With so much riding on the line, getting a mark in the 10th frame was never more difficult for Norm Duke.
Needing any spare to win the 65th Denny's U.S. Open, Duke left the 2-4-5-8, giving him flashbacks of the 2000 U.S. Open that slipped out of his hands by one pin. But facing the biggest spare attempt of his career, Duke converted to defeat Mika Koivuniemi, 224-216, to win his fourth career Major and 28th Denny's PBA Tour title.
Additionally, he became just the second bowler in history to win the four Grand Slam events - the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Masters, Tournament of Champions, World Championship and the U.S. Open.
The win capped a wild roller coaster ride of a season for Duke, who just five weeks ago was on the verge of losing his Denny's PBA Tour exemption. He sat 51st in the PBA World Point Rankings after battling numerous injuries and, even worse, caught the flu the week of the Denny's World Championship.
Always known for having a flair for the dramatic, Duke made an incredible run through the World Championship to win his third career Major and, more importantly, earn a two-season exemption.
Fueled by the desire to win the most coveted event on Tour and the one he has had several close calls in, Duke was a man on a mission all week. Though he lost the top seed for the finals by going just 3-5 in the final round of match play Saturday, he salvaged the No. 3 seed which meant he had to win three matches on Sunday for the title.
After looking unstoppable in defeating No. 4 Doug Kent, 234-160, and No. 2 Chris Loschetter, 267-245, to reach the title match, Duke faced the top-seed Koivuniemi, who was looking for his second U.S. Open title.
Koivuniemi held the lead until a spare in the eighth frame after which Duke struck in the eighth and ninth to take the lead. Koivuniemi had a chance to put some pressure on Duke by striking out, but he left a 2-pin with his first shot in the 10th, converting the spare and finishing with a strike to force Duke to mark.
With everything on the line, Duke re-racked but left the 2-4-5-8, one of the few bad shots he threw all day.
"I was protecting against going high because you can make the bucket but you can't make the 4-6," Duke (Clermont, Fla.) said. "But I wanted to strike, too, so it had to be somewhere in between. I didn't throw it awful, I just missed it enough. When I left that I thought, 'It's over. I've done it again.'"
Duke was referring to the 2000 U.S. Open title match against Robert Smith where he needed a strike with his first ball in the 10th frame to win, but he left the 8-pin to lose, 202-201.
"That was the longest 10th frame today," Duke, the first No. 3 seed since Dave Husted in 1996 to win the U.S. Open, said. "Under those circumstances, I was a lot calmer today than I had been on Friday and Saturday. Fatigue really plays a role in this event. If you watched last night, guys were dying and I was one of those guys. Not dying mentally, but physically. But I threw some warm-ups this morning and had the game I wanted to have and that really calmed me down."
After Duke picked up the "bucket," the diminutive crowd favorite who is one of the most emotional players the Tour has ever seen, pumped his fist and jumped wildly, showing just how much this event meant to him.
"I cannot put into words how special this is to me," Duke said. "Five years after I missed that shot against Robert I would still cry about it. It was the one thing I would constantly think about that I hadn't done. I could just never cap it off. Now, I'm the reigning champion of the U.S. Open."
The win capped off an incredible month for Duke, who became just the seventh bowler to win two Majors in one season. He moved past Mike Aulby into sole possession of sixth on the all-time titles list, moved into a tie for fifth all-time with his fourth Major and joined Mike Aulby as the only bowlers to win the Grand Slam, although his 1993 Masters title does not count as an official PBA title.
"This format, this grind... it's why so few people can actually win this event," Duke said. "There are probably 25 people out here who can actually win this. It's why Pete (Weber) has won it four times. Now after 27 years of dreaming, it means everything to my career."
Duke took home $100,000 for the win and extended his exemption through the 2010-11 season. Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.) earned $50,000 for second, Loschetter (Avon, Ohio) took home $25,000 for third while Kent (Newark, N.Y.) earned $13,000 for fourth.
The 65th Denny's U.S. Open concludes the 2007-08 Denny's PBA Tour. Chris Barnes wrapped up the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year award this week, edging out six-time PBA Player of the Year Walter Ray Williams Jr. by two points in the standings to win the award for the first time in his career.
Koivuniemi went 17-7 in match play to earn the top seed for Sunday's stepladder finals in the 65th Denny's U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone Carolier, the fourth Major and final event of the Denny's PBA Tour season.
"I started off really poorly this week but I changed balls and I changed my release and that made the difference," Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.) said. "I moved way left and never moved right. After that I bowled really well."
Koivuniemi is the only bowler to win Majors for his first two career titles, capturing the 2000 United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Masters and the 2001 U.S. Open. He's made three U.S. Open championship rounds since then and will look to become the sixth bowler to win the U.S. Open twice.
