Norm Duke moves to the top after Round Two Qualifying in 66th U.S. Open

    04/02/09

    2008-09 PBA Tour #20

    Brunswick Zone Carolier in North Brunswick, NJ, United States (March 29 - April 5, 2009)

    200809PBA13NormDuke.jpgThere is a lot at stake for Norm Duke (pictured left) at the 66th Professional Bowlers Association Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open - a major title defense and a shot at Player of the Year honors. The 44-year-old Hall of Famer demonstrated he's up for the challenge by taking the second round qualifying lead Wednesday at Brunswick Zone Carolier.

    With a 2,826 12-game overall pinfall (235.5 average) and averaging 243.5 in Wednesday's six-game round, Duke holds a 141-pin lead over reigning PBA Player of the Year Chris Barnes in second who is a contender to repeat as Player of the Year.

    "I'm ecstatic about how well I've been bowling to this point," Duke said. "You're not supposed to be able to shoot numbers like this at the U.S. Open."

    Duke, who is tied for fourth with Parker Bohn III for career PBA Tour titles with 32 - six of those majors - took last week off from the Tour to prepare for the U.S. Open.

    "For this tournament you need all your mental skills," Duke said. "Taking last week off was part of my preparation and as a result I feel I'm as ready as I can be for this tournament."

    Duke and Barnes are the only two players who can challenge current front-runner Wes Malott for the Player of the Year title but would have to win for any chance for the honor. Malott is in 58th place after Wednesday's qualifying round.

    "It's nice to be in position for Player of the Year," said Duke, who was Player of the Year in 1994 and 2000, "but after 27 years, I've only won one of these (U.S. Opens). It's not easy, but I go into it thinking why not me?"

    A testament to Duke's prowess in majors was his win in the PBA World Championship that kicked off the 2008-09 season where he became the only bowler to win three consecutive majors. He is just one of two bowlers to win professional bowling's Grand Slam (USBC Masters, Tournament of Champions, U.S. Open and World Championship) and one of just five players to win the Triple Crown (Tournament of Champions, U.S. Open and World Championship).

    Dave Husted was the last bowler to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles in 1995 and 1996.

    The entire field of 415 professional and amateur players will bowl another six-game qualifying round Thursday after which the field will be cut to the top 103 players for another nine-game round on Friday. The top 24 after 27 games will advance to round-robin match play which concludes on Saturday. The top five players will advance to the live, two-hour ESPN-televised stepladder finals on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

    The U.S. Open winner will earn a $100,000 first prize, a three-year PBA Tour exemption and Grand Slam points which will impact players trying to qualify for the GEICO PBA Team Shootout hosted by Six Flags in June.

     

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