Cooley's Bold Strategy Pays Off With First-Round Lead In Oklahoma

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SHAWNEE, Okla. – While most of the field was using urethane or plastic on the short pattern Wednesday, Sam Cooley charted his own course in the opening round of the 2020 PBA Oklahoma Open.

The strategy of avoiding urethane or plastic paid off for Cooley as he led the 88-player field with a six-game total of 1,435, a 239.17 average, at FireLake Bowling Center. The second round of qualifying gets underway Thursday at Noon Eastern live on FloBowling.

Cooley started out hot with games of 247, 255 and 259 before cooling off a bit with games of 194, 234 and 246. The big final game helped push him into the lead in a tight race on the opening squad of the day.

RESULTS: PBA Oklahoma Open Qualifying Round 1

The players are once again facing dual patterns this week with the 45-foot Dragon pattern on the left lane and the 32-foot Wolf pattern on the right lane.

“Basically, I stuck to the game plan of not using urethane or plastic on the short,” said Cooley, who is seeking his first PBA Tour title. “And I kept my speed down on the long pattern. Everything worked out as I planned.” 

Cooley Dishes On Equipment In Oklahoma

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On the second squad of the day, lefty Ryan Ciminelli nearly overtook Cooley for the top spot but finished in second with 1,407. Ciminelli closed out his block strong with games of 257 and 245 to make a push up the leaderboard.

Kris Prather finished the day third overall with 1,390 and was followed by PBA Hall of Fame Classic runner-up Darren Tang in fourth with 1,367. Kyle Sherman rounds out the top five with 1,362.

One player who had an interesting day was reigning PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte, who started off his opening block with a 139 game that was filled with splits and opens.

Belmonte dug deep, however, and made a charge from the bottom of the leaderboard to within striking distance of the cut to match play. He currently sits in a tie for 18th place with 1,325 and the top 16 players after the second round will advance.

After the disastrous start, Belmonte popped off games of 221, 266, 238, 215 and 246 to get himself back into contention.

Jesper Svensson put up the highest game of the day after he closed out the second squad with the front 11 before settling for a 299 game. The big game helped Svensson dart up the leaderboard as he finished Round 1 in 13th place with 1,342.

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