"Like anyone else, this is the biggest tournament of the year for me," Koivuniemi said. "If you can choose any event to win, this is it. The format, the number of games, the amount of bowlers. There's so much traffic on the lanes those first couple of days you just have to find a way to survive somehow. Then it's a new tournament in match play. I won a lot of close matches and that was the key. Last year I started well and died in the matches so I guess I learned from that."
As the top seed, Koivuniemi earned an automatic berth in the title match. The first match features 2006-07 PBA Player of the Year Doug Kent (Newark, N.Y.) taking on last year's Player of the Year runner-up, Norm Duke. After winning two Majors last season, Kent has struggled in 2007-08 and is making his first championship round of the season.
Duke, meanwhile, will look to equal Kent's accomplishment last year by becoming the seventh bowler to win two Majors in a season. He captured the Denny's World Championship a month ago for his third career Major. A win Sunday would make Duke just the fifth bowler in history to win the PBA's Triple Crown, a win in the World Championship, Tournament of Champions and U.S. Open.
The winner of that match will face No. 2 Chris Loschetter, who doubled in the 10th frame of the position round to defeat Kent and go around Duke in the standings. Loschetter, who equaled Koivuniemi's 17-7 record, will look to become the fifth player in history to win the U.S. Open for his first career Denny's PBA Tour title.
Duke, who just a month ago was in danger of losing his Denny's PBA Tour exemption, is now looking poised to capture his second Major of the season, going 8-0 Friday evening to move into the lead in the 65th Denny's U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone Carolier.
The 27-time titlist has battled injuries throughout the season and had fallen as low as 51st in the PBA World Point Rankings heading into the Denny's World Championship just four events ago. Despite battling the flu that week, Duke made an incredible run to the finals where he beat Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Ryan Shafer to capture his third career Major and secure his place on Tour for two seasons.
"This has been a lot like the last two years where I've been extremely opportunistic when I'm on the floor but I just can't make my way to the approach enough," Duke (Clermont, Fla.) said of the injuries that have kept him off the lanes.
"But I'm really enjoying bowling now because of the fact that I'm healthy again. It hurt so badly before that it took the fun out of it. Now, I feel like I'm in the heat of battle and capable again."
Duke was more than capable on Friday. After quietly hovering in the top 20 all week, he swept through his matches Friday night to jump into the lead heading into the final 16 games of round robin on Saturday. After finishing fifth in last season's U.S. Open to miss the finals by one spot, Duke will get another shot at the coveted U.S. Open crown, the only one of the Triple Crown events he is missing.
"The U.S. Open is everything to me," Duke said. "At the beginning of every season I look at the four Majors but I look at this one first. It just bugs me. It's difficult to get this tournament and how important it is to me out of my mind when I'm bowling. I can't think about winning, I just have to get it done."
Duke's first two matches Friday came against two of the top players on the Denny's PBA Tour as he dispatched of Wes Malott and Tommy Jones by scores of 215-196 and 243-214, respectively. He then faced just two other exempt bowlers over his final six wins, capping the perfect night with a 213-200 win over amateur Mark Clark.
With 16 games left, Duke is nowhere near feeling like he's in the driver's seat.
"I cannot even count the times I've missed the show by one spot in this event. It's at least three. And I've finished second once by one pin. I still throw that shot a thousand times and I still miss," Duke said. "You can't win this tournament on Friday though. I'd love it if they'd just start the show tomorrow but I can still finish 24th. The task at hand is to come in here and play my very best. That's the only thing that's acceptable. And I know I have it in me."
Mika Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.), who is looking to get back his "Major Mika" moniker after winning the Masters and U.S. Open for the first two of his eight titles, also made a big run Friday going 7-1 to move up to second. Shannon Buchan (Waterloo, Iowa) went 5-3 and sits third while Eugene McCune (Munster, Ind.) went 4-3-1 and is fourth. Qualifying leader Brad Angelo (Lockport, N.Y.) went 5-3 to drop to fifth.
山本 勲（41位・$1,395 獲得）
Instead, Chris Barnes and Walter Ray Williams Jr. made late runs to stay alive in the 65th Denny's U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone Carolier, keeping Williams' chances of a seventh PBA Player of the Year Award alive and making Barnes wait at least another day to find out if he'll earn his first.
Meanwhile, Brad Angelo continued to the lead the field in hopes of capturing his first career title, finishing the first three days of qualifying with a 4,015 18-game pinfall.
For much of the tournament, Barnes and Williams had been hovering near the cut line until both did just enough Thursday to sneak inside the number. Barnes was 92nd heading into the day and averaged just 192.00 to drop to 117th, while Williams, who started in 125th, averaged 206.17 to finish 90th. The top 122 out of the original field of 488 advanced to Friday.
