Same location, same opponent, different circumstances. Same result.
For the second consecutive year, Norm Duke defeated Ryan Shafer to a win a title at Woodland Bowl, but this one meant so much more.
Duke, who came into the week on the verge of losing his Denny’s PBA Tour exemption, defeated Shafer, 202-165, to win the Denny’s World Championship for his third career Major and 27th title overall.
The win gives Duke a much-needed two-season Tour exemption. The veteran has struggled through various injuries this season and came into the week 51st in the PBA World Point Rankings with just five events remaining. The top 39 via the point rankings earn exemptions at season’s end.
Suffering from the flu all week, Duke showed his usual flair for the dramatic, gutting it out to advance to the final round, which moved him up to 37th in the point rankings. His win, however, means he doesn’t have to worry about points for the next two years.
“The number of times I thought about pulling out of this event and now to see myself sitting here with another Major title and $50,000 and all the things that come with a Major, I just can’t believe it. I’m shocked,” Duke (Clermont, Fla.) said. “This was the most painful flu I’ve ever had. Bowling this week was not fun. I really wanted to quit but every time I would go back and lay down I felt miserable so I thought, ‘I’m going to be miserable either way. I may as well bowl.’”
In a final round where all four bowlers had a hard time finding their way on the lanes, Duke did just enough to overcome two great champions who struggled mightily on Sunday, in Shafer and PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. The all-time titles leader Williams, who was looking for his record-tying eighth career Major, had two opens in their semifinal match while Shafer had three late in the title match.
“If you had told me I was going to shoot (208-202), I would have said ‘where’d the other 200 come from?’ because you don’t think Walter Ray is going to shoot below 200 in a Major,” Duke said. “But Majors are sometimes about grinding it out and filling frames and doing those little things. I also had some luck on my side today.”
It was another punch in the gut for Shafer, who has now made the finals in a Major 10 times and has been the runner-up four times, but has yet to come out victorious.
To add to his pain, Shafer dropped to 0-7 on TV in his career against Duke, including 0-5 in title matches. Duke beat Shafer for the title twice last season, including the finals of the 2007 Pepsi Championship at Woodland Bowl. That day, Shafer fired the 18th televised 300 game in PBA history before Duke cooled him off in the title match.
The win moves Duke into a tie with Mike Aulby for sixth on the all-time titles list. It was his first Major victory since the 2000 PBA National Championship.
Duke defeated Williams, 208-180, in the semifinal while Shafer had advanced to the title match with a 204-158 over Australian amateur Andrew Frawley. Duke was clinging to a slim lead in the title match until Shafer opened three consecutive times in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames. Duke’s strike in the ninth frame sealed the deal.
Duke earned $50,000 in addition to his two-season Denny’s PBA Tour exemption through the 2009-10 season. Shafer (Horseheads, N.Y.) earned $25,000 for second while Williams (Ocala, Fla.) and Frawley (Sydney, Australia) took home $11,500 each for third and fourth, respectively.
The Denny’s PBA Tour moves to Columbus, Ohio, next week for the 2008 Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic, Feb. 25-March 2 at Sequoia Pro Bowl. The live ESPN-televised finals take place Sunday, March 2 at 12:30 p.m. ET.Denny’s PBA Tour
2008 Denny’s World Championship
Sunday, Feb. 24
|1.||Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla.||410 (2 games)||$50,000|
|2.||Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y.||369 (2 games)||$25,000|
|3.||Walter Ray Williams Jr., Ocala, Fla.||180 (1 game)||$11,500|
|4.||Andrew Frawley, Sydney, Australia||158 (1 game)||$11,500|
SCORES – In the first match, Shafer def. Frawley, 204-158; in the second match, Duke def. Williams, 208-180; and in the final, Duke def. Shafer, 202-165.
This is Duke’s 27th career Denny’s PBA Tour title and third Major.