Wilmington's PBA Tour event hits home for Hampstead bowler

James Grago, of Hampstead, is one of 96 bowlers registered for the PBA Xtra Frame Wilmington Open. (Source: WECT)
James Grago, of Hampstead, is one of 96 bowlers registered for the PBA Xtra Frame Wilmington Open. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - James Grago has been a bowler for nearly his entire life. The Hampstead resident grew up in Rome, N.Y., and found his passion for the sport with the help of his father.

"He started me when I was 2 and got me my first ball," Grago said. "From there, it just took off."

Grago enrolled in Mohawk Valley Community College, where he became a two-time all-conference bowler. He refined his technique in bowling school and eventually moved to the Cape Fear Region with his family.

"We took over the [Ten Pin Bowling Alley] which helped a lot because I was able to put out patterns and read them a lot better," Grago said.

The Gragos' alley in Wilmington will host 96 PBA champions, bright stars and amateur bowlers this weekend.

Grago and his brother, James, are both registered to compete in the second annual PBA Xtra Frame Wilmington Open. James is familiar with the finer details of the lanes and said fans shouldn't be surprised to see him climb the leaderboard.

"I'm confident because I've seen over the course of time how the pattern plays," Grago said with a smile. "I'm aware of adjustments which might be an advantage to me in comparison to other bowlers come tournament time. I'm confident I will be up there."

The Cape Fear Region may be known for its beautiful beaches rather than a hub for the professional bowling industry, but seven of the bowlers in this weekend's tournament are from the area and Grago said the coastal atmosphere is a big reason the tournament is back for a second year.

"We are a beach town. Everybody loves the beach," Grago said. "Bowlers look at it as, 'Well, there's a tournament there and I get to spend a weekend on the ocean.' It's an amazing opportunity for them to get away and get a mini-vacation."

Here is a schedule for the tournament:

Friday

4 p.m. - Practice session

5 p.m. - New player orientation meeting

6:30 p.m. - Pro-Am

Saturday

9 a.m. - "A" squad, eight qualifying games

3 p.m. - "B" squad, eight qualifying games

Note: Top 1/3 of the field advances to cashers round

Sunday

9 a.m. - Cashers round, four games (top 16 after 12 games advance)

11:30 a.m. - Round of 16, three games (top 8 after 15 games advance)

1:30 p.m. - Round of 8, two games (top 4 after 17 games advance)

3 p.m. - Top four stepladder finals

Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.