Cool in the Clutch

by PBA Editor March 6, 2008 19:00
Mike Edwards and Jack Jurek were looking at what might have been the last three weeks of their Denny’s PBA Tour careers. Now, they’ll face off Sunday looking to break two of the longest title droughts on Tour.

Edwards defeated PBA Hall of Famer and all-time titles leader Walter Ray Williams Jr., four-games-to-none, Friday while Jurek defeated Steve Harman, 4-3, to advance to the finals of the 2008 Go RVing Classic at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center.

The 46-year-old Edwards came into the week 36th in the PBA World Point Rankings with the cut line currently 38th for a 2008-09 exemption at season’s end while Jurek was out of the cut in 42nd. Neither has had a poor season by any stretch, but Edwards missed the cut to match play in each of the last three events while Jurek missed in two of the last three events.

Edwards seemed to be in good shape heading into last week’s Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic, but strong performances by several bowlers behind him dropped Edwards from 29th to 36th.

The Denny’s PBA Tour champion – who won his lone title in the 1994 IOF Foresters Open – was on a mission this week, qualifying second for match play then sweeping two of his three matches on Friday.

Against Williams, who was looking to re-take the lead in the PBA Player of the Year race with a berth in Sunday’s title match, Edwards won three close games to take a 3-0 lead before wrapping up the match with a 279-237 win in game four.

“Obviously bowling against Walter Ray, you have to bring your “A” game because he’s been bowling phenomenal this year,” Edwards (Tulsa, Okla.) said. “You know he’s not going to miss the pocket a lot. I was fortunate he didn’t carry very well and I did.”

Edwards, who will look to break the longest title drought on Tour at 280 events, said he’ll be relaxed Sunday knowing he’s all but wrapped up a spot on Tour next season.

“You have to try and put it out of your mind,” Edwards said of the exempt cut line. “It’s there every day and you see the point list up in the locker room and people are always talking about it. You have to act like it’s just another week. It’s tough. It’s definitely not easy to do.”
Going back to square one helped Edwards get his game back on track when this week.

“Coming into this week, I wasn’t throwing it that well on top of everything,” Edwards said. “My mechanics were off and on top of that I dropped down in the points. When I get in a jam like that, I go back to the basics and try to get my timing and rhythm down. It just so happens that I matched up with the pattern this week. I was fortunate to maintain the momentum from yesterday to today. It can be tough in this format. I’ve been one of the higher seeds and lost in the first round before. The key was trying to keep the same rhythm as yesterday.”

With his minimum fourth-place finish, Edwards moved up to 24th in the point rankings. Jurek, whose last win came in the 1995 Tums Classic in nearby Windsor Locks, Conn., moved to 37th. The two will square off in Sunday’s second semifinal.

Making a PBA rookie record fifth championship round appearance was Rhino Page (Topeka, Kan.), who defeated Mike DeVaney, 4-0. Page has come up empty in his first four TV appearances, finishing second twice. The 23-year-old will face Mike Scroggins in the first match Sunday, who defeated Mika Koivniemi, 4-3, in an exciting finish.

In game seven, Koivuniemi needed a strike and nine-spare in the 10th frame to shut Scroggins out, but he left the 4-7-10 split with his first shot. Koivuniemi picked up the split and then got nine pins, forcing Scroggins to strike with his first shot in the 10th and get a nine-spare to win by one pin. Scroggins did just that to take the deciding game, 247-246.

Scroggins, who has two victories to his credit this season, would move into third in the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year points race with a victory Sunday.

Sunday’s live ESPN-televised championship round gets underway at 12:30 p.m. ET. The winner receives $25,000 and an exemption for the 2008-09 Denny’s PBA Tour.
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