The pressure is still on Williams (Ocala, Fla.), who will have to make up a lot of ground in the nine games Friday to advance to round robin match play, where 24 bowlers will fight it out for the four spots in the finals. Williams must finish at least fifth to have a chance at making up the two-point deficit that separates he and Barnes (Double Oak, Texas).
Should Barnes and Williams both miss the top 24, the last man who could potentially still be in the race is Mike Scroggins, who must win the title this week to win the award by one point. Scroggins, who is looking to become the first left-handed bowler to win the U.S. Open since Mike Aulby in 1989, is 33rd heading into the final round of qualifying.
Angelo (Lockport, N.Y.), meanwhile, averaged 225.33 on Thursday to maintain his lead from Wednesday. He'll look to become the 18th bowler in PBA history to win a Major as his first title.
Defending champion Pete Weber (St. Ann, Mo.), who is looking to win his record-breaking ninth Major and fifth U.S. Open, was sitting in 122nd going into the final game but he fired a 237 the final game to move up to 97th and keep his hopes alive.
Four of the 10 women entered advanced to Friday including Union, N.J., native Kelly Kulick, who finished 49th. Kulick made history last season as the first woman to earn a full-season exemption on the Denny's PBA Tour. Carolyn Dorin-Ballard (North Richland Hills, Texas) was the top female after the first 18 games, sitting 32nd.
Earning the final two spots in the cashers' round were Jason Sterner (Roswell, Ga.) and Jason Lundquist (Hawley, Pa.), who tied for 121st with 3,548.
He's hoping they all fall into place this week in the most prestigious tournament of the season.
Angelo averaged 231.67 Wednesday to take the overall lead after two days with a 2,663 12-game pinfall in the 65th Denny's U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone Carolier, the fourth Major and final event of the 2007-08 season.
The 38-year-old Angelo, who is still looking for his first title, has made match play in 14 of the 16 events he's bowled this season, only missing in last week's GEICO Classic and the season-opening United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Masters. In between, he's posted one runner-up finish and suffered many tough breaks.
"It has been a solid season," Angelo (Lockport, N.Y.) said. "I think the last four or five single elimination match play events, whoever I lost to they ended up making the show so it's been that type of season. It has been disappointing to make that many match plays and not be able to break through and make a couple more shows. On the other hand I'm doing the right things to get in that position."
After averaging 212.17 on the fresh oil on Tuesday night, Angelo came out on the burned up oil on the second squad Wednesday, shooting 230 or better in five of his six games including a 265 in game two.
"I had a very good day. (Brunswick ball rep) Rick (Benoit) had found something in my release during our practice session on Monday and that was certainly a key element in yesterday and today," Angelo said. "It's definitely worked out really well and I guess I'll just keep riding the wave and keep thinking about that. The tournament is not even half over but I have to admit, it is nice to see my name at the top of the leader board."
Angelo is no stranger to success in the U.S. Open, although he had more success when the event was held on the West Coast. In his two appearances in U.S. Open's held in Southern California, Angelo finished ninth in 2003 and sixth in 2004. He's bowled well in the three previous U.S. Open's held at Brunswick Zone Carolier, but has yet to make match play, finishing 36th in 2005, 43rd in 2006 and 35th last season.
Finishing second behind Angelo was Australian sensation Jason Belmonte, a two-hander widely recognized as one of the top bowlers in the world. Belmonte averaged 217.50 on Tuesday after a 222.50 average Wednesday and will look to become the second Aussie this season to make a PBA championship round. Fellow Australian National Team member Andrew Frawley finished fourth in the Denny's World Championship.
Mark Clark (Naperville, Ill.) finished third with 2,639 while Eugene McCune (Munster, Ind.) and Shannon Buchan (Waterloo, Iowa) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, rounding out the top five.
Rookie sensation Rhino Page (Topeka, Kan.) continued to add to what is already the greatest rookie season in PBA history, finishing the day seventh with 2,601. Page owns one title this season and has made a rookie record five championship rounds.
In the race for the PBA Player of the Year award, Mike Scroggins (Amarillo, Texas) took another step toward sneaking into the lead, finishing the day 29th. Scroggins needs to win the title this week and hope neither Chris Barnes nor Walter Ray Williams Jr. finish in the top five. Should that happen, Scroggins would win the race by one point. Things are not looking good for Barnes (Double Oak, Texas) or Williams (Ocala, Fla.), although Barnes - who has a two-point lead over Williams - moved up to 92 on Wednesday. Williams sits 125th, in danger of missing the first cut on Thursday. The top 122 bowlers after Thursday's six games will advance to Friday's final round of qualifying.
The 22-year-old, who has teamed up with PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber for some doubles events recently, used what he has learned from the four-time U.S. Open champion to take the lead after the first day of competition in the 65th Denny's U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone Carolier.
While he's not a PBA member and has only competed in a handful of PBA events, Valenta has proven to be a star in the making. He finished 20th in the 2004 U.S. Open as an 18-year-old and 31st the following year but has not competed the last two seasons.
