Duke of New York

by PBA Editor December 16, 2006 19:00
As one of the most popular bowlers in Denny’s PBA Tour history, Norm Duke might be the only bowler who could have gotten away with his mistreatment of New York bowlers on Sunday.

Duke defeated four bowlers from New York to capture his fourth career title in New York state, knocking off top-seed Ryan Shafer, 218-179, to win the 2006 Columbia 300 Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes.

The victory was the 25th of Duke’s storied career, giving him sole possession of ninth on the career titles list. He also became the first bowler this season to win two titles, taking early control of the 2006-07 PBA Player of the Year race heading into a two-week holiday break.

“I had a tough choice and I chose to play an area not many were playing,” said Duke, who played the lanes straight rather than playing inside like the other four finalists. “Two days ago I said I believed if I continued to play where I was playing things would get better for me and lo and behold I’m the one left standing. It was a tough call but it worked out pretty well.”

Shafer (Horseheads, N.Y.) held the lead through four frames, but working on a double he left a 7-10 split and opened in the 5th, giving the slight edge to Duke. The Clermont, Fla., native responded with four strikes in the next five frames to clinch the victory.

Duke came into the championship round as the fourth-seed and became the first bowler since Tommy Jones in the Dydo Japan Cup 2005 to win as many as four matches en route to a title. Shafer, meanwhile, became the ninth consecutive top-seed to lose in a stepladder final.

In the semifinal match, Duke held a slim nine-pin lead over Tommy Delutz Jr. (Flushing, N.Y.) through eight frames. A crucial strike by Duke in the 9th frame became even bigger when Delutz failed to match him in the 9th, settling for a nine-spare. Another nine-spare in the 10th meant Duke only needed to mark in the 10th for the 226-207 win.

Duke won his second match over third-seeded Joe Ciccone (Buffalo, N.Y.), 257-206, striking in eight of the first nine frames. In the first stepladder match, Duke knocked off No. 5 Michael Fagan (Greenlawn, N.Y.), 248-184.
Duke took home $25,000 while Shafer earned $13,000 for second. Delutz took home $6,500 for third, Ciccone earned $5,500 for fourth while Fagan earned $5,000 for fifth.

The Denny’s PBA Tour takes a two-week break before returning with the 2007 H&R Block Classic at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev., Jan. 3-7. The live ESPN televised finals take place Sunday, Jan. 7, at 1 p.m. EST.

Denny’s PBA Tour
2006 Columbia 300 Classic
AMF Babylon Lanes
West Babylon, N.Y.
Sunday, Dec. 17


Pos.Name, hometownTotal/GamesMoney
1.Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla.949 (4 games)$25,000
2.Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y.179 (1 game)$13,000
3.Tommy Delutz Jr., Flushing, N.Y.207 (1 game)$6,500
4.Joe Ciccone, Buffalo, N.Y.206 (1 game)$5,500
5.Michael Fagan, Greenlawn, N.Y.184 (1 game)$5,000

SCORES – In the first match, Duke def. Fagan, 248-184; in the second match, Duke defeated Ciccone, 257-206; in the semifinal, Duke defeated Delutz, 226-207; and in the final, Duke def. Shafer, 218-179.

This is Duke’s 25th career Denny’s PBA Tour title.
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Life on Tour

by PBA Editor December 15, 2006 19:00
By Michael Fagan

This week on the PBA Tour was much easier than most for me. I didn’t have to worry about rental cars, flights, or hotel rooms. I didn’t even have to worry about doing my own laundry!

I had been looking forward to this week since I saw it on the schedule in October. Not only because I would be at home and have the support of my family and friends, but I was confident I was going to be able to give them a good show. This was the first time in my 5 years on the PBA that I got to bowl on the Shark pattern and had all the pins carry over. It is my favorite pattern by far and I was excited to see what I could do if the wood wasn’t dropped. I usually don’t come into a tournament with the type of confidence I had this particular week.

I followed the same routine that I do when I’m on the road. Tuesday, after dropping off my laundry at the parents, I took a ride down to Babylon to do some practicing. I met my friend Alex down there. He was going to be bowling in the TQR and we can usually help each other. It was a successful practice session. I worked on getting my feet slower. After having to throw it as hard as you could in Baltimore, I wanted to get my tempo slower. The Shark pattern usually has a lot of oil down the lane and slow speed helps create the angle you want into the pins.

