By JOE FERRARO
In a state of disbelief as he hugged his wife, Christy, Tracy Nakashima could hardly breathe.
PBA Tour Northwest/West Regional manager Gary Mage, who presented the Hilo bowler with the trophy he had coveted for 20 years, even went so far to say that Nakashima was “hyperventilating.”
“I was really nervous,’’ said Nakashima, who claimed the PBA Kona West/Northwest Open on Tuesday at KBXtreme for his first PBA regional tournament win. “I just wanted to keep myself calm. I was taking deep breaths just to stay relaxed.’’
Being a nervous wreck was certainly understandable considering the pressure the 41-year-old Nakashima endured and the number of quality competitors he took down to earn a first-place check of $2,000 before approximately 200 spectators.
First, Nakashima barely squeaked into Tuesday afternoon’s single elimination play, beating out three-time PBA Tour titlist Rhino Page by 10 pins in an eight-game qualifying session to get in as the last of eight bowlers.
Then he upset top qualifier Scott Norton, who has also won three times on the PBA Tour, beating him 3-1 in a best-of-five games quarterfinal.
Nakashima followed that up with a 190-156 semifinal win over Tom Daugherty and a 193-180 victory over 2011-12 PBA Rookie of the Year Josh Blanchard in the final.
In Daugherty and Blanchard, Nakashima knocked out two bowlers who played extremely well in the quarterfinals. Blanchard averaged 209 pins in toppling bowling legend Norm Duke, who is tied for third on the all-time wins list with 37. Daugherty averaged 210 pins in beating Missy Parkin, the top female on the PBA Tour.
“It’s really unbelievable,’’ Nakashima said.
Nakashima’s top game of the tournament came in a 236-223 win over Norton. He ended it with four consecutive strikes to tie the series at one game apiece before beating Norton 203-195 and 182-179 to advance.
Nakashima, who has coached Waiakea’s boys bowling team the past two years, displayed a short memory after a few stumbles in the semifinals and final.
After leaving a 10 pin in the third frame against Daugherty, he reeled off three consecutive strikes. Nakashima then left a 5 pin in first frame against Blanchard but responded with four straight strikes.
“I was taught by my dad not to dwell on (the bad moments),’’ Nakashima said. “Just move on. That frame was done already. All I could do was move on.’’
Throughout the match, Nakashima’s son, Tevin, supported his dad in some rough patches, often telling his father: “Spare is good, Dad. Spare is good.’’
Nakashima made a crucial 2-4-5 spare in the ninth frame to clinch his victory before striking in the 10th.
The final result more than exceeded Nakashima’s expectations. At age 21, he turned pro and competed in PBA events for 18 years before a wrist injury kept him away from the lanes for much of the past two years. His time off took away his PBA Tour status.
After the tournament, Mage estimated that victories from bowlers without PBA Tour status happen once every 30 tournaments.
“Honestly, I was just hoping to win some money,’’ Nakashima said. “I never knew I was going to end up winning. It’s really a dream come true. I always wanted to win a regional or some kind of tournament.’’
The tourney featured a total purse of $9,800, with Blanchard winning $1,300.
Daugherty and Dave Wodka both took home $1,000, with Norton, Parkin, Duke and Jake Peters earning $700 apiece.
Page and Stuart Williams each won $400.
According to Nakashima, the Big Island last hosted a regional tournament in 1997 at Kona Bowl, which later became KBXtreme.
Efforts to bring the PBA back to Kailua-Kona began last year, when Walter Ray Williams, the tour’s all-time wins leader with 47, and Page expressed a desire to run a bowling clinic on the Big Island.
They tracked down Bill Wong, the president of WLW Development — a managing partner for KBXtreme — and a clinic took place at KBXtreme in December. There, Williams then suggested Wong contact Mage and push for a regional tournament on the Big Island.
For 10 consecutive years, the PBA has hosted two regional tournaments on Oahu — a one-day event at Schofield Bowling Center and a two-day tournament at Pearl Harbor.
The latter took place Saturday and Sunday, with the PBA Kona West/Northwest Open pro-am scheduled for the following day.
Mage said he would like the PBA Kona West/Northwest Open to become a fixture on the PGA’s regional tournament schedule.
“It’s a rebuilding process, and we hope to build this bigger and better for everybody,’’ Mage said.
Duke expects to return next year, and he plans on bringing along wife Karen and son Branden.
For a long period of time, one of Duke’s friends, PBA bowler Tony Reyes, had always raved about going to Oahu to bowl and encouraged Duke to do the same.
Making the trip to Hawaii never fit into the Duke’s schedule, and the 49-year-old finally did so, in part to honor Reyes, who died in an automobile accident last September.
“I’ve been having a blast ever since I’ve landed in Hawaii,’’ said Duke, an avid golfer who has played rounds of golf at Kona Country Club’s mountain course and at the Mauna Kea Golf Course this week. “I think Kona is my favorite of the islands I’ve visited. It has a more rural feeling — laid-back, not so many tourists. And the people are the greatest.’’
Duke also praised the bowling facility at KBXtreme.
“We all know when we’re in a facility that is sub-par and we know when we’re in one that’s nice,’’ said Duke, who also plans on running clinics at KBXtreme in the future.
Part of the 30-bowler field that competed in qualifying Tuesday morning, Hilo’s Sheldon Midallia and Kailua-Kona’s Rodney Torres welcomed the return of PBA bowling to the Big Island.
“It’s a good experience,’’ said the 18-year-old Torres, a Konawaena senior who placed 25th. “It’s different than bowling in Wednesday night leagues.
“It’s going to make the kids want to do more.’’
The 35-year-old Midallia, who placed 14th, agreed. He said the PBA Kona West/Northwest Open will create more interest on the youth level and crank out more junior league bowlers.
“There’s nothing like bowling against the people you see on TV,’’ Midallia said. “They’re superstars but they’re down-to-earth, real nice people.’’
Nakashima said scheduling the PBA Kona West/Northwest Open on a weekend would draw more fans.
“It would be really good for the kids to come out and see it,’’ he said.