Still as competitive as ever, these Hall of Famers are once again battling each other as well as many of the other stalwarts of the PBA50 Tour like Ron Mohr, Bryan Goebel and the can-you-believe-it-he's-60-years-old Tom Baker (also a Hall of Famer). Some events had as many as 11 Hall of Famers bowling in them, and the name recognition alone made it an exciting season.
The aura of these huge names seemed to bring up the level of bowling from everyone in the field, making for a highly competitive and unpredictable PBA50 Tour season that was one of the best in recent memory. Here are the top five moments from the season.
Jack Jurek is a favorite. That is, everyone loves him. The fans love him, the bowlers love him, people who've never met him love him. He's been voted, by his peers, the Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award Winner twice and owns two career PBA Tour titles, but he'd yet to win a PBA50 Tour title despite coming so close on multiple occasions, including a runner-up finish and a fourth-place finish earlier in this 2014 season.
The main knock on Jurek over the years has been maybe he's too nice. In Hammond at the South Shore Open, fresh off a poor performance in the stepladder the previous week in Dayton, Jurek decided he was going to play with an edge. And he excelled.
Shunning everything but his goal of winning the tournament, Jurek plowed his way through qualifying, then the bracket, and finally the title match against roommate Randy Pedersen.
It was a tremendous moment for Jurek to claim the title, and it was evident the fans and other bowlers were extremely happy to see Jurek hoist the trophy.More »
Speaking of firsts, a number of them happened in Fort Wayne. PBA50 held its first ever national Super Senior event (the field was exclusively comprised of bowlers age 60 and greater), and nearly 130 bowlers turned up to compete.
The lane conditions were brutal, and every one of those bowlers had to grind through the two qualifying rounds and, if applicable, match play. It was not a strikefest, for sure.
Bill McCorkle, a mainstay on the PBA50 Tour who we'd often see make match-play rounds but never claim the title, made a terrific run toward the end of qualifying to set himself up for match play, when he then took over. His performance in match play was, pun intended, unmatched, and he earned his way into the second spot on the stepladder.
After defeating Dave Patchen in his first match, McCorkle moved into the finals against PBA Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia, who looked to be the clear favorite throughout the tournament.
McCorkle, though, made it clear early who was going to win this match. With strike upon strike upon strike, McCorkle locked up the match by the seventh frame and claimed his first career PBA50 title.
After the victory, McCorkle joked that Petraglia has won in six decades, and it took McCorkle six decades to win once. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but the feeling is genuine.More »
A two-time U.S. Open winner on the PBA Tour, Norm Duke is now one for one in the Senior U.S. Open. By this point in the season, Duke had already won once (in The Villages) and was the early favorite for PBA50 Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year (more on this later).
Duke is a threat in any tournament he bowls, obviously, but when you add the flat pattern and cumulative scores, you really get to see how consistent and good Duke is over time.
Through qualifying and match play, Duke sat on top and would bowl for the title against whomever emerged from the stepladder. His options: Pete Weber, Amleto Monacelli and Brian Voss. All Hall of Famers, none easy to defeat.
Weber, the second seed, defeated Voss to earn his spot in the title match, and the fans were treated to two of the best U.S. Open performers (and bowlers in general, for that matter), battling for the chance to become the first person in history to win both the U.S. Open and Senior U.S. Open.
Duke, who stayed clean the whole game and put up an important late turkey, claimed his second PBA50 title of the season and first PBA50 major.More »
PBA Hall of Famer Tom Baker does not slow down. As some bowlers complain about the young, hungry 50-year-olds joining the Tour, Baker simply keeps performing.
Baker had already won earlier in the season (in the Northern California Classic), but this one had more statistical significance as it was his 12th, tying him for second all time in PBA50 Tour titles. Dale Eagle and Gary Dickinson also have 12, while John Handegard leads with 14.
As was the case with every tournament this season, it wasn't easy. Baker qualified second for the stepladder and had to get through Brian Voss in order to get a spot in the finals against good friend and seems-to-always-be-in-the-title-match Norm Duke.
By this point in the season, Duke was still the favorite for Player of the Year (and likely could've locked it up with a win), but Baker had an outside shot. With the win (by throwing a mere 265, 25 less than the 290 he put up to win in California), Baker jumped right back into the discussion.More »
It doesn't seem possible that Walter Ray Williams, Jr. could stay under the radar for a season, but with all the other stories throughout the Tour, it's exactly what he did. Williams won his first career PBA50 major (another fact that's hard to believe) in the USBC Senior Masters, and his victory in the Treasure Island Resort & Casino Open in Welch, Minnesota was his second title of the season and ninth of his PBA50 career.
This event carried all kinds of implications. Norm Duke had already locked up Rookie of the Year honors, and he had a lead on Player of the Year, but Pete Weber and Tom Baker both had a chance to catch him.
Weber had to withdraw due to a sudden illness the day of match play, which left it up to Baker and Duke. For Baker to be named Player of the Year, Duke would have to be eliminated prior to the semifinals and Baker would have to win the tournament.
Who knocked out Duke in the round leading to the semifinals? Baker, of course. Baker worked all the way into the title match, but there was Williams, impressive as ever, piling up a 268 and potentially earning a dinner purchased by Duke for saving the award for him.
It's interesting to hear Williams talk, because he'll say it was an off year, and yet he still won two titles. A lot of people in the world would like to win multiple titles on an off year, but there's only one Walter Ray Williams, Jr.More »