October 20, 2007 19:00
Courtesy Lucas Wiseman, USBC
Last year, Doug Kent entered the United States Bowling Congress Masters unsure if the time he had invested in changing his game would pay off.
Not only did his hard work in the off-season pay off with his second USBC Masters title, it also propelled him to a career season on the Denny's PBA Tour. After the Masters, Kent went on to win the Denny's World Championship and earn the 2006-07 Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year award.
"I had been struggling physically and mentally earlier in the year," said Kent of the buildup to the 2006 Masters. "I was making a big change in my game, trying to pick up my pace and increase my hand speed, increase my rev rate for more power. It wasn't easy because I felt like I was starting all over again. This game is tough and it gets tougher the longer you play. With all the (bowling) technology changing and the speed and power of the younger generation, I couldn't keep doing what I was doing."
Kent, a resident of Newark, N.Y., spent his time leading up to last year's Masters making adjustments and reinventing his game. Finally, when the 2006 Masters came up on the schedule, he was ready. Now he's hoping that momentum carries forward when he looks to defend his Masters title next week at AMF Bowlero in suburban Milwaukee.
"It all came together two to three weeks before the Masters started last year," said Kent, who won his first Masters title in 1991 when he was 24. "I felt better than I'd felt for the past three years. Suddenly I was feeling good and not second-guessing my mechanics - everything just clicked."
In the championship match last year, Kent threw nine consecutive strikes en route to a 277-230 victory over Jack Jurek to earn $100,000 and the coveted Frank K. Baker trophy. Kent said his victory in 2006 seemed worlds away from his win at the 1991 Masters.
"In '91, I didn't really appreciate it," he said. "I was young, immature and my game wasn't consistent. Last year, I appreciated it so much more because I had to work so much harder to taste it again. I'm toward the end of my career now and to be able to make so many changes in my game, it made it so much better to overcome my limitations and still win. It's the ultimate reward."
If Kent can find a way to survive the demanding double-elimination match play bracket again this year, he will become just the third person to win back-to-back Masters titles, joining USBC Hall of Famers Dick Hoover (1956 and '57) and Billy Welu (1964 and '65). He would also join Mike Aulby as just the second three-time winner of the event.
Standing in Kent's way will be nearly 500 of the world's top amateur and professional bowlers, including 10 past Masters champions. The field also features 17 women, among them Liz Johnson, who won the 2007 U.S. Women's Open, a USBC event, on a week ago.
All participants will bowl two five-game blocks of qualifying on Oct. 23 and 24 before the first cut is made to the top 25 percent. After another five games the morning of Oct. 25, the top 63 bowlers will join Kent in match play, which continues until the top four bowlers are determined Oct. 26 for the TV finals.
The finals of the Masters will be held on Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. EST at Miller Park, the home of Major League Baseball's Milwaukee Brewers, and televised live on ESPN.
A major on the Denny's PBA Tour, bowlers will be competing for a top prize of $100,000 and an overall prize fund of $350,000.
For tickets to the finals, visit tickets.com, the Miller Park box office or call the Miller Park box office at (414) 902-4000. Tickets range in price from $12.50 to $77.50 and each ticket also includes admission to Bowlfest, a special event to be held at Miller Park on Oct. 27 from 6-9 p.m.
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