PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke will have an opportunity to move into a tie for third place on the all-time PBA titles list after advancing to the finals of the Pepsi PBA Elite Players Championship Wednesday at South Point Bowling Center in Las Vegas.
Duke, currently tied with fellow Hall of Famer Mark Roth for fourth place on the PBA career titles list with 34, eliminated Bill O’Neill, Andres Gomez and Dan MacLelland in the Elite Players Eliminator Round to reach the finals. Roth was in the crowd, watching as Duke defeated O’Neill, 484-438, in their two-game finale.
Pete Weber, who was eliminated in his final match Wednesday by Mike DeVaney, is third on the PBA titles list with 35, trailing leader Walter Ray Williams Jr. (47) and Earl Anthony (43). DeVaney knocked Weber out of the event, 473-425, to win his group’s berth in the finals.
But Weber remains alive for a WSOB title via the PBA World Championship.
“Bowling in the Elite Players Championship was like bowling three different formats in one, so you can imagine what that can do with your mind,” Duke said about surviving 30 qualifying games just to reach the Eliminator Round. “The physical part of the game is demanding enough, but mentally it’s even more tiring. You start to space out after a while and lose track of the little things like where you’re standing, how fast should I be throwing it, what ball you’re using. The one thing that helps is you’re not alone. I say to myself, look at the rest of the field — they’re going through the same thing.”
Regarding his quest to break his titles tie with Roth and catch Weber, the 47-year-old Duke said, “I look at everything I do now as to how it will round out my career. How much longer do I have? To be tied with Roth and have the chance to tie Weber, how great is that?”
In Wednesday’s Eliminator Round, 16 players were divided into four groups for two-game elimination rounds. After each round, the lowest-scoring player was eliminated. In addition to Duke and DeVaney, the other players advancing to the Elite Players Championship finals were Jason Belmonte and Mike Scroggins.
Belmonte defeated Mike Fagan, 473-407, to qualify for his fifth World Series television final, tying a World Series record for TV appearances set earlier in the event by Sean Rash. Scroggins eliminated Jason Couch, 460-417, in their group’s final game.
The 16 Eliminator Round qualifiers also will compose the field for the Lumber Liquidators Mark Roth-Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship, which will be contested on Sunday as part of a four-day PBA World Series of Bowling television extravaganza at South Point.
Ronnie Russell, the top qualifier going into the Eliminator Round, was eliminated in the first game in Group A, but he will be the first player to select a doubles partner from among the remaining 15 during a special doubles selection session Thursday afternoon. After Russell selects his partner, the next highest qualifier will select a partner. That process will continue until the field of eight doubles teams has been determined. The doubles competition will be conducted Sunday afternoon as part of the World Series of Bowling’s weekend television package.
Beginning Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Pacific, the PBA will produce the first of 14 television shows for delayed telecast on ESPN in a special arena in South Point’s Exhibit Hall A. Admission is free for all of the shows.
WORLD SERIES NOTES
• If experience provides an advantage, Pete Weber should win the PBA World Championship. Weber is a 35-time PBA Tour title winner, including eight majors. The other 15 players in the World Championship field have won a combined total of 17 titles including two majors (Sean Rash, four titles including one major; Tom Smallwood, one title, one major; Ryan Shafer, four titles; Jack Jurek and Mike Fagan, two titles each; Jason Belmonte, Osku Palermaa, Brian Kretzer and Ryan Ciminelli, one title each; Stuart Williams, Ildemaro Ruiz, Andres Gomez, Josh Blanchard, Dom Barrett and Nathan Bohr, no titles). Weber, one of the PBA’s six Triple Crown winners, won a pair of PBA National Championships in Toledo, Ohio (in 1989 and 1998) before the event’s name was changed.
• Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson paid a brief visit to the PBA World Series of Bowling Monday, but he and his party left when he learned there were no lanes available for open bowling.
• The final number of individuals who cashed in at least one WSOB event was 123 — 38.92 percent of the total field of 316 players.
• WSOB players had their skills tested over seven different lane conditioning patterns over the multiple events: Viper, Chameleon, Scorpion, Shark, PBA World Championship, Carmen Salvino and Earl Anthony (used for the PBA Elite Players Championship). The World Bowling Tour Finals presented by the PBA will use a World Tenpin Bowling Assn. pattern — the Mexico City pattern. The two PBA regional events held as part of the WSOB used the Salvino and Viper patterns, and the PBA Doubles Championship will be contested on the Earl Anthony pattern.