Fast start propels Norm Duke into Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open lead


    2010-11 PBA Tour #10

    33-time PBA Tour champion relishes challenge of pressure-packed final day

    2010EBT05NormDuke4.jpg2010EBT16BillONeill.jpgNorm Duke (pictured left) of Clermont, Fla., won his first six matches and lost his next two, but his strong start was enough for him to overtake defending champion Bill O’Neill (right) and Southampton, Pa., and take the lead in the 68th Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone-Carolier Friday.

    Duke, a 33-time Professional Bowlers Association champion and one of two players to complete the PBA Grand Slam of major championships (Mike Aulby, Indianapolis) is the other), advanced from third to first with a 34-game total of 7,662 pins including 30 üins match play bonus pins for each.

    201011PBA08TommyJones4.jpg201011PBA10JasonBelmonte.jpgTommy Jones (left) of Simpsonville, S.C., was second 83 pins behind Duke, at 7,579 with O’Neill third at 7,527 pins. Both Jones and O'Neill had a 4-4 won-lost record.

    Also leading the bid for six spots in the stepladder finals were Australian two-handed star Jason Belmonte (right) in fourth place with 7,420, amateur Marcus Berndt (below left) of Sweden – a Wichita State University student – in fifth with 7,413 and Ryan Shafer (below right) of Horseheads, N.Y., in sixth place with 7,379.

    2010MaltaOpenMarcusBerndt.jpg201011PBARyanShafer.jpg Duke was in control of the round until the final two matches which were televised live on ESPN2 for the first time in PBA Tour history.

    “The television lights were a bother, blinding at times,” Duke said. “I applaud the PBA for putting this element into the event. We need to do things like this, but you also have to make perfect shots at US Open. It was hard to do, for all of us. We bowl our finals on TV and those of us who have done that have some experience with the lights, but those lights were blinding at times. I’d never experienced anything quite like it.

    “But we do this for a living and we know about it. Next time, I’ll know to bring sun glasses.” Despite closing with two losses, Duke was pleased to be the leader of the pack.

    “When you start an event with 380 people and with one day left, you’re in lead, I’ll take it,” he said. “In my position at 46 years of age, it’s all about winning. I’ve done a lot in my career. I’m building a legacy and winning another U.S. Open would add to that. I see myself with multiple U.S. Open titles, even though I don’t have them yet. You have to believe, and I believe.

    “The majors are everything to me. The majors cement your place in history, and this is the hardest title, bar none, to win. I won the U.S. Open in 2008 and it took me 27 years to do it. That one was for everything: the grand slam, the triple crown. I’m glad I don’t have that hanging over my head any more. The only thing bothering me now is, can you win or can’t you?

    201011PBA09MikaKoivuniemi.jpg201011PBA07ChrisBarnes.jpg“Tomorrow the pressure increases exponentially,” Duke added. “Your hands sweat. The players will be scared, confident, excited. They’ll run the gamut of all of the emotions. When the day is done, they will be physically and mentally drained, and that’s how I like it.”

    Just outside the box looking in was Tournament of Champion winner Mika Koivuniemi (left). The native Finn who lives in Hartland, Mich., totaled 7,352 pins to sit in seventh place.

    2005 U.S. Open champion Chris Barnes (right), Double Oak, Texas, was eighth with 7,323 and was followed by Dan MacLelland, a Canadian who lives in Saginaw, Mich. and Brian Valenta of Lockport, Ill., who rounded out the top 10 in ninth and tenth place with 7,306 and 7,285, respectively.

    2011PBAUSOpenLogo.jpgFollowing Saturday’s final two eight-game match play rounds, the top six will advance to the stepladder finals. The first two matches will air live on ESPN2 Saturday at 10 p.m. Eastern when the No. 5 qualifier will bowl against the No. 6 qualifier, with the winner taking on the No. 4 player.

    Saturday’s winner will join the top three finalists for Sunday’s championship round at 3 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. First prize in the final major championship of the 2010-11 PBA Tour season is $80,000.

    During Saturday’s match play rounds,’s Xtra Frame video streaming service will provide live coverage of key matches as part of 70 hours of live online coverage during the week


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    68th Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open - Match play Round One (fifth round overall)

    Players with position, hometown and 34-game total including match play records and bonus pins.

    1, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 6-2, 7,662
    2, Tommy Jones, Greenville, S.C., 4-4, 7,579
    3, Bill O'Neill, Southampton, Pa., 4-4, 7,527
    4, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 6-2, 7,420
    5, a-Marcus Berndt, Sweden, 7-1, 7,413
    6, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 4-4, 7,379
    7, Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich., 4-4, 7,352
    8, Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 4-4, 7,323
    9, Dan MacLelland, Saginaw, Mich., 4-4, 7,306
    10, Brian Valenta, Lockport, Ill., 7-1, 7,285
    11, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 4-4, 7,275
    12, a-Mark Clark, Naperville, Ill., 5-3, 7,250
    13, John Szczerbinski, North Tonawanda, N.Y., 3-4-1, 7,228
    14, John Furey, East Windsor, N.J., 6-2, 7,214
    15, Steve Jaros, Yorkville, Ill., 3-5, 7,198
    16, Scott Norton, Costa Mesa, Calif., 3-5, 7,171
    17, Martin Larsen, Sweden, 4-4, 7,141
    18, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 1-7, 7,140
    19, a-Matthew O'Grady, South Amboy, N.J., 3-5, 7,134
    20, a-E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 1-6-1, 7,102
    21, Mike Fagan, Patchogue, N.Y., 3-5, 7,099
    22, a-Fero Williams, Fairfield, Ohio, 3-5, 7,087
    23, Andres Gomez, Colombia, 4-4, 7,082
    24, Lonnie Waliczek, Wichita, Kan., 2-6, 7,059