Duke Overcomes Adversity, Earns Top Qualifier Honors At Players

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – PBA Hall Of Famer Norm Duke overcame adversity to top the field of 92 bowlers after 18 games of qualifying at the PBA Players Championship at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl on Wednesday.

Duke, who withdrew from the PBA Hall of Fame Classic with an upper left thigh injury last month, battled through a neck injury Wednesday to be the top qualifier with an 18-game total of 4,245 (+645), a 235.83 average.

The 55-year-old who is a 40-time PBA Tour champion grinded out a six-game block of 1,434 in the final round of qualifying, shooting games of 265, 257, 212, 206, 236 and 258.

RESULTS: PBA Players Championship Qualifying Round 3

“I got out of the gate really strong,” Duke said. “Then in Game 3, I slipped on the approach and pinched my neck. It was a couple of games of misery, but I held in check to finish well.”

The Players Championship is the only major Duke has never won, which makes this week even more important to him. Should he win this week, he would join Mike Aulby as the only players to win every major at least once.

The final game of qualifying was a head-to-head match for the top spot between Duke and 11-time major champion Jason Belmonte with Duke having a one-pin advantage. A large crowd grew around the pair as Duke finished with 258 and Belmonte closed with 232.

Belmonte led qualifying after the first two rounds Tuesday and continued his quest to a potential 12th major championship. He finished qualifying second with 4,218 (+618).

Marshall Kent kept the momentum going into Wednesday to qualify third with 4,206 (+606). A 297 in his final game gave him a boost after a slow start to the third round.

Tom Daugherty finished in fourth with 4,177 (+577) followed by 13-time PBA champion EJ Tackett in fifth with 4,140 (+540). Rounding out the top 10 after qualifying were Nike Pate, Kris Prather, Bill O’Neill, Francois Lavoie and Ronnie Russell.

Also advancing into match play was Martin Larsen, Darren Tang, Thomas Larsen, Shawn Maldonado, BJ Moore, Zach Wilkins, Tom Smallwood, Sean Lavery-Spahr, Ildemaro Ruiz, Nick Kruml, Greg Ostrander, Stu Williams, Brad Miller and AJ Johnson.

The remaining 24 players will bowl 24 games of round robin match play with the first of three eight-game blocks getting underway at 6 p.m. Eastern today live on FloBowling.

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