Second place was a familiar finish for the Sacks brothers until Sunday.
“Between me and my brother Eric, I think we had close to 10 second-place JTBA finishes,” Drew Sacks said. “I guess I finally broke the curse.”
Drew won the Junior Tournament Bowlers Association Ohio Valley Bank Open in Gallipolis Sunday. The Butler High School senior edged out his friend Bryce Oliver, of Cuyahoga Falls, 200-190, in the championship match.
“It feels really good,” Sacks said. “And Bryce is a good friend of mine, so he was pretty happy for me.”
The JTBA – which got its start in Ohio close to four decades ago – was established to provide competitive, scratch tournament opportunities for young bowlers in the region. Bowlers compete in one of four divisions, U20 boys, U20 girls, U15 boys or U15 girls. Beyond the Buckeye State, JTBA tournaments regularly attract bowlers from Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Sacks, 17, is in his third season competing in JTBA events.
The day got underway before dawn as Drew and his dad, Steve – the longtime Butler bowling coach – were on the road by 5:40 a.m. The competitors were on the lanes by 9 a.m. Sacks posted his 269 high game in the second game of qualifying and led all competitors when the he field was cut to the top 21 after five games. After three more games, Sacks had increased his lead to 30 pins, giving him the No. 1 seeding heading into the four-person stepladder finals.
Oliver, the second seed, beat Michigan bowler Jeff Lizewski in the semifinals to set up the championship matchup between the friends. And 15 hours after he set out on his tournament trek, Sacks was back in Vandalia as a champion.
While the win was a welcome one, Sacks is not one to rest on his laurels – far from it. He is laser focused on the Team USA team trials in Las Vegas in January. Sacks earned a coveted spot at the Junior Gold tournament and has his sights set on Junior Team USA.
“I have a three-month training plan so I feel like I’m prepped and ready when I go out there,” he said.
Sacks might even pass on the first part of the Aviators’ high school bowling season.
“I might just focus on training for the team trials,” he said.
Not a day goes by that Sacks isn’t on the lanes for at least and hour or two. And even with a JTBA championship to his credit, the youngest of four accomplished bowling siblings still believes he has work to do to earn family bragging rights.
“It definitely makes a difference, winning this, but I still feel like I have something to prove,” he said.