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Walter Ray Williams Jr. wins 2017 USBC Senior Masters


There isn’t much United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Oxford, Florida, hasn’t accomplished in his bowling career, but he grabbed one more spot in the record book Sunday by becoming the first competitor to win the USBC Senior Masters and USBC Masters twice apiece.

The 57-year-old right-hander (pictured above) entered the championship round at the 2017 Senior Masters as the top seed and defeated left-hander Andy Neuer of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, 248-199, to claim the coveted title and $16,000 top prize at the Sam’s Town Bowling Center in Las Vegas.

The championship meeting was a rematch of the title tilt at the 1994 Bud Light Hall of Fame Championship, where Neuer claimed his lone Professional Bowlers Association Tour title.

This time, though, back-to-back splits in the fifth and sixth frames proved to be the undoing for Neuer, while Williams struck four consecutive times, starting in the fourth frame, to pull away for good.

“I knew I had a pretty good reaction on the pair going into the match,” said Williams, also a member of the PBA Hall of Fame.

“The left lane was a lot tighter for me, but it was the same way yesterday, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise. I had plenty of time to get lined up and have a good read on what the pair was doing, so it was just a matter of going out and executing and hoping the pins fell.”

On the way to his 7-0 record at Sam’s Town this week, Williams averaged more than 244, and his run included a 707-626 win over defending champion Pete Weber of St. Ann, Missouri, to earn the No. 1 seed for the stepladder.

Williams won his first Senior Masters title in 2014, also in Las Vegas, and now is one of seven two-time winners at the event. His Masters victories came in 2004 and 2010, both at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada.

The win Sunday marked the 11th PBA50 Tour win for Williams, who owns a record 47 PBA Tour titles, and it gives him some much-needed momentum heading into this week’s Suncoast PBA Senior U.S. Open, Presented by Storm at the nearby Suncoast Bowling Center.

“This is awesome, and it will help everything moving forward in the season,” said Williams, the runner-up at the Senior Masters in 2010 and 2011.

“Every win is nice, and it’s really nice to now have as many firsts as seconds in this event. I also have a couple of seconds in the Senior U.S. Open, so hopefully I can execute like I have the past couple of days and get a win there, too.”

Neuer battled a challenging right lane throughout the stepladder but capitalized on a great look on the left, finishing each of his first three matches there, averaging 253 along the way.

On the way to the meeting with Williams, Neuer followed a first-frame split with seven consecutive strikes to get past Weber, 247-213. He denied the hall of famer the opportunity to become the event’s first three-time winner.

Weber won the Senior Masters in 2013 and was the runner-up to Amleto Monacelli of Venezuela in 2015. Weber has made the stepladder in each of his five Senior Masters appearances.

Neuer, the only left-hander to reach the championship round this year, started the day with a pair of 256 games and wins against Bob Learn Jr. of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Norm Duke of Clermont, Florida.

Duke and Neuer both started their match with four consecutive strikes, before a 7-10 split in the fifth frame slowed Duke’s chance of becoming the third bowler in history to win both the Masters and Senior Masters. Neuer prevailed, 256-225.

Duke, a USBC and PBA Hall of Famer, is the 1993 Masters champion and owns 38 PBA Tour titles, including seven majors. He also has four PBA50 Tour wins.

Neuer finished fifth in his Senior Masters debut in 2016 and started Sunday’s stepladder with a 256-237 win over Learn, who rolled a perfect game in Saturday’s shootout round to solidify his own spot in the stepladder. Neuer and Duke also advanced through the four-player shootout.

Neuer was the first to finish in his match against Learn and left a 2-4-7 combination on his fill ball to give Learn the chance to throw three strikes in the 10th frame to win by a pin. Learn left a 9 pin on his first offering to fall short.

The Senior Masters includes USBC members age 50 and older, and all 277 competitors this week bowled 15 games of qualifying over three days to determine the 63 bowlers who joined Weber in the double-elimination match-play bracket.

All rounds of qualifying and match play were broadcast live on BowlTV. For complete standings or more information on the Senior Masters, click here.

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2017 USBC Senior Masters

Sam’s Town Bowling Center in Las Vegas, Nev., USA (June 6-11, 2017)

Championship Round:
1, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Oxford, Fla., 248 (1 game), $16,000
2, Andy Neuer, Lewisburg, Pa., 958 (4 games), $9,000
3, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 213 (1 game), $7,000
4, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 225 (1 game), $5,000
5, Bob Learn Jr., Boynton Beach, Fla., 237 (1 game), $4,000

From left to right, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Pete Weber, Norm Duke, Bob Learn Jr. and Andy Neuer

Playoff Results:
First Match: No. 5 Neuer def. No. 4 Learn, 256-237
Scond Match: Neuer def. No. 3 Duke, 256-225
Semifinal Match: Neuer def. No. 2 Weber, 247-213
Championship: No. 1 Williams def. Neuer, 248-199.

Herbert Bickel

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