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Rathjen outlasts a 26-player field on low-scoring pattern to win Prove It title

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Lee Rathjen of Naples survived the low-scoring tempo and emerged victorious in last Sunday's (Aug. 24) Prove It Challenge scratch tournament at AMF Venice Lanes.

Rathjen outlasted a field of 26 and earned the first-place prize of $490 in an event contested on a 42-foot 2012 U.S. Open lane-conditioning pattern.

"Because the pattern was so flat, I expected scores to be lower than what they actually were," said tournament director Chuck Souzer.

Even so, Richard McLaughlin was the only entrant to average more than 200 in the five-game qualifying round, as he posted a 1,022 score. Bubba Simmons of Bradenton was runner-up qualifier at 991, while others making the cut to match play were Rathjen (981), Charles Fletcher of Bradenton (966), Saul Insignares of Sarasota (956) and Chris Keane of Tampa (951).

With games of 236, 191 and 195, McLaughlin led after each of the first three qualifying games, but Pat Welch of Sarasota led after Game 4. However, Welch suffered a 123 final game, and he dropped all the way to No. 9 and failed to make the cut.

In the Round of 6, Keane topped McLaughlin 212-194, Insignares slipped past Simmons 179-167, and Rathjen routed Fletcher 231-169, setting the stage for a three-player, final-game rolloff.

In the low-scoring title contest, Rathjen coasted to victory after both of the others suffered third-frame opens, and he never looked back in posting a 196 score, as compared to 160 for Keane and 138 for McLaughlin.

With 30 "bonus pins" added for both of his match-play wins, Rathjen ended with a net score of 1,438, while McLaughlin (1,354) nipped Keane (1,353) by a single pin for the runner-up position. Completing the final-six order of finish were Insignares, Simmons and Fletcher.

Souzer has announced that the next Prove It Challenge -- on Sunday, Sept. 28 -- will return to AMF Gulf Gate Lanes, with check-in running from 10:45 to 11:45 p.m. and practice starting at noon.

The usual $55 entry fee will remain in effect, and brackets will be available for $5 and optional Nassaus for $10. For complete information -- including rules, money earnings, past champions and lane-condition pattern -- you may visit the tournament Web site by clicking here.

[You may subscribe to Bill Herald's Examiner.com bowling columns -- free of charge -- by clicking on "Subscribe" near the top of the column, after which you will receive e-mail notification each time a new item is published.]

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