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Walter Ray Williams Jr. unbeaten at 2018 USBC Senior Masters

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In nearly 40 years of Professional Bowlers Association competition, Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Oxford, Florida, has been able to find continued success by navigating through constant changes in equipment and oil patterns and striving to be as versatile and prepared as possible.

This year, he is one of the early frontrunners in the PBA50 Player of the Year race and looking to pull ahead with a win at the 2018 United States Bowling Congress Senior Masters, where he is one of 16 unbeaten players at the Sam’s Town Bowling Center in Las Vegas. There’s also 16 competitors remaining in the Elimination Bracket.

Williams (featured photo), the defending champion this week, is looking to become the first person since Tom Baker in 2007 to successfully defend a USBC Senior Masters title. He also can become the event’s first three-time winner, having won for the first time in 2014.

“I’m in the Winners Bracket after two matches, which is good, because that’s where you want to be,” Williams said.

“Being in the (elimination) bracket is the long road. I’ve done that before, but I’d rather not have to go that route. If I can win six straight matches, I lead the tournament and only have to win one match on TV. That’s the ultimate goal, but I need to take it one match at a time, and hopefully, I can continue winning. I had a couple good matches today, that were close after two games, but I was fortunate to win.”

Among the other winners are USBC Hall of Famers Norm Duke (left) of Clermont, Florida, and Harry Sullins of Chesterfield, Michigan, 2017 PBA50 Rookie of the Year Michael Haugen (right) of Phoenix, new PBA Hall of Famer Ron Mohr of nearby North Las Vegas, Nevada, and No. 64 seed Michael Calvin of Warren, Michigan, who won a one-game roll-off to earn his place in match play, after tying for the final spot.

Competition resumes Saturday at noon Eastern with both winners-bracket and elimination-bracket matches, and Calvin is excited for a chance to keep the momentum going, even if his first match Saturday will be against Duke, who is aiming to become the third player to win both the USBC Masters and Senior Masters.

“I feel great, and I’m excited,” said Calvin, the 2018 Michigan State Senior Masters champion. “This is more than I ever expected, and I probably won’t sleep well, but tomorrow, I’ll come out on the fresh, and I’ll have a shot. I realize I’m bowling Norm Duke, one of the greatest of all-time, but I’ll give it my best.”

The Senior Masters is the premier event for USBC members age 50 and older, and the winner this year will take home $20,000.

When Williams returns to the lanes at Sam’s Town on Saturday, he’ll face the red-hot Don Breeden (left) of Urbandale, Iowa, who averaged 215.13 in qualifying and then tossed sets of 775 and 781 in wins over Steve Smith of San Diego and Brian LeClair of Delmar, New York, respectively.

This week, Williams used one of his newest tools, a work-in-progress two-handed approach, in tandem with the classic style and dead-eye spare shooting that have helped him win more than 100 combined PBA titles, to average more than 222 in qualifying. He then dispatched Australia’s Andrew Frawley (750-611) and Robert Brown of Cody, Wyoming (683-593), to remain unbeaten.

Having the two-handed approach gives Williams another option to help him stay competitive in an ever-changing game. In addition to PBA50 events, he still competes regularly in PBA Tour and PBA regional competition.

“I’d been trying out bowling two-handed, and this year, I decided to get semi-serious about it and work at it a little bit,” said Williams, who said he bowled seven of the 15 qualifying games this week two-handed. “I’ve got the fundamentals down, and now it’s about minimizing my misses. I think that’s what’s holding me back from doing it a lot more. When the lanes break down and get a little nicer, my scores are probably just as good, if not better.”

All 272 competitors at the 2018 Senior Masters bowled 15 games over three days to determine the 63 bowlers who joined Williams in the double-elimination match-play bracket.

All rounds of qualifying and match play are being broadcast live on BowlTV, and the five players who advance through the bracket will battle for the title and $20,000 top prize in the stepladder finals Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Now 58, the USBC and PBA Hall of Famer said he’ll continue to practice bowling two-handed, as being multi-dimensional is a key to success.

“It’s a matter of knowing when to do it and doing it right,” Williams said. “If I can continue to get better at it, which I am, I think it will help me continue to compete with the young guys. Right now, though, I’ve still got a lot to go, because they’re really, really good. It gives me a little something else to look at. Obviously, one-handed is my forte, but when the lanes open up a little bit, it’s a very viable way for me to strike.”

Coming into the 2018 Senior Masters, Haugen is just ahead of Williams in the PBA50 points list. The 2018 PBA50 season is nearing its halfway point, and in five events, Williams has three runner-up finishes.

Up next is the Suncoast PBA Senior U.S. Open presented by Storm, being held next week at Las Vegas’ Suncoast Bowling Center. Haugen is the defending champion, and Williams never has won the event.

“I’m having a really good season, and I’d like to be the player of the year, but I need to have some really good finishes,” said Williams, the PBA50 Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013 and PBA Player of the Year on seven occasions. “It would be great to win here, and we also have a lot tournaments left this season. I just want to keep bowling well and keep plugging along and maybe improve a little bit more.”

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2018 USBC Senior Masters – Match Play Bracket

Double elimination, three-game matches decided by total pinfall.

