The Eagle has landed for Cotie Holbek.
The Burlington bowler, in just his second appearance at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, won the Regular Singles Division in this year’s tournament in Syracuse, N.Y.
Holbek, 25, rolled an 802 series April 23 to take the singles lead at that time over USBC Hall of Fame member Lennie Boresch Jr. of Kenosha, who was at 784. The tournament ended Sunday and Holbek found out no one was able to overtake his score, which was the only 800 series in this year’s tournament.
The only bowler who came close was Chris Hill of Franklin, who rolled a 795 series. Boresch ended up sixth with a 784, giving Wisconsin bowlers three in the top six.
Results are unofficial, but it’s pretty much a done deal, and Holbek is having trouble processing it.
“It’s so surreal,” Holbek said. “I was talking to Theresa (Riemer, the general manager of Towne & Country Lanes in Burlington) and told her it hasn’t sunk in. It’s crazy.”
Holbek, the daytime manager and pro shop manager at Towne & Country, rolled games of 278, 278 and 246. That was after 532 in team event with Larry’s Quality Snacks the day before and 618 in doubles prior to his singles run.
He kept an eye on the lanes and was trying to break down the lanes while finishing doubles and preparing for singles, which were on the same pair of lanes.
“I started to get a good look (at the line),” said Holbek, whose only previous USBC Open appearance was in 2015, when he didn’t have a series above 599. “I switched balls for the third game of doubles (rolling 236) and we broke the lanes down to get them to where we wanted them to get a chance to strike.”
And strike he did. Using a Brunswick Radical Intel ball — a ball he decided at the last minute to bring along —- he opened with six straight strikes. After leaving a 10-pin, he struck until getting nine pins on his last ball.
Game two was similar, running off the first three, leaving a 10 pin and finishing with six more strikes and a nine-count.
Knowing he had 556 through two games, Holbek had to remind himself to stay with his game.
“After the first game, I told myself to keep myself slow, be patient and make good shots, and good things should happen,” Holbek said. “It was a matter of keeping myself slow to make everything work.
“I knew what I needed for 800, and in the back of my mind I thought I should just get best score I can.”
In the third game, he left a solid 7-pin on his first ball, but spared and strung together seven straight strikes. In the ninth frame, he left a solid 9-pin. It could have been worse.
“I missed my mark by two or three boards,” Holbek said. “But a 9 pin was a good break — I could have left a split instead.”
After that, he knew he had the lead and 800 was in his sights, but on his first ball of the 10th frame, he thought he lost it..
“I was going up there, on the biggest stage in bowling, and I have a chance to shoot 800,” Holbek said. “I was nervous and I left a 2-10 split. I thought I lost 800, but as I was walking back, my teammates were telling me my keep head up.
It turned out the eight count put him at 801 and it would be a good idea to get at least one more pin, if not convert the split outright.
“They said ‘Make sure you get one,,’ ” he said. “I wanted to try (converting the split), but I also wanted to play it safe. I did in between and ended up getting the 2-pin.
“When I walked off the approach, I was in disbelief,” Holbek said. “I didn’t think I had done it and I couldn’t believe I had done it, but the fact was that ‘holy cow, I shot 800 on the biggest stage of bowling and I have lead.’
“At that point, I said ‘OK, I have chance to win an eagle, but I have to wait until July.”
Merrill Draper, the owner of Towne & Country and one of Holbek’s sponsors, was there to watch him bowl and he figured he had a chance after the first game.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen, but he got lined up and when he had 278 his first game, he sure was locked in,” said Draper, who joined the Wisconsin State Bowling Association Hall of Fame last year. “He threw really well.
“I’ve been to many USBC Opens and bowled in 40 and this is the most excited I ever got. I never had anyone get that close to doing something.
“Some don’t realize how big this is — to win the USBC Open is the biggest thing in bowling.”
The waiting was the hardest part, especially for Riemer, Draper’s daughter. She and others from Towne & Country kept checking the Open scores to see if anyone had a chance to pass Holbek. To their relief, no one did.
“It’s been very nerve wracking,” Riemer said. “The first couple weeks, I didn’t seriously think about it, but as we were watching scores and seeping pros and Junior Team USA (bowlers) struggle and not get there, I realized over the last month or so he could hang on to win.
“When I realized Sunday night nobody going to come close, we started texting each other.
“It’s just amazing it fell together.”
“Some don’t realize how big this is — to win the USBC Open is the biggest thing in bowling.” Towne & Country owner Merrill Draper on Cotie Holbek