COLUMBUS, Ohio – Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., rolled into the early first round lead in the Barbasol PBA Players Championship Tuesday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, averaging 244.3 in his bid to add the only title he needs to complete the so-called “Super Slam” of PBA major titles.
Duke, a 38-time PBA Tour title winner, has already won the U.S. Open, PBA Tournament of Champions, PBA World Championship and United States Bowling Congress Masters – joining fellow hall of famer Mike Aulby as PBA’s only Grand Slam winners. Aulby, who won the Players Championship in 1996, is the only “Super Slam” winner.
Duke, at age 51, rolled games of 258, 278, 296, 227, 248, 213, 254 and 279 Tuesday to take a nine-pin lead over Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., among the early leaders. The second half of the field of 122 PBA members bowled its first round later Tuesday.
For Duke, the opening round was mostly about the state of his health.
“This swing (of three consecutive major championships) has been more about my health. I trained really well coming into the swing. I was strong, I was ready, but I tweaked my neck a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been trying to get myself healthy to make good shots,” he said. “I figured if I could keep my health together, I liked my chances. I still feel like I’m very good, but I have to stay healthy.”
Duke has battled a chronic pinched nerve issue in his neck for 10 years. “When I get it quieted down, I feel normal.”
Getting off to a good start hasn’t inspired Duke to think too far ahead, however.
“You know in two games you can drop off the deep end. What you want to go now is separate yourself from the field to make sure you’re locked into that top 24,” he said. “At t this point it’s fish stories until you get to the end. You want to have some room in case there’s a hiccup along the way.”
Winning a major missing from his portfolio is also something Duke is aware of, but isn’t dwelling on.
“I never realized the Players Championship was ever a major,” Duke said, “but if it was, it needs to be a major again. It needs to be consistent, so I certainly supported that.
“And if we could stop the tournament right now…” he grinned, leaving the conclusion unspoken.
The PBA Players Championship continues with an eight-game qualifying round for B Squad Tuesday night and another full eight-game round for all players Wednesday at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET. The top one-third of the field after 16 games will advance to an eight-game cashers round at 10 a.m. Thursday. After 24 games, the top 24 players will advance to eight-game round-robin match play rounds at 5 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday. All preliminary rounds will be covered live, exclusively on PBA’s Xtra Frame online video-streaming service. For subscription information, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame link.
After 48 games, the top five players will compete for the $50,000 first prize live on ESPN Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
BARBASOL PBA PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday
Early First Round Standings (after 8 games, Squad A only; Squad B bowls its first round at 4 p.m. EST)
1, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 1,953. 2, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 1,944. 3, Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind., 1,926. 3, Jason Sterner, Covington, Ga., 1,926. 5, Anthony Pepe, Elmhurst, N.Y., 1,920. 6, J.R. Raymond, Bay City, Mich., 1,905. 7, Shawn Maldonado, Houston, 1,896. 8, Greg Ostrander, Freehold, N.J., 1,893. 9, f-Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 1,881. 10, Brian Himmler, Cincinnati, 1,874. 11, Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 1,867. 12, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 1,863. 13, Mitch Beasley, Clarksville, Tenn., 1,850. 14, Miguel Lopez, Wichita, Kan., 1,847. 15, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 1,844. 16, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 1,842. 17, Dick Allen, Columbia, S.C., 1,841. 18, Scott Newell, Deland, Fla., 1,840. 19, Gary Faulkner Jr., Memphis, Tenn., 1,829. 20, Mike Edwards, Tulsa, Okla., 1,828. 21, Lucas Legnani, Argentina, 1,825. 22, Francois Lavoie, Wichita, Kan., 1,824. 23, Shota Kawazoe, Japan, 1,823. 24, Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 1,822. 25, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Oxford, Fla., 1,812. 26, Chad Roberts, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, 1,807. 27, Josh Conner, Columbus, Ohio, 1,799. 27, Patrick Allen, South Salem, N.Y., 1,799. 29, Scott Norton, Mission Viejo, Calif., 1,798. 30, Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind., 1,796. 31, David Simard, Quebec, Canada, 1,793. 32, Patrick Girard, Canada, 1,780. 33, Brandon Novak, Chillicothe, Ohio, 1,774. 34, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 1,771. 35, D.J. Archer, Friendswood, Texas, 1,762. 36, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 1,754. 36, David Haynes, Las Vegas, 1,754. 38, Eugene McCune, Munster, Ind., 1,750. 39, Michael Haugen Jr., Phoenix, 1,745. 40, Brian Robinson, Morgantown, W.Va., 1,739. 41, Andrew Cain, Phoenix, 1,735. 42, Johnathan Bower, Middletown, Pa., 1,720. 43, Bryan Goebel, Shawnee, Kan., 1,705. 44, B.J. Moore III, Apex, N.C., 1,693. 45, fp-Liz Kuhlkin, Rotterdam, N.Y., 1,683. 46, f-Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 1,682. 47, Sean Johnson, Moundsville, W.V., 1,675. 48, Dino Castillo, Highland Village, Texas, 1,672. 49, Brett Cunningham, Clay, N.Y., 1,661. 50, Jakob Butturff, Chandler, Ariz., 1,656.