by PBA Editor March 18, 2008 19:00
Jason Mahr got the two most difficult tasks of his week accomplished Tuesday and Wednesday. He figures the rest of his week should be easy in comparison.

A night after proposing to his girlfriend at a New York Rangers game – and her accepting – Mahr led Wednesday’s Denny’s PBA Tour Qualifying Round for the 2008 GEICO Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes to advance to Thursday’s Round of 64.

Mahr (Spring Hill, Fla.), who was born in nearby West Islip and lived in North Babylon until he was five, chose this week to bowl in his first career Denny’s PBA Tour event, mostly because it took place on his favorite of the five standard PBA oil patterns – the Cheetah.

“I wanted to make a good showing. This is my favorite pattern and everyone in the South Region knows how well I bowl on this pattern,” Mahr said. “I figured, why not come up here and bowl and hang out with the family. When I found out it was going to be on the Cheetah pattern, it couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Mahr started off strong with games of 226 and 269, the latter of which was his high game of the day. After another 226, Mahr finished with games of 247, 234, 203 and 235 to finish ahead of the 135-bowler field, the second-largest field ever for a Denny’s PBA Tour Qualifying Round.

The PBA Regional Tour champion said after the nerves and excitement over last night’s engagement, he was in a good frame of mind for the qualifier.

“Having gone through all that last night with the nerves and the butterflies, that definitely kept me relaxed for today. There was really no comparison,” Mahr said of seeing his name on the scoreboard at Madison Square Garden. “For a few months I’ve been planning to come up here and planning to ask her and so far two things have worked out: I qualified and got engaged. As far as bowling, the hardest part is over. The qualifier is so tough with so many guys and so little spots. Now I can enjoy the week and let the pins fall where they may.”

A record 14 PBA members advanced to the Round of 64 in addition to one amateur. Finishing second behind Mahr was Jonathan Van Hees (Newport, R.I.) who fired a 300 in game seven to move into the cut. Lee Vanderhoef (Greenville, S.C.) finished third with 1,586.

A week after winning the Go RVing Classic to become the third bowler ever to win a title after qualifying through the TQR, Rhino Page (Topeka, Kan.) showed no signs of a let up, finishing fourth to advance for the 12th time in 15 tries this season. Page has put together the best rookie season in PBA history, wining one title, making five championship round appearances and breaking nearly every TQR record in the books.

Among the other bowlers advancing was Edward VanDaniker Jr. (Essex, Md.), who earned the final spot in Thursday’s Round of 64, finishing 15th with 1,529, just four pins ahead of James Wallace for the final spot. VanDaniker advanced for the 11th time this season and also extended his PBA record by qualifying for the eighth consecutive time.

The Round of 64, which features two seven-game qualifying blocks, gets underway Thursday at 10 a.m. EST. The top 32 will advance to match play on Friday.

The top five after Friday’s round robin match play will advance to Sunday’s championship round live on ESPN at 1 p.m. EST. The winner receives $25,000 an exemption for the 2008-09 Denny’s PBA Tour.

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