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Weber adds spice to field at bowling's Wichita Open

Pete Weber’s golf game is beginning to come together.

Nearly every day for the past three weeks, Weber could be found in a tee box somewhere near his hometown of St. Louis.

Since the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season concluded in March, Weber said he has spent more time golfing than bowling.

But this weekend Weber will make a rare appearance on the regional tour at the Wichita Open at Thunderbird Lanes. The entire field will bowl in one squad at 2 p.m. today.

“I could have had another weekend of golfing, but I felt like bowling was more important than golf,” said Weber, who ranks third all-time on the PBA Tour’s titles list.

Chris Barnes and Sean Rash, both Wichita State graduates and exempt PBA Tour bowlers, have headlined the event’s field in recent years. Weber brings a new twist, a legacy that few can match.

“Him being here certainly raises the prestige of the tournament and makes it much more difficult to win, as well,” Barnes said. “We’re sneaking up on a Tour-quality field, it looks like.”

Nathan Bohr and Lonnie Waliczek are both exempt bowlers, as well. Weber said he didn’t recognize many names outside of those, since most of the field is comprised of Southwest Region bowlers. Weber usually bowls in the Midwest Region.

“But I know Wichita is a big college bowling town,” Weber said. “You can’t underestimate anybody. If they’re there, then they obviously have some idea what they’re doing.”

The field has shrunk this year, down to 65 bowlers, but it features three of the biggest names on tour in Weber, Barnes and Rash.

“We have a very strong field this year,” tournament director Joel Mumma said. “We have several national champions bowling in the field. We’ve had some strong fields in the past, but this one is probably right up there.”

It might not be the same as his eight major championships, but Weber said the same fiery passion that made him one of the most popular professional bowlers will be on display this weekend.

“I’m here to win,” Weber said. “I’m not bowling just to bowl. I’m here for a little fun, but I came here to win the thing.”

Especially if he’s taking a weekend off from his golf game. But Rash, a close friend, said it won’t be that simple.

“Having Pete here this year will be a bonus for the city and for the tournament,” he said. “We’re happy to have him here and I hope he bowls well, just as long as he finishes behind me.”

WICHITA OPEN

What: Southwest Region PBA Where: Thunderbird Bowl, 2440 S. Oliver Today’s Schedule 2 p.m.: 8-game qualifying block 8 p.m.: Pro-am Sunday’s Schedule 8:30 a.m.: 5-game qualifying block Noon: Best-of-five match play for top 16 qualifierss; best-of-three quarterfinals; one-game semifinals and one-game final.

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