LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Eugene McCune of Munster, Ind., flawlessly executed the shot he had practiced for more than two decades to nip Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., 238-237, to win the Brunswick Pro Bowling Cheetah Championship, the opening event of the 2010-11 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season.
The Brunswick Pro Bowling Cheetah Championship finals, conducted as part of the PBA World Series of Bowling at South Point Bowling Center, aired Sunday on ESPN.
McCune’s strike on his final ball earned him the second title of his 24-year PBA Tour career and a successful conclusion to an event he had dominated in earning the No. 1 position for the stepladder finals for the first time in his career. McCune romped through nine games of match play with a 9-0 record and a PBA-record 2,468 pins (a 274.22 average) to run away with the qualifying lead.
“It’s especially nice to win when you set records and it comes down to one game for the title,” McCune said, “because if you lose, some people think you’re just a piece of garbage.”
McCune and Duke, a 33-time PBA Tour champion and the defending Cheetah champion, battled pin-for-pin into the final frame. Duke, finishing the match first, struck on his first shot in the 10th frame, but left the 4-8 on his second shot. McCune, needing a nine-count/spare and strike to win, got exactly what he needed, converting a 4 pin for a spare before throwing the biggest strike of his career.
That strike followed an interruption. Just as McCune was prepared to deliver his final shot, a background noise disturbed his concentration, so he backed off and re-grouped.
“Maybe I wasn’t even ready to throw the shot,” he said. “I got to step away and calm down, collect myself. I wasn’t nervous at all. I figured, this is what you do. This is it. This is the shot you have told yourself about in practice all of those years: ‘He must have this strike…this one is for the title.’ And I absolutely threw that ball so good it was unreal.”
In most television matches, the higher qualifier commonly tries to apply pressure to his challenger by forcing the challenger finish last. McCune decided he wanted to finish on the right lane, but it had nothing to do with the pressure.
“The ball return was in my way on the left lane,” said McCune, who was standing on the far right side of the approach and throwing the ball hard up the right side of the lane. “I like to stay on top of the shot, and (the ball return on the left lane) was making me get my arm swing out. I just made a minor adjustment to the left with my feet and target to get away from the ball return, and I prayed the lane was hooking enough. Usually that means a (10 pin tap) for me, but I snapped the 10 pin out in the ninth frame. It was a big relief to get that hit.
“When I can play where I was on this pattern and throw the ball hard, I don’t miss. If I’m on lane conditions where I have to hook the ball, there are guys who can hook it better than me. I start making mistakes and leaving splits. On the Cheetah, I knew I could strike and if I didn’t, I wasn’t leaving splits. It’s easier mentally for me when I know I can stay out there on the corner and pipe the ball to the pocket.”
With his PBA Hall of Fame father Don McCune in the crowd, McCune was overcome with emotion. His only previous title came in the 2002 Banquet Classic in Grand Rapids, Mich., where, ironically, he defeated Duke and PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. for the win.
Duke took the one-pin loss in stride.
“It wasn’t the bad shots that hurt me,” Duke said. “I got lucky on the bad shots. It was the good shots that didn’t work that killed me. Oh, well. Mark Roth will just have to wait.”
Duke trails Roth by one title on the all-time PBA Tour titles list. Roth is in fourth place behind Williams (47), Earl Anthony (43) and Pete Weber (35).
In the semifinal match, Duke took advantage of three open frames by Ritchie Allen of Columbia, S.C., to win, 229-192, after he cruised to a 269-247 victory over Michael Haugen Jr. of Carefree, Ariz., in the second match. Haugen won the first match of the 2010-11 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour television season, defeating Lonnie Waliczek of Wichita, Kan., 248-228.
The Viper Championship, the second of five World Series of Bowling “animal pattern” events, will air Sunday, Dec. 5, at 1 p.m. Eastern. The Viper stepladder finalists are Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela; Bill O’Neill, Southampton, Pa.; Mike DeVaney, Murrieta, Calif.; Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., and top qualifier Andres Gomez, Colombia.
Free post-finals programs are available on PBA’s Xtra Frame video streaming service. Visit pba.com or xtraframe.tv to access Xtra Frame.
BRUNSWICK PRO BOWLING CHEETAH CHAMPIONSHIP
South Point Bowling Center, Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 28
1, Eugene McCune, Munster, Ind., one game (238 pins), $15,000.
2, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., three games (735), $8,000.
3, Ritchie Allen, Columbia, S.C., one game (192), $6,000.
4, Michael Haugen Jr., Carefree, Ariz., two games (495), $5,000.
5, Lonnie Waliczek, Wichita, Kan., one game (228), $4,000.
Match One: Haugen def. Waliczek, 248-228.
Match Two: Duke def. Haugen, 269-247.
Semifinal Match: Duke def. Allen, 229-192.
Championship: McCune def. Duke, 238-237.