After a shaky showing in a recent regional event, Valenta spent hours working on his timing last week which resulted in a 230.17 average on Tuesday.
"I thought it was a good start," Valenta (Lockport, Ill.) said. "I made the right ball choice. I had two ways of going and the ball I chose helped me keep the ball in play a lot better. Other than that it was making good shots."
Valenta, who bowled on the pair next to the defending champion Weber all day, said he was comfortable bowling so close to the 34-time titlist.
"Pete and I have bowled a couple tournaments together and I don't have to ask him for much advice, all I have to do is watch him and see his demeanor," Valenta said. "That's why he's the best. He hasn't won four US Opens by accident. Being partners with him, you take bits and pieces here and there and you take it for everything it's worth.
"Bowling next to him was a really big factor today. I know he didn't have a great day, but just knowing your partner is next to you, you can get in a comfort zone."
Valenta, who was a two-time USBC Intercollegiate Singles Champion at Lindenwood (St. Charles, Mo.) University and a two-time Junior Team USA member, had considered becoming a PBA member last week but he'll wait to see if he gets a big paycheck this week so he can afford his membership dues. A win this week would give him $100,000.
"I was supposed to become a member a week ago but needless to say I didn't do too well at a regional," Valenta said. "I haven't had the money to join yet but I will soon. I might be able to get a card if I win this week."
Much of the hype surrounding this week's season-ending event has centered on Chris Barnes and Walter Ray Williams Jr., who have been running neck-and-neck in the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year race. Neither bowler had a very good day Tuesday, however, with Barnes finishing 155th with 1,162 and Williams finishing the day 162nd with 1,157. Barnes holds a two-point lead over Williams meaning the all-time titles leader has to finish at least fifth this week to have a chance at catching Barnes.
The only other bowler still in the hunt is Mike Scroggins, who would need to win this week and hope Barnes and Williams do not advance to the finals. Scroggins finished the first day 70th with 1,229.
Besides Valenta, three other amateurs finished in the top five with 16-year-old Andrew Koff (Miami) finishing second, Dominic Barrett (Walton on the Naze, England) finishing fourth and Mark Clark (Naperville, Ill.) finishing fifth. In between them, exempt bowler Todd Book finished third.
All 488 bowlers will return Wednesday for the second of three six-game blocks. The field will be cut to the top 25 percent after Thursday's play and the top 24 after Friday's nine-game qualifying block. The top 24 will bowl round robin match play Friday and Saturday to determine the finalists.
Jones won his second title of the season and his 12th in the last four seasons, defeating PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber, 257-191, to win the 2008 GEICO Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes.
The 29-year-old won four titles apiece in 2004-05 and 2005-06 then captured two victories in 2006-07, the second of which gave him a PBA record for shortest time between first and 10th titles. After a slow start to this season which featured no championship rounds, Jones has responded with four TV appearances and two victories in the second half.
While he could still technically tie Chris Barnes in the PBA Player of the Year point rankings by winning next week's season-ending 65th Denny's U.S. Open, Jones would not be able to catch Barnes in the tiebreaker which goes to the bowler who finishes highest in the PBA World Point Rankings.
"I typically don't bowl well on this pattern," Jones (Simpsonville, S.C.) said of the Cheetah oil pattern. "But they hooked a lot and I could throw it hard which is right in my comfort zone. It was an advantage for me because I could create hold where a couple guys couldn't."
Jones was a machine in his three victories Sunday, shooting 269 and 268 in his first two wins. While he slowed down a little in the title match, the top-seeded Weber opened in the third and fourth frames, which was all Jones needed. After single-pin conversions in the fourth and fifth frames, Jones struck in the seventh, eighth and ninth to clinch the victory, his second career win on Long Island.
The No. 3 seed Jones advanced to the title match with a 268-244 win over No. 2 Tommy Delutz Jr. Delutz struck with his first six shots in the match before two spares in the next three frames. Jones took advantage with four consecutive strikes in frames six through nine. He then struck with his first ball in the 10th to lock Delutz out.
Jones first defeated Walter Ray Williams Jr., 269-226. Williams would have tied Chris Barnes for the lead in the PBA Player of the Year race with a victory over Jones, but Jones struck six consecutive times after a spare in the opening frame and overall struck 10 of the last 11 frames. Williams was unable to catch up and he'll head into next week's season-ending U.S. Open two points behind Barnes.
In the first match, Williams advanced with a 238-216 win over No. 5 Wes Malott. Williams held a one-pin advantage over Malott heading into the ninth frame where Malott struck to take the lead. Williams responded with a strike in the ninth and needed to strike out in the 10th to shut Malott out. Williams struck all three times to eliminate Malott from the Player of the Year race.
