Norm Duke won the closest final match in history Sunday when he defeated David Traber for the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Cambridge Credit Classic at AMF Syosset Lanes.
Duke, Clermont, Fla., won the third one-ball roll-off, 10-9, and claimed the title after he tied Traber, 245-245. The bowlers were knotted at 9-9 and 10-10 in the first two tiebreakers, respectively.
"I finally told myself 'you've just got to pick that hammer up (strike) or he's going to dust you,'" said Duke, who earned $40,000. "I think I willed 'em (the pins) over."
Duke garnered his 20th career title, becoming just the 13th player to reach the milestone. He tied Dick Ritger and Wayne Webb for 11th on the all-time win list. Duke's last title came in 2000 at Tucson, Ariz. With the victory, he moved back to the top of the Tournament of Champions exemption list after he lost the final spot last week to Randy Pedersen.
The sudden-death, one-ball roll-off has been used to break ties on the PBA Tour since 1997. Today was the first time it was used to decide a title. In the extra frames, Traber left a ringing 10-pin and Duke failed to win when he left the 7. Both players threw strikes on the second roll off. Finally, Traber left the 4-pin standing on the third attempt and Duke threw a solid strike.
"My legs were wobbling on that first shot," Duke commented. "I can't believe I got nine. The way it came off my hand… that was a six-count all day long."
For both bowlers, it was the longest (and closest) game they'd ever been a part of.
"I think I threw the best three shots of my career (to send the game to sudden death)," Traber, who earned $20,000, said. "In the roll-offs I knew it was going to be a 10 or a 9-count on every shot. I just pinched it enough to leave a 4-pin (on the left lane). The left was tighter. I knew I could hit the right lane once I got lined up."
Duke threw the last six strikes in regulation, forcing Traber to get all three in the 10th. Traber started the match and rolled thee straight strikes. He picked up spares in the fourth, eighth and ninth. Duke began with two strikes and settled for four consecutive spares in the third through seventh.
In the semifinals, Duke defeated Doug Kent, 255-245, while Traber knocked off Hugh Miller, 238-209. Kent, Newark, N.Y., and Miller, Seattle, finished tied for third with $10,000 each. In the opening match, Kent beat Jason Hurd, Titusville, Fla., 224-201. Hurd earned $9,000 in fifth.
The PBA Tour travels to Bowlers Club and Latham, N.Y., for the PBA Empire State Open, Dec. 4-8. The finals will be held at Siena College. The event will mark the 11th of 22 tournaments on the 2002-03 season.