Norm Duke knows all too well the feeling of firing a 300 game in a national TV semifinal only to lose in the title match. That’s why Duke showed no mercy in Sunday’s 2007 Pepsi Championship title match.
After third-seeded Ryan Shafer fired the 18th nationally televised 300 game in Denny’s PBA Tour history in the semifinals, the top-seeded Duke showed why he dominated the tournament from start to finish, defeating Shafer 235-219 to win his third title of the season and the 26th of his career.
Duke fired a 300 game in the semifinals of the 2003 GEICO Earl Anthony Classic against Walter Ray Williams Jr. only to lose to Mike DeVaney in the title match, who was also in this week’s championship round.
Shafer could never get on track in the title match. After striking in the first two frames to run his string of strikes to 18 in a row, he failed to strike again until the 8th frame while Duke struck six consecutive times after an open in the 1st.
It was the fourth time in his career and the second time this season Duke defeated Shafer in a title match, and it pushed Duke’s record overall against Shafer on TV to 6-1. Duke also defeated Shafer in the title match of the 2006 Columbia 300 Classic, his second of three titles this season.
The win capped a huge comeback for the 25-year veteran who withdrew from the first seven events of the second half after breaking a toe in January. He finished 11th in the Bayer Classic and fifth in the 64th U.S. Open in his first two events back before putting himself back in the PBA Player of the Year race with his third win.
“What was on my mind was that Tony (Reyes) was playing a line inside of me and it was creating a lot of havoc and I knew I would have to go in cold with something,” said Duke. “Then to see Ryan shoot 300 and to start with an open was just abysmal. I went with what I thought would work best and stayed with it. I caught a couple breaks. If I had used that ball for two or three games it would have caused me trouble but with just one game I caught some breaks and did it the hard way.”
After making seven TV appearances in 2005-06 but winning just one title, Duke has taken advantage of his opportunities this season, going 8-0 on television in becoming the first bowler this season to win three times.
As for Shafer, he had a chance to move to the top of the PBA Tournament of Champions roster, but stayed on the bubble for a fourth week with Duke’s win.
In the semifinal, Shafer defeated second-seeded Jeff Carter, 300-228. Shafer’s perfect game was the second 300 on TV this season, marking the first time since 1999 two televised perfect games have taken place in the same season.
“Of course your legs are wobbling a little. I can’t even throw a 300 game in league so it’s just an unbelievable experience. I just tried to relax and concentrate on the game,” said Shafer of trying to recover in the title match. “I threw a pretty good game but threw one bad shot in the 3rd frame and lost my line just like I did in the World Championship here last year.”
Ironically, the other bowler to shoot 300 on TV this season was Tony Reyes, who Shafer defeated in the second stepladder match, 224-207. Shafer struck in his last four frames to force Reyes to strike twice in the 10th, but Reyes left a 10-pin with his first shot.
In the first match, Reyes defeated the fifth-seed DeVaney, 279-248, nearly becoming the first bowler to fire two perfect games on TV in their career. Reyes struck in 11 of 12 frames, the only blemish being a 10-pin in the 6th frame.
Duke (Clermont, Fla.) took home $25,000 for the win, while Shafer (Horseheads, N.Y.) earned $13,000 for second, plus a $10,000 bonus for the 300 game. Carter (Springfield, Ill.) took home $6,500 for third, Reyes (San Bruno, Calif.) earned $5,500 for fourth while DeVaney (Temecula, Calif.) earned $5,000 for fifth.
The Denny’s PBA Tour heads to Wyoming, Mich., next week for the 2007 Denny’s World Championship at Spectrum Lanes, March 18-25, the third of four Majors of the 2006-07 schedule. The live ESPN televised finals take place at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Mich., Sunday, March 25, at 2 p.m. EST.Denny’s PBA Tour
2007 Pepsi Championship
Sunday, March 18
|1.||Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla.||235 (1 game)||$25,000|
|2.||Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y.||743 (3 games)||$23,000*|
|3.||Jeff Carter, Springfield, Ill.||228 (1 game)||$6,500|
|4.||Tony Reyes, San Bruno, Calif.||486 (2 games)||$5,500|
|5.||Mike DeVaney, Temecula, Calif.||248 (1 game)||$5,000 |
SCORES – In the first match, Reyes def. DeVaney, 279-248; in the second match, Shafer def. Reyes, 224-207; in the semifinal, Shafer def. Carter, 300-228**; and in the final, Duke def. Shafer, 235-219.
This is Duke’s 26th career Denny’s PBA Tour title.
*Includes $10,000 bonus for televised 300 game.
**Shafer fired the 18th nationally televised 300 game in Denny’s PBA Tour history.