It's fitting that an auto parts company sponsors this week's Professional Bowlers Assn. tour stop in Lakewood, because Jason Couch begins the tournament firing on all cylinders.
The $330,000 ACDelco Classic is at Cal Bowl today through Saturday with a $52,000 first-place prize, the second-largest on the tour.
Couch, 28, won last week's Showboat Invitational in Las Vegas, his first title since 1995. He earned $46,000 to give him $66,520 for the year, 11th in the PBA rankings.
Couch, who lost at Lakewood last year by only four pins, says he is confident he will contend in the tournament again this time.
"I feel very good going into this week," he said. "Last week was one of the best tournaments I bowled in my life.
"It had been three years since I had won, and I'm glad to get that monkey off my back," the 1992 PBA rookie of the year said. "It'll be interesting to see how I perform this week with a little less pressure on myself."
Couch credits his roommate--the bowler who narrowly beat him at Lakewood a year ago--with helping him get his fifth victory on tour last week.
Parker Bohn III, who won twice last year and already three times in 1998, has been Couch's roommate on the road for more than five years.
"He sat me down last week before we started bowling and lectured me a little bit on being more patient in match play," Couch said about the head-to-head competition in a tournament's closing rounds. "When you're bowling against the best in the world, you're just going to have to be patient. Every guy out there can step up and win every week."
Bohn, 34, said having Couch as a roommate has benefited both bowlers.
"Without a doubt, [being roommates] is probably the best thing that happened to both of us," he said. "With both of us being left-handed, he has his way of attacking the lanes and I have my way. We put both heads together and come up with what we think is going to be the best move out on the lane."
And although they are friends and roommates, it was as competitors at Lakewood that they provided the tour with one of its most dramatic moments last year.
Meeting in the championship match, the two battled down to the final frame. Ending with five consecutive strikes, Couch had a 26-pin lead as Bohn began the 10th. Bohn threw three strikes to end the match and take home the trophy with the tour's slimmest victory of the year.
"This tournament turned things around for me last year," Bohn said. "It got me off on a high note and things just kept catapulting from there. I hope it just keeps continuing from here."
But this time, Couch plans on putting Bohn's run on hold.
"I told him last week at the Showboat, there's no way he's beating me this year."