There was no colorful wrapping paper or festive bow, but Brendan Salo could not have asked for a better birthday present.
The Centerville bowler’s fourth-place finish at the U20 Boys 2023 Junior Gold Championships in Indianapolis was welcome, but it also helped him secure a spot on the 2024 Junior Team USA squad.
“I turned 20 and locked up a Team USA spot, it was definitely the best birthday I ever had,” Salo said. “It’s pretty incredible.”
Junior Team USA, comprised of 18 boys and 18 girls, competes in the World Youth Championships and represents the United States in several other international events. It was more than Salo could have hoped for.
“I’ve been to Junior Gold before, but never even close to this sort of finish,” he said.
From a field of 158 competitors, Salo was in third place after 26 intense games of qualifying, easily advancing to double-elimination match play. A first-round loss bumped him into the elimination bracket, but Salo posted four straight wins to put him in position to qualify for the TV finals. Although he lost to eventual tournament runner-up Julian Salinas, of Texas, he had already secured a Junior Team USA spot.
“I wasn’t bowling great so the fact that I was able to finish fourth with my B or C game, not my A game was pretty good,” he said.
Salo has had a successful summer on the lanes as he won his first PBA Regional event just a few weeks earlier. The 2022 Centerville graduate – who just got his PBA card in May – won the PBA Buffalo Wild Wings Central Open in Heath, Ohio on June 25.
“My goal was just to be around those guys and to be competitive,” Salo said. “I elevate my game when I’m around people who are better than me.”
With bowlers like Zac Tackett, Graham Fach and Chris Via on the roster, the level of competition was high, but Salo was prepared.
“I’ve been bowling five or six days a week the past few months, I knew I was capable of this,” he said.
There was little time to celebrate his first PBA Regional win, however, before the Junior Gold Championships rolled around.
“The Junior Gold finish I soaked in a little more,” he said. “It was very special.”