A weekend to remember for Cochran

It seemed like nothing could knock the smile off Damon Cochran's face.

Not even a dreadful 145 effort to start the bowler's six-game block in a "Win a Spot" challenge Saturday at Lava Lanes, for which the victor would have his entry paid into the Tournament Qualifying Round of the Bayer Earl Anthony Medford Classic.

After the first game, Cochran "wasn't putting much stock in that."

"But," he grinned, "I got engaged this morning, so I was already having a good day."

It got better, too, as Cochran, who lives in Central Point, changed balls, started throwing 220-plus and finished with a 290 to emerge from the 22-player field.

The entry fee is $300.

Cochran will be in a field of more than 60 players hoping to advance to the Round of 64 in the Lumber Liquidators Professional Bowlers Association Tour event.

Five PBA members and one amateur will make it through.

Other locals in the TQR are Marshall Holman, Medford; Kevin Croucher, Grants Pass; Matt and Chuck Eilenberger, Central Point; Robert Gibson, Central Point; Kevin Henley, Medford; Tyler Smith, Medford; and Trevor Waldeyer, Medford.

Holman, a PBA Hall of Famer, received a commissioner's exemption as part of the tour's 50th anniversary celebration.

Cochran, 34, and the son of Lava Lanes pro Randy Cochran, wasn't the only player to win a spot locally. A similar event was held at Roxy Ann Lanes Saturday afternoon, and Warren Crawford, of McKinleyville, Calif., triumphed.

Both Lava and Roxy Ann put down the Earl Anthony oil pattern — or as close to it as they could with their equipment — that will be used in the tournament.

Cochran "grew up" in a bowling center in Klamath Falls, he says, but has scaled back his participation the past half-dozen years.

"I'm not as nervous as maybe somebody who does it a lot," he said. "I know I'm not even close to as good as the rest of these guys. But it's going to be a fun experience. I'm looking forward to it."

Despite his poor start Saturday, no one was making a big move and he found himself still within striking distance through four games.

He had more than 50 pins to make up in Game 6, and did so with the 290. He had an eight count in the first frame, converted the spare, then threw 11 strikes.

"It was a little light," he said of his first ball.

What isn't lighter is his wallet, which might be a good thing. He and Lena Carder are planning an early April wedding.

Crawford has competed in the TQR here "three or four" times, he says. Still, it was nice to win his way in. A former delivery truck driver, he gave that up to bowl full time in High-Roller and other events. It's a path many of today's PBA stars took.

Crawford placed 10th overall last year and third among amateurs vying for the lone spot. Henley was the No. 2 amateur behind Grant Benton of Redmond.

Crawford is easy to pick out of a crowd. He's the one using a two-handed delivery, something for which Australian Jason Belmonte has received much attention while competing in three PBA events this season.

At age 4, Crawford had to use two hands as he first tried the sport because the ball was so heavy. Eventually, junior coaches encouraged him to switch to the conventional style.

"But my dad didn't want me to," says Crawford, 30. "I was still averaging higher than everybody else, so why would I want to change?

"It worked out pretty good for me, and it seems to be catching on, too. More and more people are doing it."

He could have some converts after Saturday.

Crawford started out in the "2-teens," then had 260 and 280 games.

"That gave me a big lead, 100 pins," he said, "so I didn't have to worry about anybody catching me (in Game 6)."

The oil pattern, new this year, was to his and Cochran's liking, but they might find it tougher today.

"It doesn't hook much, and I turn the ball a lot," said Crawford. "There's not a lot of swing room, and I expect it will be it will be a little tighter (for the tournament), too."

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

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