Jones, who improved to 34-8 in his career on TV, took home $25,000 for the win while Weber (St. Ann, Mo.) earned $13,000 for second. Delutz (Flushing, N.Y.) took home $6,500 for third, Williams (Ocala, Fla.) earned $5,500 for fourth while Malott (Argyle, Texas) earned $5,000 for fifth.
Weber may mix it up Sunday, he may not. Regardless, he needs his magic for just one game to take home his 35th career Denny's PBA Tour title.
The PBA Hall of Famer defeated Tommy Delutz Jr., 247-212, in the position round Friday night to earn the top seed for Sunday's stepladder finals of the GEICO Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes.
Weber will be making his fourth championship round of the season, but he's come up empty in his previous three TV appearances. He will look for his first title since last season's 64th U.S. Open and will look to break a tie with Mark Roth for third on the all-time titles list.
"I got the good breaks to stay in the lead, but Sunday is a different day," Weber (St. Ann, Mo.) said. "We'll just see how we break the lanes down for the show. I'll be focused though. The sunglasses haven't been lucky, so I'm thinking about not wearing them."
Weber took the lead in the second block of qualifying Thursday night and never looked back. He led after every game of the 18 games of round robin, with the exception of game 17, despite a 9-9 record. Delutz took the lead after game 17 before giving it back to Weber in the position round.
The New York native Delutz (Flushing, N.Y.), who made the final round last year at AMF Babylon Lanes, won his last title in the in Syosset, N.Y. in the 2001-02 season. He went 12-6 on Friday.
Earning the No. 3 seed was 2005-06 PBA Player of the Year Tommy Jones who went 13-5 on Friday and will look for his second title of the season and 12th of his career.
All-time Denny's PBA Tour titles leader Walter Ray Williams Jr. earned the No. 4 seed and can take over the lead in the PBA Player of the Year race. Williams trails Chris Barnes by four points and would need to win two matches Sunday to tie Barnes. He would take a four-point lead if he advances to the title match and a 12-point lead should he win the title heading into next week's season-ending 65th Denny's U.S. Open.
"There's still next week," Williams (Ocala, Fla.) said. "But it would be nice to at least take the lead. I have to win some games Sunday though. It actually hurts me that there's five on the show instead of four."
Williams will face three-time titlist Wes Malott in the first match Sunday. Malott tied an 18-game PBA record by going 16-2 on Friday. Malott will look for his second victory of the season, which would keep him in the running for the PBA Player of the Year award as well.
Weber led Thursday's Round of 64 in the 2008 GEICO Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes with a 3,544 14-game pinfall, taking the top seed into Friday's round robin match play.
The PBA Hall of Famer with 34 Denny's PBA Tour titles has come up empty in three championship round appearances, looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable in going just 1-3 in his matches. But a win in one - or both - of the final two events would leave him more than satisfied with his season.
"Just bowling well the last two weeks and feeling I ended the year just as well as I started is going to mean a lot to me," Weber (St. Ann, Mo.) said. "The U.S. Open is next week and I always get psyched up for that."
Last season, Weber had one of the finest seasons of his 27-year career, winning two titles including the prestigious U.S. Open. The victory was his record-tying fourth U.S. Open crown and eighth career Major title.
Weber is certainly not looking ahead to next week's season-ending 65th Denny's U.S. Open, however, averaging 253.14 on the Cheetah oil pattern Thursday, a pattern he has not made a championship round appearance on in the six seasons since the PBA went to the five standard patterns.
"I just hope the alarm doesn't go off," Weber joked. "I bowled well all day. I only missed one spare and had maybe two splits. Other than that every frame was filled. When you go out and have room and get some breaks your confidence gets sky high. Having that many days off helped my mind, too."
Weber took the Go RVing Classic off two weeks ago and the Tour was on hiatus last week, giving Weber plenty of time to gear up for the final two events.
All pinfall carries over into Friday's round robin, where bowlers earn 30 bonus pins for each win and 15 for each tie.
Chris Barnes, who currently leads the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year race by four points heading into the final two events, finished second with 3,426. Barnes leads PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. in the race. Williams finished seventh Thursday with 3,290.
The 2004-05 PBA Player of the Year Patrick Allen, who still has an outside chance at this year's award, finished third with 3,379 while 2006-07 Player of the Year Tommy Jones finished fourth with 3,320.
Two New Yorkers who were each in last year's finals at AMF Babylon Lanes finished in the top six as Long Island native Michael Fagan took fifth with 3,299 and Tommy Delutz Jr. took sixth with 3,292. Both bowlers lost in the stepladder finals last season to Norm Duke, who beat a total of four New Yorkers en route to the title. A new winner will be crowned this year as Duke did not qualify for match play, finishing 54th.