After the practice session we had a nice dinner, which is also a welcomed change from when I’m on the road. Long Island is not lacking great places to eat, any meal of the day. Usually if I ask a breakfast restaurant to make egg whites in anywhere, USA they look at me like ‘why would you want to do that?’ With the exception of Maggiano’s, the Italian food in New York is unrivaled. Only difference is it’s hard to get out of Maggiano’s for under $30 and for $15 you will have lunch for tomorrow. Ok enough about food, I’m getting hungry and I have to finish writing this!

Wednesday morning I swung by my parents place to find my laundry cleaned and folded neatly and then it was on to Babylon. Some of my friends were bowling in the TQR and I wanted to see how they were doing. I didn’t get to watch as much as I would have liked. I planned to drill a ball for the practice session and they didn’t have what I needed on the truck. I took the quick drive over to the distributor. They swapped me out a Storm Spit Fire with a better pin. We chitchatted a little bit and I was on my way. More practice on Wednesday evening let me narrow down what balls could stay in the locker room and which ones had a chance.

My girlfriend Amanda and I went to this great sushi place near our house for dinner. We were just about finishing when I got an emergency phone call. Alex was at the final table of an online poker tournament when his Internet went out!! He asked me to finish it for him, so we got the check, hurried home, and I finished 5th for him. Normal bad beat action but I won’t get into it. I just relaxed the rest of the night, watched some TV and went to bed.

Thursday is always a long day. I bowled well all day. Scores were relatively low compared to what we have been used to this half. I was able to stay away from the low games, which was key. I got to spend the break with Tim and Brenda Mack and their newborn baby. Tim has gone through a terrible injury and it’s good to see him around and competing again.

Another reason I look forward to this format is the schedule. Friday morning in the round robin format doesn’t start until 11 a.m. as compared to 9 a.m. Since we usually don’t leave the center until about 11 p.m. on Thursday it’s hard to get something to eat and get a full night sleep. I crashed after I took the short 20-minute ride home and was ready to go for Friday.

Friday definitely did not start as to plan. The lanes were much different than the previous day. The middle of the lane was not very pretty the first few games. I was forced to move to the outside part of the lane until the middle carried down. I bowled one good game playing to the right and just paced otherwise. I was very tentative on Friday morning and overall was not happy with my performance. I knew I was going to have to turn things around if I was going to make the show. Luckily because of my score on Thursday I still was close to the show going into Friday night.

Thing were beginning to look bleak after the first couple games on Friday evening. I got fooled into playing the outside part of the lane. By the time I had moved back to the middle of the lane I had given two games to the field. I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to make it to the show if I was bowling scared so I try to get positive and throw the ball the way I know how. My reaction began to improve as well as my confidence. The last seven games of match play, although only going 4-3, was some of the best bowling I had done all year. I threw the ball well combined with good ball reaction and I put myself in position to make the TV show. Patrick Healey Jr. and I were virtually tied going into the last position round game. I made 12 solid shots and shot 248 to defeat his 238. It felt pretty good and it was a big relief because I had such high expectations of myself going into this week.

Saturday was a pretty slow day, I slept in and grabbed some lunch and headed over to Babylon at 4. I finished working out the Storm Agent I had drilled for the show, signed some autographs, talked with the ESPN crew, and was on my way. I met my girlfriend Amanda where she works at East Meadow Lanes. She was bartending that night and while she set up the bar I ordered some Chinese take out. I headed home after that. I turned off my phone, didn’t sign on Instant Messenger, and just watched some TV. I didn’t really want to even think about bowling on the show and didn’t want to be reminded about it every few minutes by someone wishing me luck.

I actually slept really well on Saturday night. It wasn’t at all a restless night. I didn’t want to get to the bowling center too early and just sit around. Practicing off the set is pretty pointless. The lanes are very different and I just use the practice lanes to get my feet right and my equipment feeling good.

