Twenty-six year-old Chris Via of Springfield, Ohio, wasn’t sure he could bowl Monday at AMF Riviera Lanes as the Tournament of Champions kicked off with an eight game pre-tournament qualifier.

During his three-hour car ride from his hometown west of Columbus, Via feared his back, which had been hurting for the past couple weeks, would keep him out of competition. He had no clue as to what could happen.

Well, the two-handed bowler showed not only that his back was doing OK, he also showed the other 28 competitors that nothing was going to stop him from winning the PTQ and entering Wednesday’s first round of competition with some momentum.

“To bowl this well was definitely a confidence booster,” Via said. “Feels good to have some momentum going into Wednesday. I had a back injury that kept me from bowling for a couple weeks.”

After a good start with a 242 in Game 1, Via struggled a bit the next two games with a 188 and 194 and was in the middle of pack in the standings. But after some minor adjustments, Via got himself lined up and rode it during his last five games to finish with a total pinfall of 1,809.

Via was second behind Cristian Azcona of Puerto Rico going into the final game of the day before rolling a 258, his highest game of the day. Combined with Azcona’s lowest game of the day (180), and that was the difference in the end.

“I used urethane the first game and thought I had a really good look,” Via said. “I made some really good shots. But it went away pretty quickly Game 2 and I wanted to stick with it but it wasn’t the right ball. I made a really good guess on what reactive ball to go to. I took a really big step left using that ball the last six games.”

Via, a three-time collegiate All-American at Notre Dame College and a Team USA member the last three years, will be mixed in with Hall of Famers Norm Duke and Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Jason Belmonte — the top-ranked bowler in the world.

Of the 29 who bowled Monday, 27 advanced to the first round of qualifying to complete the final field of the TOC.

Wooster’s Joe Bailey was one of the 27 to qualify as he finished the day in the middle of the pack (15th) with a 200 average. Bailey said it wasn’t the best he has to offer on the lanes, but he vowed he’ll be ready for the next round of competition.

“It’s something really special, especially growing up in this area and used to come watch and now I get to compete,” Bailey said. “I’m going to change some surfaces, drill up a ball or two and just throw the ball together.”