Instead, Page used the motivation of his worst week of the season last week to drive him to a 244-220 win over Jack Jurek in Sunday's Go RVing Classic to cement what is the greatest rookie season in PBA history.
Page had already broken or tied six PBA records coming into Sunday, including making five championship rounds, all of which came after he had to qualify for the event through the Denny's PBA Tour Qualifying Round. He had come up empty in his four previous championship rounds, however, finishing second twice, third once and fifth.
The 24-year-old missed the cut in the TQR of last week's Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic, just the third time all season he didn't advance to the Round of 64. He spent the following days practicing with his old coach who helped him with his physical game but also got him back on track mentally.
The practice paid off as Page defeated fellow left-hander Mike Scroggins, 245-235, in the semifinals to advance to his third title match of the season.
In the title match against Jurek, Page looked like he would cruise to the title after striking with his first five shots in the match. But a pocket 7-10 split and open in the sixth frame let Jurek back in the match. But the Tour veteran, who was looking for his first win since 1995, could not take advantage, suffering four consecutive nine-spares.
Jurek could have put pressure on Page in the 10th by striking out, but after a strike with his first shot he left the 3-4-6-7 meaning Page only needed a mark to win. The rookie finished it off in style by striking for the win.
"It feels so good. I didn't expect by any means to make this many shows this season," Page (Topeka, Kan.) said. "After my fourth show I thought, 'Man, you missed out.' Fortunately, I got to work on my game last week and after the week I had last week, that really motivated me. I know I'm not that kind of bowler and I was determined to never let that happen again."
Page used some key strategy against Scroggins to get through to the title match, denying the five-time titlist a chance at his third win of the season.
"I came in with a really good game plan," Page said. "I knew Scroggins could strike a lot from where he was playing so I tried to throw a dull ball and burn the lanes up and change where he was playing. Luckily it helped me also get the room I needed to shoot some big scores."
Should he win the PBA Rookie of the Year award - which is a lock at this point - Page would become just the sixth Rookie of the Year to win a title in the 43 years the award has been handed out. He also moved into seventh in the PBA Player of the Year point standings with two events remaining.
Page's win in the semifinal also came down to the final frame. Scroggins took the lead for the first time in the match with a strike in the seventh and after that point the two traded strikes and leads until the 10th frame. Page struck with his final six shots including all three in the 10th to force Scroggins to double. After a strike with his first shot, Scroggins got just eight pins to give Page the win.
Jurek advanced to the championship round with a 236-223 win over Mike Edwards. In a match-up between bowlers each looking for their first title since the early 1990s, Jurek took control with a four-bagger in frames four through seven and never looked back. After an eight-spare in the ninth, Edwards struck out in the 10th to force Jurek to mark and the Lackawanna, N.Y., native struck with his first ball for the victory.
Page, who had already wrapped up an exemption via the PBA World Point Rankings, earned $25,000 for his win. Jurek earned $13,000 for second while Edwards (Tulsa, Okla.) and Scroggins (Amarillo, Texas) took home $6,000 each for third and fourth, respectively.
Edwards defeated PBA Hall of Famer and all-time titles leader Walter Ray Williams Jr., four-games-to-none, Friday while Jurek defeated Steve Harman, 4-3, to advance to the finals of the 2008 Go RVing Classic at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center.
The 46-year-old Edwards came into the week 36th in the PBA World Point Rankings with the cut line currently 38th for a 2008-09 exemption at season's end while Jurek was out of the cut in 42nd. Neither has had a poor season by any stretch, but Edwards missed the cut to match play in each of the last three events while Jurek missed in two of the last three events.
Edwards seemed to be in good shape heading into last week's Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic, but strong performances by several bowlers behind him dropped Edwards from 29th to 36th.
The Denny's PBA Tour champion - who won his lone title in the 1994 IOF Foresters Open - was on a mission this week, qualifying second for match play then sweeping two of his three matches on Friday.
Against Williams, who was looking to re-take the lead in the PBA Player of the Year race with a berth in Sunday's title match, Edwards won three close games to take a 3-0 lead before wrapping up the match with a 279-237 win in game four.
"Obviously bowling against Walter Ray, you have to bring your "A" game because he's been bowling phenomenal this year," Edwards (Tulsa, Okla.) said. "You know he's not going to miss the pocket a lot. I was fortunate he didn't carry very well and I did."
Edwards, who will look to break the longest title drought on Tour at 280 events, said he'll be relaxed Sunday knowing he's all but wrapped up a spot on Tour next season.
"You have to try and put it out of your mind," Edwards said of the exempt cut line. "It's there every day and you see the point list up in the locker room and people are always talking about it. You have to act like it's just another week. It's tough. It's definitely not easy to do."
