Relief was foremost on the mind of defending champion Norm Duke after the first block of the PBA National Championship yesterday at Southwyck Lanes.
The 2000 PBA player of the year wasn't the best, but he did begin his defense in fine fashion, opening at plus-192, a 224 average. It was good for 14th place so far.
“I'm really quite relieved,” said Duke, 36, of Clermont, Fla. “The worst thing you can do in the lead squad in the national format is to bowl bad, because you have 30 hours you have to live with it - wonder what you did wrong, that you could have done better. Sometimes you bowl so bad that you wonder, `Why am I here?'
“I got a good solid round in. I didn't make any mental mistakes; the mistakes that I made were just things (that) happen.
“But I went out there and ground it out for eight games and got me a decent number. Now I get 30 hours of rest instead of worry.”
Duke said he has an advantage at Southwyck because he practiced there so many times while bowling in the PBA National at Imperial Lanes.
“It seems like over the years I've come to know this bowling center better than that one. I'm one-for-one over here - I like these characteristics.”
Something, he said, he concentrated on the night before, “just to make sure they stay fresh in my mind.”
Duke hasn't fared very well so far this year (16th on the money list), but after yesterday's round he likes how his future looks.
“I think I'm reacting a little better. I haven't won anything and haven't made the television show yet, but I'm playing good and that's a big thing.”
SOLID START: Toledoan Kevin Taber, a PBA member for 18 years who says he thinks he's bowled in the National Championship each of the previous 17 years, said yesterday's plus-183 was his best start in a couple years.
“I'm feeling really good about that,” he said. “It's always good to get off to a good start, but it's a long way to go.”
Taber, currently 15th, said he “finally figured it out around the fifth game. From that point on, I had a pretty good shot to the pocket.
“The main thing is to stay on top of everything because the lanes are definitely ever so changing.”
MAGIC NUMBER: Parker Bohn III, 37, should rush out and play the lottery. The Jackson, N.J. native rolled back-to-back-to-back 219 games in the third block last night.
Bohn, 1999's player of the year, finished ninth here last year. He was in a tie for fourth after the first round.