qualifying events determined the 32 bowlers who advanced to the national championships; Jason Sterner of Jonesboro, GA, won the $10,000 scholarship top-prize, and Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, NY, was the runner-up.

2004 Winner: Ryan Ciminelli

2004 featured the same format – and an almost identical result. Instead of finishing second for a second time, though, Ryan Ciminelli finished off what he had started the year before, as he claimed the $10,000 scholarship given to the tournament’s champion.

A New Era Begins

2005 Winners: John Szczerbinski - Dana Kamerman
In 2005, in an effort to once again shine as the brightest tournament jewel in all of youth bowling, the Teen Masters expanded the number of regional qualifying events from 16 to 64 and expanded the national finals’ field from 32 athletes to 120. Separate divisions for boys and girls also returned, as Dana Kamerman of Niles, IL, and John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda, NY, ascended to their respective youth bowling thrones. Josie Earnest if Vandalia, IL, and Nathan Panaligan finished second, and, in a newly minted special feature, champions Kamerman and Szczerbinski were invited to the USBC Masters for a one-game match to determine the overall Teen Masters champion. Kamerman defeated Szczerbinski in the arena setting at Cellular One Arena.

Jake Peters - Universal Studios

2006 Winners: Brittni Hamilton - Jake Peters
In 2006, the national finals field again expanded, this time to 320 athletes, and the final three days of competition were staged in an arena setting at Universal Studios Orlando, on special lanes installed just for the occasion by Kegel. The championship matches were aired on ESPN2, and the tournament received an unprecedented viewership that watched Brittni Hamilton of Webster, NY, and Jake Peters of Decatur, IL, roll their way to the title of national champion. Fellow Floridians Ashly Galante of Palm Harbor and Jonathon Brady of Clearwater finished second in their respective gender divisions, and the overall title went to Peters.

In 2007, the format from 2006 stayed the same, as Ashly Galante and Geoffrey Young of Denton, TX, took the top spots. Samantha Santoro of Reinholds, PA, and Austin Bolds of Creal Springs, IL, placed second. Galante and Young were invited to the USBC Masters and bowled inside the Milwaukee Brewer’s Miller Park, where Young defeated Galante, 227-212.

2007 Winners: Geoffrey Young- Ashly Galante

2008 Winners: Joe Imholte - Tiffany Shurbrooks

Tiffany Shurbrooks of Robesonia, Pa. and Joe Imholte of Hamilton, Ohio were the 2008 champions and each took home Teen Masters titles and $10,000 in scholarship money.

The 2009 championships reached new heights as the final matches were staged inside the fabulous Fashion Show mall on the famous Las Vegas Strip and Versus aired seven weeks of Teen Masters coverage to a national television audience. New York's Danielle McEwan and Minnesota's Brandon Fietek were crowned national champions. The 2009 Teen Masters awarded over $160,000 in college scholarships!

2009 Girls Champion: Danielle McEwan

2009 Boys Champion: Brandon Fietek

2010 U14 Winners: Greg Young - Ashley Dunn

2010 HS Winners: Zack Hattori - Morgan O'Brien
In 2010 the Teen Masters Championships moved to Reno's National Bowling Stadium and the PBA's Xtra Frame provided live coverage as Wisconsin's Morgan O'Brien and Nevada's Zach Hattori claimed High School crowns and California's Ashley Dunn and Florida's Greg Young captured titles in the new Under 14 division.

The 2011 Teen Masters took bowling to heights never reached before. The championship rounds were held in New York City's iconic Grand Central Terminal and 400,000 commuters, tourists and bowling fans witnessed two days of competition on a specially installed lane. Over $100,000 in college scholarships were awarded to the 12 young bowlers who competed at Grand Central, and Zach Hattori became the first two-time champion in Teen Masters history and claimed the record $64,000 college scholarship awarded by Presenting Sponsor Ebonite! Florida's Rachel Vaughn was the Girls Champion and earned a $16,000 scholarship (the largest scholarship ever earned by a female bowler). California's Wesley Low Jr. claimed the Boys Under 14 title, and Ashely Dunn repeated as the Girls Under 14 champion.

Wall Street Journal Photo

Grand Championships Trophy Presentations

Ebonite's Gallagher Presents Scholarship

A Fantastic Future
2012 will see the Teen Masters rise to an entirely new level. Who will claim the title of national champion remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure - you still better bring your spare game!

To learn about the driving force behind the tremendous growth of the Teen Masters, click here.