"Coming into this week, I wasn't throwing it that well on top of everything," Edwards said. "My mechanics were off and on top of that I dropped down in the points. When I get in a jam like that, I go back to the basics and try to get my timing and rhythm down. It just so happens that I matched up with the pattern this week. I was fortunate to maintain the momentum from yesterday to today. It can be tough in this format. I've been one of the higher seeds and lost in the first round before. The key was trying to keep the same rhythm as yesterday."
With his minimum fourth-place finish, Edwards moved up to 24th in the point rankings. Jurek, whose last win came in the 1995 Tums Classic in nearby Windsor Locks, Conn., moved to 37th. The two will square off in Sunday's second semifinal.
Making a PBA rookie record fifth championship round appearance was Rhino Page (Topeka, Kan.), who defeated Mike DeVaney, 4-0. Page has come up empty in his first four TV appearances, finishing second twice. The 23-year-old will face Mike Scroggins in the first match Sunday, who defeated Mika Koivniemi, 4-3, in an exciting finish.
In game seven, Koivuniemi needed a strike and nine-spare in the 10th frame to shut Scroggins out, but he left the 4-7-10 split with his first shot. Koivuniemi picked up the split and then got nine pins, forcing Scroggins to strike with his first shot in the 10th and get a nine-spare to win by one pin. Scroggins did just that to take the deciding game, 247-246.
Scroggins, who has two victories to his credit this season, would move into third in the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year points race with a victory Sunday.
Kretzer took a big step toward securing an exemption for the 2008-09 Denny's PBA Tour season, leading the field in Thursday's Round of 64 with a 3,347 14-game pinfall in the 2008 Go RVing Classic at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center.
The 41-year-old came into this week 32nd in the PBA World Point Rankings with three events remaining, including this week. The top 38 at the end of the season earn exemptions via the point rankings. Kretzer had a 7,000 point lead over 38th coming into this week and leading the field will give him a big boost as bonus points are awarded to the top qualifier.
"Good grips, good shoes, good bowling balls," Kretzer (Dayton, Ohio) said. "Seriously though, it was nice to get off to a good start because I wasn't completely out of the clear. This definitely helps me feel a little more comfortable. I just got a good curve going which is my bread and butter."
Kretzer, who has yet to win a title in 135 career events, tied a PBA record in the first seven-game block, firing two 300 games. The two perfect games equaled a feat only five other bowlers have accomplished in the four years since the Tour switched to seven-game blocks.
After averaging 244.71 over the first seven games, Kretzer managed a 233.43 over the final seven to take the lead and earn the top seed for Friday's single elimination match play. He will face No. 32 Tom Baker, a PBA Hall of Famer and the three-time reigning PBA Senior Player of the Year who earned the final spot in match play by just two pins.
One bowler who does need a strong finish over the final three events and got off to a good start in that endeavor is Tour veteran Mike Edwards, who finished second with 3,313. Edwards was seemingly in a comfortable position before last week's Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic - sitting 29th in points - but a handful of bowlers behind him had big weeks, dropping him down to 36th. Edwards, whose lone Denny's PBA Tour title came in 1994, will face No. 31 Brad Angelo on Friday.
Patrick Allen and Doug Kent, the 2004-05 and 2006-07 PBA Players of the Year, respectively, finished third and fourth. Allen is still in the hunt for the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year, sitting fifth in the standings. A win this week could move him up as high as third. Allen will face No. 30 Stevie Weber while Kent, looking to make his first TV appearance of the season, will face No. 29 Mike Wolfe.
In the battle for the top honor on Tour, Walter Ray Williams Jr. finished seventh Thursday to advance to match play while PBA Player of the Year points race leader Chris Barnes missed the cut, finishing 37th. Williams, who has held the lead in 15 of the 19 weeks this season, is now four points behind after Barnes won last week's event in Columbus, Ohio, to take the lead. Williams would grab a share of the lead with a third-place finish.
Barnes watched as Ken Simard needed three strikes in the 10th to win his first career title, but instead left the 3-10 split with his second shot, giving Barnes a 209-197 win in the 2008 Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic for his 10th career Denny's PBA Tour title.
The victory could turn out to be one of the biggest in Barnes' career as it gave him the lead in the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year race with just three events remaining.
Just a month ago, Barnes lost in the title match of the H&R Block Tournament of Champions which furthered his reputation as a bowler who, for the most part, had underachieved in his career. Instead, he's responded with two victories in the last four events, putting him on the verge of his first career PBA Player of the Year award.
Barnes took a big risk in the title match, playing each lane differently. He played the deep inside part of the left lane and on the right lane changed to playing straight after three consecutive spares.
"The lanes were just plain hard. I felt like I was tricking them all day," Barnes (Double Oak, Texas) said. "I didn't really have a good look the whole day, I just grinded it out and made enough good shots and made the other guy show up."
Simard, who showed the poise of a veteran in his first career TV appearance, stepped up in the 10th needing all three to win. Standing in front of the ball return on the right lane, he struck with his first shot before splitting on his second.