I really liked my look on the TV pair during practice. I actually wasn’t trying to throw as many shots not to carry down too much oil. Unfortunately I didn’t come out of the gate very well and against somebody like Norm Duke that usually doesn’t work to your favor. I wasn’t very happy with my performance on TV. I know I could have made better shots. Norm was going to be tough to beat even if I bowled flawlessly. Maybe I needed somebody to yell in my backswing every shot. I struck the two times that happened.

Overall I would say the week was a success. The more you bowl on TV the more you learn about what the lights and heat do to the patterns. I felt pretty confident and comfortable on the show. I don’t feel like nerves altered my performance. I always try to take away from an event something positive even if the tournament doesn’t end on a positive note.

Thanks for reading my life on tour. I hope that you enjoyed reading about the week that was on the Denny’s PBA Tour.
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Life on Tour

by PBA Editor December 15, 2006 19:00
By Matt Freiberg


Travel day for the members of the PBA. Instead of driving straight into Babylon, New York, my girlfriend Nikki drove me home. I went to my home bowling center in the evening and got the best Swedish meatballs in the world, courtesy of Josh G. I lingered around the alley saying hello to all my hometown friends. I left the center a few hours later, and spent some much needed time with my girlfriend and her family.

Woke up horribly early to beat tri-state area traffic. If you haven’t experienced it first hand, you’ve probably heard about it. Yeah, it really is THAT bad. Three hours after I woke up, I arrived at AMF Babylon Lanes. After catching up with the PBA staff, I went out to the trucks, got my stuff, and got my practice on. The pattern we were bowling on this week is known as the Shark, and I practiced for two hours. When I felt confident that I had two or three balls that matched up fairly closely, I put my shoes up and left. Usually on Tuesday I do set up for the bleachers in the center for the spectators to sit and watch throughout the week. This week, however, I got a nice break because this center set up its own bleachers. Rudy “Revs” Kasimakis, and PBA staff members Jeff Mark, Rosie Leutzinger, David Bassity, Jacques Dardin (the guy who does the lighting for the TV show) and his assistant Bobby and I went to Kwong Ming for dinner. It was the best oriental food I’ve ever had. After two hours of unbelievable food and good conversation, we ended the night on a good note.

Although my hometown is within two hours of the bowling center, I decided to stay in a hotel. Ironically, as far as hotels go, this one might have actually been farther from the bowl than my house. I had another early morning wake up to beat the traffic for the Tour Qualifying Round’s 9 a.m. roll call. I changed into my bowling clothes and worked out my equipment until practice. I stretch before I bowl, get warmed up quicker and use less shots during practice. This gives me more quality shots during the actual competition. Every ball thrown counts.

I bowled a 300 the first game. It was my first PBA 300 and it felt great. It’s always nice to start off the block with a big game. I moved to the next pair, had a good look, but didn’t excecute as well as the first game. I shot a 222. Over the next five games, my look faded but luckily it never completely disappeared. I shot a 211 the last game which secured me a spot for Thursday’s competition. It was sweet bowling my first 300 in PBA competition and I was lucky I did so because I only went about another 30 pins + for the next six games.

It was nice to have support from my parents who made the drive up from Somerset, New Jersey. There were a few professionals, specifically Patrick Allen, and Sean Rash, who were rooting for me the last game which really kept my spirits up. I would also like to note that I probably would have never bowled as well as I did if I hadn’t worked with Brunswick Rep. Rick Benoit the week earlier. We worked on a few kinks in my physical game and after about 10 minutes I immediately noticed a difference. So, Thanks Rick! After a great day overall, I went to Kwong Ming for dinner, again, to top my night off.

I had to be at the bowling center at 10 a.m. to weigh in my bowling balls. When you make it out of the TQR you are required to weigh in whichever balls you have written down on your scorecard that you used during the qualifying round. For the first time in a long time I was in roll call again with all the TQR finalists and PBA exempt members.

Because there are fewer bowlers in the Round of 64 than there are in the TQR, I noticed that the lanes played tighter Thursday than on Wednesday. I was paired with Chris Barnes, Chris Collins, and Brian Kretzer. I bowled okay for the first seven games. I shot about 20 under but I was only 60 pins out of the number so I had high hopes going into the next seven games. My girlfriend and her sister came up to watch me bowl so I hung out with them during the break. We had some really good Italian food that was being served in the locker room. I bowled better through the transition (games 3-5) on the second set than I did on the first set. I finished the day at 77 under. Regardless of how I bowled, I had a fun, successful week of bowling.

