LAS VEGAS – Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Norm Duke won his 36th career PBA Tour title and former PBA Player of the Year Wes Malott ended a three-year title drought when they combined to defeat top qualifiers Ronnie Russell and Sean Rash, 193-167, to capture the Mark Roth-Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship at South Point Casino.
The victory by the American players, televised on ESPN Sunday, ended a streak of five consecutive PBA World Series of Bowling titles won by international players.
For Duke, his second title of the 2011-12 season also tied him for third place on the all-time PBA Tour titles list with close friend and long-time rival Pete Weber who won a record fifth U.S. Open title in February for his 36th. Both are now one title ahead of Roth, the PBA legend who witnessed the finals along with Holman. Walter Ray Williams Jr. and the late Earl Anthony are one-two on the PBA Tour titles list with 47 and 43 wins, respectively.
Duke and Malott got help in the title match when Russell and Rash opened in three of the first four frames, handing the challengers a 45-pin lead after five frames. Duke and Malott only committed one error – Malott’s open in the eighth frame – on their way to victory.
“Talk about a dream day to have Marshall and Mark standing on the approach with you,” Duke said after the trophy presentation. “Those two were my absolute idols. I was able to pass them in titles won, but that doesn’t mean I’m better than they were. Mark Roth changed the world of bowling, much like (two-handed players) Jason (Belmonte) and Osku (Palermaa) may in the future. I’m a lucky man today, and I don’t take it lightly.”
“I’ve had my ups and downs,” Malott said after winning his seventh career title and first since the 2009 Etonic Marathon Open capped his 2008-09 PBA Player of the Year performance. “I’ve been able to get to TV, but I haven’t been able to win, so hopefully this is a new beginning. I’ve re-grouped. I’ve re-set my goals. To put it all together against the level of talent that’s out here is pretty substantial for me. It means a lot to me.”
Duke shrugged off speculating on whether Weber or he would be the first to reach 37 titles.
“I’m sure as soon as I win another one, Pete will win again, too,” said Duke, who bowled his first PBA Tour event in 1982 – three years after Weber got started. “That’s something we both know. He’s a great champion. I guess every tournament I’ve ever entered, he’s been in. We’re great friends. We’ve been on this (PBA) journey together and we’ll stay on it until we both croak. It’ll be a fight to the finish.”
The Roth-Holman PBA Doubles Championship involved eight teams put together from the field of 16 players who led the PBA Elite Players Championship qualifying. A special draft was conducted with the qualifying leaders, in order, selecting partners from among the group of 16. Russell was the qualifying leader and picked Rash, who had advanced to a record five consecutive World Series of Bowling ESPN finals. Malott was next and picked Duke.
“To have the option to pick Norm was a no-brainer,” Malott said. “There was obviously a lot of talent available but (Norm) was my smartest decision. The thing is, no matter what the ball reaction was, Norm was going to give you his all and nothing was going to bother him. He has that unique ability, no matter what, to calm himself down, re-group and make quality shots, and that’s exactly what he did, proving once again why he’s one of the greatest.”
The doubles finals got underway with three non-televised matches. Newly-elected PBA Hall of Famer Jason Couch and partner Mike DeVaney cruised to a 268-205 victory over Dick Allen and Mike Scroggins in the first match. Australian two-handed star Jason Belmonte and five-time U.S. Open champion Pete Weber then eliminated Couch and DeVaney, 242-224, and Canadian Dan MacLelland and Ryan Ciminelli, 245-219, to claim the fifth spot in the ESPN stepladder finals.
Belmonte and Weber met their match in the first ESPN contest, losing a sudden-death roll-off against Bill O’Neill and Mike Fagan after the teams tied at 185-185. O’Neil threw a strike in the one-ball roll-off and Belmonte left the 3-10 to end his team’s title bid. O’Neill and Fagan then made sure an American team would end the international domination in the World Series, eliminating Colombia’s Andres Gomez and Sweden’s Martin Larsen, 194-173.
In the semifinal match, Duke and Malott were almost perfect in a 260-245 victory over O’Neill and Fagan.
PBA World Series of Bowling competition continues on ESPN on Sunday, April 1, at 1 p.m. ET with the Carmen Salvino Classic finals. Finalists are Gomez, Malott, Russell and Belmonte.
A Salvino Classic finals preview will be webcast free on Xtra Frame starting Wednesday afternoon, and a post-finals show will air immediately following the telecast. To subscribe to the PBA’s exclusive online bowling channel, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo.
MARK ROTH-MARSHALL HOLMAN PBA DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIP
South Point Exhibition Hall, Las Vegas, March 25
1, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas/Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., $15,000.
2, Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind./Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., $8,000.
3, Mike Fagan, Dallas/Bill O’Neill, Southampton, Pa., $7,000.
4, Andres Gomez, Colombia/Martin Larsen, Sweden, $6,500.
5, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo./Jason Belmonte, Australia, $6,000.
6, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y./Dan MacLelland, Canada, $5,500.
7, Jason Couch, Clermont, Fla./Mike DeVaney, Murrieta, Calif., $5,250.
8, Dick Allen, Columbia, S.C./Mike Scroggins, Amarillo, Texas, $5,000.
Match One – DeVaney/Couch def. Allen/Scroggins, 268-205.
Match Two – Weber/Belmonte def. DeVaney/Couch, 242-224.
Match Three – Belmonte/Weber def. MacLelland/Ciminelli, 245-219.
Match Four – Fagan/O’Neill def. Belmonte/Weber, 185-185, 10-8 in one-ball roll-off.
Match Five – Fagan/O’Neill def. Larsen/Gomez, 194-173.
Semifinal Match – Malott/Duke def. O’Neill/Fagan, 260-245.
Championship – Duke/Malott def. Rash/Russell, 193-167.