"There's definitely helplessness in watching him try to strike out to win. The other times that's happened to me, the guys have bowled like professionals and gone bang, bang, bang and see you later," Barnes said. "I've also been in that spot he's in needing three in a row. If he gets up and throws three in a row on his first show on that lane, then I just have to tip my cap. But I didn't like his chances based on what had happened over there before."
The win gives Barnes two titles in a season for the second time in his career but the first time since the 1999 season. It was also meaningful to the Columbia 300 staffer, who won the event named after the late PBA Hall of Famer Don Johnson, a famed Columbia staffer himself.
"It's a really good feeling. I just feel like someone else had a plan," Barnes said. "As many times as I've left a 10-pin or 4-pin or 7-pin and guys have stepped up and won, today guys didn't. Historically on the one-game thing it hasn't worked my way. I do think maybe 'Cocoa Butter' was up there looking out for another Columbia staffer."
The win gives Barnes a four-point lead over Walter Ray Williams Jr. in the PBA Player of the Year race with three events remaining, including the season-ending 65th Denny's U.S. Open, the fourth Major of the season which awards more Player of the Year points than standard events.
"It's by no means over," Barnes said. "Walter Ray averages about one show every four events so odds are he's going to make another show which means I have to make another show, too. He does have to make one now, though, and it's not easy out here. At the U.S. Open you still have to beat 480 guys to get there. We all know he's been the best out here year in and year out. They've tried to write him off four or five times, but I don't ever write him off."
It almost wasn't to be for Barnes, who nearly cost himself again in the 10th frame of a title match. Needing a mark and nine pins to shut Simard out, Barnes left the 2-8-10 with his fill ball to give Simard the opportunity to win.
Barnes advanced to the title match with a 222-213 win over his Tour roommate Mika Koivuniemi, the second times Barnes has knocked off the "Big Finn" in the semifinals this season en route to a title. After Barnes left a 4-6-7 and opened in the ninth frame after five consecutive strikes, Koivuniemi had a chance to win with a mark and eight pins. He left the 3-10, however, and needing a mark to still have a chance to win, Koivuniemi chopped the spare to give Barnes the win.
Simard advanced to the title match with a 237-226 win over Wes Malott.
Barnes earned $25,000 with his win while Simard (Simpsonville, S.C.) earned $13,000 for second. Malott (Argyle, Texas) and Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.) took home $6,000 each for third and fourth, respectively.
Malott defeated Kulick, four-games-to-three, to advance to the finals of the 2008 Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic at Sequoia Pro Bowl, denying Kulick her place in history as the second woman to make the finals of a Denny's PBA Tour event.
Kulick looking to equal the feat accomplished by Liz Johnson, who finished second in the 2005 Banquet Open. That day, Johnson defeated Malott in the semifinals after Malott fouled twice late in the match. Johnson went on to fall to Tommy Jones in the title match.
Malott was in no mood to be on the wrong side of history again. Although he was stretched to the limit by Kulick, he came away with a 238-185 win over the Union, N.J., native in the deciding seventh game.
"Trust me, it's not my first time bowling against a woman. I bowled Liz a couple years ago and had a couple issues with my shoes which I have since overcome, but in practice today I fouled a couple times," Malott (Argyle, Texas) said. "During practice my timing was off and my arm swing was fast, but I've been sick this week and I actually bowl better when I'm sick because I slow everything down. Today I was able to finally slow down and get my timing back early in the match and everything fell into place.”"
Kulick, who was the first woman to earn a full season Denny's PBA Tour exemption last season but was unable to regain her spot on Tour this year, had the best week of her career, finishing sixth despite having to advance through Tuesday's Denny's PBA Tour Qualifying Round.
"Kelly has always impressed me," Malott said. "When she was exempt last year I congratulated and supported her 100% and told her if she needed anything I was there fore her. I'm that way with anyone, though. In our sport, it's hard to see the lanes the right way and make the right decisions. Some people come out here and don't have success right away and decide to pack up and go home instead of trying to get better. You want people to get better because that's the only way the sport will get better."
Malott, who won a title earlier this season, will face Ken Simard (Greenville, S.C.), who defeated Steve Harman (Indianapolis), 4-3. Simard will be making his first career championship round appearances.
The first semifinal will feature Chris Barnes taking on Tour roommate Mika Koivuniemi for the second time this season. Barnes (Double Oak, Texas) defeated Koivunieni in the semifinals of the Bayer Classic three weeks ago en route to his only title this season. Barnes, who defeated Todd Book (Cantonment, Fla.), 4-1, is making his Tour-high ninth TV appearance of the season and would take over the lead in the PBA Player of the Year race with a victory.
Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.), who knocked off Ronnie Russell (Indianapolis, Ind.) will also be looking for his second title of the season.