Matt Taylor isn’t sure if his qualifying block at the PBA Booster Club Of Hampton Roads Open is the best he’s bowled score-wise, but he said it’s his best mentally and physically. The scores weren’t too shabby, though.

After eight games, Taylor leads the 120-player super regional field at +336. The Raleigh, N.C. native threw the last six strikes in his final game to leapfrog 17-year-old Eric Jones for the top spot.

Taylor started with a Pitch Black sanded with a 360-grit pad. He stuck with urethane for two games, but committed to his gameplan and switched to reactive during Game 3.

“You’re bowling this to try and win,” Taylor said of his mindset. “Be aggressive, go to resin a little quicker than you anticipate, and move left. I kept shooting the bigger games with that (gameplan) and a 900 Global Reality Check was unbelievable in the middle of the block.”

Two weeks ago, Taylor finished second at the PBA Capstone Health Alliance Asheville Open to Trevor Roberts. But earlier this week, he averaged less than 190 and missed the cut at the regional in Hampton, Va.

“I felt like I was falling off every other shot,” Taylor said of his performance in Hampton. “I went back and kind of mentally regrouped for a day and told myself, ‘I'm not wasting this trip. I'm not gonna miss two cuts in a row.’ I've been bowling fairly well this year so far and I needed a good bounce back.”

Jones surged ahead of A-block leader, and habitual AMF Western Branch leader, Tom Daugherty after just four games. When the two-handed lefty found a pair he liked, he took advantage: Jones shot 278 out of the gates, 299 in Game 4 and 275 in Game 7.

Before his block, the Oklahoma native told a few friends his goal was to reach +400. A 185 in his final game, which he said was his best in terms of execution, left him short of his goal. He sits in second overall at +324.

Similar to Taylor, Jones had a tough week of bowling before this weekend. To reset his mind, the high school star turned to a tactic few teenagers would dare attempt: reading a book.

“I went back and listened to (“The Inner Game of Tennis”) that I read a while ago about the mental game,” Jones said. “I picked up a couple of things that I used all day. I focused on my breathing. It's the only thing in my head — get my conscious out of the way and then I had some success.”

After A-squad, it felt like this year’s event would be a similar story to 2021 as Daugherty paced the field at +238. He said slower ball speed with urethane gave him more margin for error and better carry.

As transition hit, Daugherty cycled through a few different balls. He switched from urethane to reactive in Game 5, and got back on track with a 245 in Game 7. In his final game, a 194, he said he didn’t get far enough left.

“I probably gave that game away a little bit,” Daugherty said. “But tomorrow's a new day.”

Taylor, Jones, Daugherty and 37 other athletes will move on to tomorrow's advancers round. James Magennis finished at +23, edging out California’s Joseph Grondin by two pins for the final spot in the cut.

Competition resumes Sunday morning at 9 a.m. ET. The top 40 players will bowl six more games in an attempt to move into the top-eight. 

Another three-game round will determine the four stepladder finalists competing for the regional title and $10,000. The finals will air live on the PBA’s YouTube channel at 3 p.m. ET.

More information on the PBA Booster Club of Hampton Roads Open is available here.

Full standings are available here.

Top-10 Standings

  1. Matt Taylor +336
  2. Eric Jones +324
  3. Tim Foy Jr. +280
  4. Tom Daugherty +238
  5. Colin Champion +231
  6. Matthew Woodall +213
  7. Ryan Ciminelli +211
  8. EJ Tackett +210
  9. Anthony Neuer +207
  10. Dwight Adams +185

Remaining Schedule

Sunday, August 21

9 a.m. ET — First advancer round, 6 games (cut to top-8)

1 p.m. ET — Second advancer round, 3 games (cut to top-4)

3 p.m. ET — Stepladder finals live on the PBA's YouTube channe

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