By KIPP HANLEY
MANASSAS – All week, Don Sylvia looked at the banners inscribed with the names of Senior PBA Tour winners like Bob Glass and George Pappas, hoping he”d get his chance to put his name on the prestigious list of national winners.
On Tuesday, he got that chance with a two-game semifinal victory over Glass, a five-time Senior Tour winner. He followed that up with a two-game win over Gary Hiday in the finals of the first PBA Senior Manassas Open at Bowl America Manassas. He beat Hiday 224 to 179 in the first game and 203 to 182 in the second.
With the win, Sylvia garnered an $8,000 check and a bronze eagle statue. Hiday cashed $4,500.
””I have two regional banners and that”s great but to win a national PBA event, it”s just unbelievable,”” said the rookie Sylvia, who just turned 50 last November.
It”s been a big year for the New Bedford, Mass. native and current Discovery Bay, Calif. resident. He got married last fall to a woman he met in a bowling tournament in 1998 and is in line for winning rookie of the year honors for 2003. After realizing the match was over in the 10th frame, Sylvia raised his arms in triumph, took off his prescription sunglasses and immediately began talking with his wife, Debbi, whom he credited in large part for his bowling success.
Throughout the match, Debbi was on the phone long-distance with Mary Chamberlain, the wife of fellow professional Bob Chamberlain – whom Sylvia defeated in the second round earlier in the day.
””We were both going through some bad times and it was just a perfect time for both of us,”” Sylvia said of his marriage to the California native.
Sylvia has cashed five times in six tournaments in his first year on the PBA Senior Tour but had never been to the finals of a PBA or PBA Senior event in 231 national appearances. Heading into the Manassas Senior Open, he was 23rd on the points list. With the victory, he became the first rookie to win a national event since Mark Roth in 2001.
Sylvia said it was difficult to keep his confidence up in the face of great competition. However, he tried to focus on the lanes ? instead of his opponents – and the limited success he had at earlier tournaments this season. He finished 11th in the PBA Senior Storm U.S. Open in Las Vegas on June 6.
””Confidence is a great word,”” Sylvia said. ””In the back of my mind, I had these demons and I was trying to keep them in the closet. At the Senior U.S. Open in [Las] Vegas, I led after two rounds [of qualifying]. Those things I wanted to add to the pot, and I tried to build on those things.””
Hiday, an Indianapolis, Ind. Native, was extremely impressed with Sylvia”s performance on Tuesday and throughout the season. Each time, Hiday began to make a move, Sylvia would counter with a strike.
At one point in the semifinals against Glass, Sylvia bowled four straight strikes. He bowled eight strikes in the first game against Hiday, including five straight to conclude the game. In the second game, Hiday started with a strike but could only watch as Sylvia rolled strikes in the second, third, fourth and fifth frames to take an 18-point edge.
””You”ve been knocking it around pretty close all year,”” said Hiday to Sylvia after taking his second-place trophy in front of the crowd. ””Keep it going and maybe I”ll beat you next time.””
The second-place finish was bittersweet for Hiday, who has yet to win a regional or national PBA or Senior PBA event in his five-year career. Tuesday represented his best career finish, winning in the semifinals over Pappas, a 10-time PBA Tour champion and Hall of Fame member.
””I went through a bunch of good players like Henry Gonzales, Roy Buckley and Mitch Jabzczenski,”” Hiday said. ””To get to the final in one of these things, you got to feel good.””