Pete Weber and Norm Duke entered the championship with high stakes at the PBA50 DeHayes Insurance Group Classic at Pro Bowl West on Tuesday.
For Weber, on the line was his 100th PBA victory. For Duke, a PBA50 Player of the Year title.
In the end, Weber missed one pin the entire match, a 9-pin in the eighth frame, to win 279-255.
“Boy, does it feel good to break that 99 deal. Walter Ray (Williams Jr.) got to 100 first but he beats me in everything,” said Weber, 54, laughing. “What a great honor, what a great privilege, especially to do it in Fort Wayne where I won my first PBA50 title (in 2014). What a great honor.”
The eighth frame ended up being the clincher. Weber bowled his spare, leaving the game open.
Duke, 53, who spared in the first frame, had a 7-10 split.
Weber bowled four consecutive strikes to finish the game with a flourish. It was only in the final few frames that Weber was able to let his full personality loose.
“Wearing your emotions on your shoulders is what I'm known for. I'm usually a lot more animated than I was tonight,” he said. “It's just bowling against Norm and the intensity of the game, you have to keep your emotions under control until you finally get the win. Then you can let it go. I ran it out and let him know that, 'Hey, I won!'”
Weber felt sympathy for his friend when the pins didn't fall, but both players understand that it's part of the game.
“Norm never goes down without a fight,” Weber said. “Norm Duke is one of the greatest adversaries I have out here besides Walter Ray. Norm is one of the best friends I have. I felt really bad for him when he left a pocket 7-10, but sometimes you just have to think that those are the breaks of the game. You have to take the good breaks with the bad breaks.”
Despite having years and years of experience on the PBA Tour and bowling against the same group of players throughout the duration, falling short of a goal by a single frame doesn't get any easier.
“They're more handleable, only because of my experience and the fact that we have bowled long enough to be on both sides of that fence,” Duke said. “The two matches prior to that one, both of them had a similar fate against me. Two weeks ago, I lost in the 10th frame only needing a mark and I left it. It's the worst.
“I'm one match away from player of the year. That was my goal when I set out. I knew I only needed a victory. The last two weeks, I finished second (and) second and nothing helps (win player of the year) without a victory. Both times it was 270s against me, the week before I finished third. I never missed the top 10 this year. I just had a great year and couldn't win at the end.”
Duke entered the stepladder finals in third place and defeated Parker Bohn III 224-217 and Amaleto Monacelli 268-213 in the semifinal on the better side of the 7-10 split.
Bohn III won against Williams Jr. 212-206 in the first game of the finals.
Notes: Former MLB pitcher John Burkett finished ninth in the tournament. ... Fort Wayne native Ron Mohr finished 20th after finishing five games at 1,212, missing the cut by 39 pins.