Having a stop so close to home enabled my parents and girlfriend to make the drive up to see me bowl. Since I’m on the road so often, they don’t get to see me bowl as much as I’d like them to. Over the summer I worked at Kegel Training Center in Florida, so it was nice to spend some time with them.

Finally on Thursday night I was able to go home to spend some much needed time with my girlfriend, Nikki.

My time on Friday is filled with working on the bleacher system. I set up the bleachers for the TV set on Sundays. I used to set up the lights but recently changed jobs. I started at about 5 p.m. by getting the trucks/trailer ready to be unloaded. At 10 p.m. when the local laborers showed up we worked until about 2:30 a.m.

After being able to sleep in late, I worked until about 6 p.m. Saturday evening as part of my obligation for making it out of the qualifying round, I had to bowl in the Pro-Am. This was no big deal to me because I love interacting with the fans. They keep the sport going and we need to let them know that! Bowling the pro-am was a lot of fun. The fans were great. They weren’t afraid to ask questions and I was happy to answer. We got to take some pictures and I was able to sign some autographs. This wasn’t my first time bowling a pro-am but it’s always a great experience.

I had to be at the lanes around 10 a.m. just in time for the free breakfast offered by the bowling center. Cooked to order, couldn’t ask for anything better! When the show was over I started working. We broke down the bleacher system and finished around 7:30 p.m. Nik picked me up and I was finally able to go home! It’s a good feeling to be able to put my suitcases to rest, even if it’s only for two weeks.
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Mika Makes a Move

by PBA Editor December 14, 2006 19:00
Mika Koivuniemi is proving that change is a good thing.

After using 10 different balls on Thursday, Koivuniemi changed balls again Friday and the result was an 8-1 match play record in the Round of 32.

The Finland native went from 48th to 30th Thursday in the second block of the Round of 64 to just make the match play cut. With nine games left, he now sits 13th heading into Friday’s Round of 16 in the 2006 Columbia 300 Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes.

“The first block (Thursday) I used six different balls and didn’t bring any of those in for the second block,” said Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.). “Today I bowled with a completely different ball that I didn’t use yesterday.”

The six-time Denny’s PBA Tour titlist used a Brunswick Ultimate Inferno Friday, winning his first eight matches to move up to 10th. His streak finally ended with a 224-192 loss to Brian Himmler (Cincinnati) in the position round.

“I didn’t score very well. I won eight in a row because everyone bowled 180 against me. I can usually beat that score,” Koivuniemi said. “This house is so different pair to pair. That’s why I chose that ball and just tried to stay out of trouble.”

Koivuniemi averaged 210.55 in his nine games while his opponents averaged just 183.56. He had just two games over 200 bowled against him.

Still leading the field is Ryan Shafer (Horseheads, N.Y.), who went 6-3 Friday morning. Moving into second after going 7-2 was Patrick Healey Jr. (Flower Mound, Texas). Pinfall carried over from Thursday’s qualifying, and bowlers receive 30 bonus pins for each win and 15 bonus pins for each tie in the round robin format.

Earning the final spot in tonight’s Round of 16 was Brian Kretzer (Dayton, Ohio). The Round of 16 gets underway at 6 p.m. EST.

The top five bowlers will advance to Sunday’s live ESPN-televised stepladder finals at 1 p.m. EST at AMF Babylon Lanes. The winner will take home $25,000 and an exemption for the 2007-08 Denny’s PBA Tour season.

300 Games(2) - Rudy Kasimakis, John May.
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Criss Replaces Koivuniemi

by PBA Editor December 14, 2006 19:00
Mika Koivuniemi has withdrawn from the 2006 Columbia 300 Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes with a knee injury and has been replaced by Tim Criss.

Criss will come into the Round of 16 with his own scratch pinfall total and bonus pins from the Round of 32 and will assume Koivuniemi’s scratch total pins for the Round of 16 but not his bonus pins.
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