Match Play Brackets

Match Play Round

Winners remain in winners bracket. Losers move to elimination bracket

(64) Michael Calvin, Warren, Mich., def. (1) James Campbell, Clearwater, Fla., 668-618
(32) Ben Hoefs, Mobile, Ala., def. (33) Kevin Croucher, Grants Pass, Ore., 653-631
(48) Jerry Brunette Jr., Rochester, N.Y., def. (17) Brian Kretzer, Kettering, Ohio, 662-614
(16) Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., def. (49) Dennis Horan Jr., Oakley, Calif., 698-633

(56) Jerry Smith, Englewood, Colo., def. (9) Chris Warren, Grants Pass, Ore., 511-501
(24) Lennie Boresch Jr., Kenosha, Wis., def. (41) Dale Traber, Cedarburg, Wis., 670-578
(40) Stoney Baker, Canton, Ga., def. (25) Craig Harrington, Eagle Mountain, Utah, 566-497
(8) Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, def. (57) Ted Staikoff, Black Hawk, S.D., 649-575

(60) Darryl Bower, Middletown, Pa., def. (5) Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 651-650
(28) Chris Keane, Cape Coral, Fla., def. (37) James Hansen, Anchorage, Alaska, 602-596
(21) Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., def. (44) Christer Petersson, Sweden, 789-652
(12) Allan Sennevall, Sweden, def. (53) Dave Sill, Titusville, Fla., 696-580

(13) Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich., def. (52) Kevin Anderson, Mount Juliet, Tenn., 620-573
(45) Harry Sullins, Chesterfield, Mich., def. (20) Eddie Graham, Centerville, Ohio, 700-636
(36) Doug O’Bryant, Ball Ground, Ga., def. (29) Peter Knopp, Germany, 670-618
(4) Noel Vazquez, Sacramento, Calif., def. (61) Donald Blatchford, Santa Monica, Calif., 657-584

(3) Michael Haugen Jr., Phoenix, def. (62) David Tyrrel, Harlan, Iowa, 615-590
(30) Charlie Standish, Lawrenceburg, Ind., def. (35) Dave Washburn, Las Vegas, 664-574
(19) David Symes, Brigham City, Utah, def. (46) Michael Clemence, Las Vegas, 642-551
(14) Mark Williams, Beaumont, Texas, def. (51) Joe Fulner III, Belleview, Fla., 706-612

(54) Mark Mazzulla, Brentwood, Calif., def. (11) Daniel Miyamoto, Pearl City, Hawaii, 675-668
(43) Brian Voss, Centennial, Colo., def. (22) Doug Kent, Newark, N.Y., 750-729
(38) Bob Learn Jr., Boynton Beach, Fla., def. (27) Tony Rodriguez Jr., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., 643-507
(6) Bryan Goebel, Shawnee, Kan., def. (59) Ed Silva, Manteca, Calif., 700-618

(58) David Axon, Bellevue, Neb., def. (7) Darron Peters, Menifee, Calif., 586-536
(26) Ron Mohr, North Las Vegas, Nev., def. (39) Christopher Gibbons, Madison, Wis., 648-591
(42) Bob Rosenau, Redding, Calif., def. (23) Warren Nelson, Hemet, Calif., 553-548
(10) Keith Lesko, Prosper, Texas, def. (55) Steve Badovinac, Parker, Colo., 760-649

(15) Walter Ray Williams Jr., Oxford, Fla., def. (50) Andrew Frawley, Australia, 750-611
(18) Robert Brown, Cody, Wyo., def. (47) Randy Macomber, University Place, Wash., 649-581
(34) Don Breeden, Urbandale, Iowa, def. (31) Steve Smith, San Diego, 775-669
(2) Brian LeClair, Delmar, N.Y., def. (63) Eric Forkel, Henderson, Nev., 736-570

Winners Bracket Round 2

Winners remain in winners bracket. Losers move to elimination bracket.

Calvin def. Hoefs, 648-641
Duke def. Brunette, 738-595
J. Smith def. Boresch, 704-694.
Baker def. Monacelli, 653-585

Bower def. Keane, 724-641
Sennevall def. Bohn, 716-704
Sullins def. Koivuniemi, 697-677
Vazquez def. O’Bryant, 639-615

Haugen def. Standish, 647-607
Symes def. M. Williams, 696-680
Mazzulla def. Voss, 733-698
Learn def. Goebel, 708-633

Mohr def. Axon, 678-670
Lesko def. Rosenau, 657-592
W. R. Williams def. Brown, 683-593
Breeden def. LeClair, 781-561

Elimination Bracket Round 1

Losers eliminated, earn $1,200.

Campbell def. Croucher, 640-616
Staikoff def. Harrington, 605-586
Kretzer def. Horan, 676-669
Warren def. Traber, 706-659

Weber def. Hansen, 704-595
Knopp def. Blatchford, 638-622
Petersson def. Sill, 678-639
Graham def. Anderson, 655-562

Washburn def. Tyrrel, 576-491
Rodriguez def. Silva, 576-517
Clemence def. Fulner, 575-506
Miyamoto def. Kent, 769-733

Peters def. Gibbons, 596-590
Smith def. Forkel, 723-633
Badovinac def. Nelson, 670-575
Macomber def. Frawley, 640-598

Elimination Bracket Round 2

Losers eliminated, earn $1,300.

M. Williams def. Campbell, 730-565
Voss def. Staikoff, 744-624
Kretzer def. Standish, 740-696
Warren def. Goebel, 684-682

Rosenau def. Weber, 742-584
Knopp def. Brown, 632-623
Petersson def. Axon, 579-576
LeClair def. Graham, 693-644

Washburn def. Brunette, 594-494
Boresch def. Rodriguez, 729-599
Hoefs def. Clemence, 685-546
Miyamoto def. Monacelli, 652-545

Bohn def. Peters, 718-615
Koivuniemi def. S. Smith, 635-619
Badovinac def. Keane, 681-598
O’Bryant def. Macomber, 722-583

Herbert Bickel

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