In the PBA Tour’s return to Bowlero North Brunswick in New Jersey, a Garden State native leads the PBA Players Championship presented by Snickers through two rounds of qualifying.

Matt Russo, born and raised in nearby Millstone Township, N.J., led the 128-player field with a total pinfall of 2,904 (+504). This marks Russo’s first PBA Tour stop in his home state, but the southpaw said he bowled at the center many times during his youth bowling career.

“This place has a lot of history for me, growing up in the area and bowling here as a kid,” Russo said. “This is really cool to bowl in front of some hometown fans and my family. I think that’s driving me to be a little better this week.”

As a high schooler, Russo watched the PBA stars, including his idol Parker Bohn III, compete at the iconic center. Today, the 26-year-old beat them all.

“It hasn’t really clicked that I’m leading after the first day,” Russo said. “The last half of the season, I’ve focused on myself and doing what I want to do (versus what other lefties are doing). It’s worked out pretty well and I’m going to keep riding the wave.”

Bill O’Neill, a native of Langhorne, Pa., sits in second place after leading the first round. He made the 2011 U.S. Open telecast at what was then Carolier Lanes. This week, competing just 45 minutes from home, he aims to return to the show.

“When I’m bowling well here and I turn around, there’s people that I’ve known my whole life back there rooting for me,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill led the first round of qualifying when he bowled on the low end of the center, firing 815 his final three games with reactive equipment. He said the high end of the center, where he bowled the second round, is much tighter down-lane and more difficult.

"I ended up using urethane all six games, that certainly wasn’t the plan,” O’Neill said. “I was fearful of bowling a 150 or 160 game and that was out there with a reactive ball.”

Jakob Butturff, EJ Tackett and Kevin McCune round out the top five, while another New Jersey product closes out the top 10 in Kenny Ryan.

For the third and fourth rounds of qualifying, the players shift to competing on the 45-foot Weber pattern. After 24 games, the field will be trimmed to the top 42 players.

Competition resumes at 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Leaders Through Round 2

  1. Matt Russo, 2,904 (+504)
  2. Bill O’Neill, 2,859 (+459)
  3. Jakob Butturff, 2,799 (+399)
  4. EJ Tackett, 2,788 (+388)
  5. Kevin McCune, 2,785 (+385)
  6. Zac Tackett, 2,755 (+355)
  7. Keven Williams, 2,752 (+352)
  8. Marshall Kent, 2,745 (+345)
  9. Killian Kilpatrick, 2,742 (+342)
  10. Kenny Ryan, 2,723 (+328)

Full standings are available here.

Tournament Schedule

All times are listed in Eastern.

Wednesday, May 3 | BowlTV
11 a.m. — Qualifying Round 3 (six games)
5 p.m. — Qualifying Round 4 (six games)

Thursday, May 4 | BowlTV
11 a.m. — Advancers Round 1 (six games)
5 p.m. — Advancers Round 2 (six games)

Friday, May 5 | BowlTV
11 a.m. — Top-24 Round (six games)
5:30 p.m. — Top-18 Round (six games)

Saturday, May 6 | FS1
10 p.m. — Round of 12 (single-game matches)
Tickets for the 4 p.m. taping are available here.

Sunday, May 7 | FS1
Noon — Round of Eight (Race-to-Two matches)
4 p.m. — Round of Eight (Race-to-Two matches)
Tickets for the shows are available here.

Saturday, May 13 | FS1
12:30 p.m. — Round of Four (Race-to-Two matches)
Sold out.

Sunday, May 14 | FOX
1 p.m. — Championship Round (Best-of-Five match)
Sold out.

More information on the PBA Players Championship presented by Snickers is available here.