Rhino Page figured after four missed opportunities, he had probably blown his chance of winning a title in his rookie season.
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.
The Denny’s PBA Tour takes a one-week hiatus before returning for the final two events of the season, starting with the GEICO Classic, March 19-23 at AMF Babylon Lanes in West Babylon, N.Y. The live ESPN-televised finals take place Sunday, March 23 at 1 p.m. ET. Denny’s PBA Tour
2008 Go RVing Classic
Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center
Sunday, March 9
|1.||Rhino Page, Topeka, Kan.||489 (2 games)||$25,000|
|2.||Jack Jurek, Lackawanna, N.Y.||456 (2 games)||$13,000|
|3.||Mike Edwards, Tulsa, Okla.||223 (1 game)||$6,000|
|4.||Mike Scroggins, Amarillo, Texas||235 (1 game)||$6,000|
SCORES – In the first match, Page def. Scroggins, 245-235; in the second match, Jurek def. Edwards, 236-223; and in the final, Page def. Jurek, 244-220.
This is Page’s first Denny’s PBA Tour title.