Tough at the Top

by PBA Editor October 27, 2006 19:00
If recent history is any indication, Jack Jurek might be in trouble this Sunday in the finals of the 2006 USBC Masters at the Wisconsin Exposition Center.

Jurek earned the top seed for Sunday’s championship round in his first Major final appearance and his first arena finals appearance. The 20-year veteran will be looking to win his first title since the 1995 Tums Classic, which would put him fourth on the all-time list for longest period between titles at 11 years, seven months and four days.

The advantage would seem to be on Jurek’s side as he has earned an automatic berth into Sunday’s title match as the top seed for the stepladder finals. Top seeds have not fared well in stepladder finals recently, however, losing their last five matches.

Last season, top-seeds lost all four stepladder title matches. Norm Duke was a victim twice as the top-seed, falling in the title match of the Dydo Japan Cup and USBC Masters. Jason Couch knocked off top-seed Parker Bohn III in the Dick Weber Open and Tommy Jones took down No. 1 seed Ryan Shafer in the 63rd U.S. Open. Most recently, second-seed Walter Ray Williams Jr. defeated top-seed Pete Weber for his 42nd career title in the 2006 Dydo Japan Cup.

One thing that is on Jurek’s side is that no third or fourth seeds have ever won a Masters event. It’s hard to count out this year’s third and fourth seeds, however, as seven-time titlist Doug Kent and 2005-06 PBA Player of the Year Tommy Jones will battle it out in the first match.

Jones has now made three of the last four Major championship rounds. After a win in last season’s U.S. Open, Jones finished 12th in the Denny’s World Championship and third in the Tournament of Champions. He also just missed the finals in last season’s USBC Masters, finishing fifth.

The eight-time titlist has also owned arena finals lately, appearing in four of the last six arena finals while running up a 7-1 record. Add to that Jones’ 24-6 overall record on TV – a Denny’s PBA Tour record – and Kent will have a tough task on Sunday.

Kent has been dominant in arena finals as well, however. The Newark, N.Y., native has won two arena titles and has posted an 8-3 record in his career. He also won the 1991 Masters - which did not count as a Denny’s PBA Tour title – and with a win Sunday, he would be the sixth bowler in history to capture two Masters titles.

Waiting for either Jones or Kent in the semifinal match is an unlikely finalist. Non-member George Lambert IV is the fourth amateur in the last three years to make the Masters championship round. He’ll look to become the first amateur since Brett Wolfe in 2002 and the seventh overall to win a Masters title.

The Ontario, Canada native currently bowls at Wichita State, and was supposed to bowl for the Shockers in a tournament in St. Louis this weekend. Three of his teammates bowled this week in the Masters as well, but they had to leave Lambert behind Saturday in Milwaukee as he bowls in perhaps the most important match of his life.

Though Lambert is eligible for the $100,000 top-prize, he is not eligible for the two-season exemption the Masters offers, and would not earn a berth in the 2007 Tournament of Champions.

Tune in Sunday at 1 p.m. EST on ESPN to see who captures the first Major championship of the 2006-07 season.

Liz Johnson finished 20th this week, tied for the highest female finish ever in a Masters event. Dana Miller-Mackie also finished 20th in 2000.
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