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BOWLING

Norm Duke stops Michael Fagan to win Dick Weber Open

Tour veteran easily wins final match, 278-168.

February 09, 2009|James Wagner

Everything was rolling the underdog's way, until he met Norm Duke.

Michael Fagan, the 28-year-old bowler with spiky hair and the lowest-seeded player in Sunday's stepladder final, almost pulled off the upset. If he had beaten Duke in the championship match, he would have toppled four Professional Bowlers Assn. heavyweights in a row at the Denny's Dick Weber Open.

And he would have overcome the unforgiving lanes at the Fountain Bowl in Fountain Valley. The oil pattern, reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s when the tournament's namesake dominated the sport, had given the bowlers fits. Balls seemingly destined for strikes yielded spares and splits.

Within a match, however, Fagan had figured out the secret to the lanes. But so had bowling veteran Duke.

Duke, 44, put a dominating stop to Fagan's run, easily winning 278-168 and taking his third PBA Tour title of the season. Fagan fell apart against Duke, managing only three strikes in the title match.

"I felt it coming," Fagan said of his struggles with the wearing oil on the lanes. "But I was hoping maybe I could get one more game out of it."

As the top-seeded bowler, Duke waited nearly two hours as Fagan got past Chris Barnes, 204-183, Ryan Shafer, 256-223, and Pete Weber, 243-201.

Instead of idling, Duke followed along on television and occasionally emerged from a back room to study the lanes. He had originally planned to give the ball a big curve, but once he saw the other bowlers struggle, he scrapped it. He opted to bowl the ball straight from the right side.

"And it worked," he said, as he accepted the tournament trophy and the $35,000 first-place prize.

Fagan finished second and earned $17,500.

As they traded spots in the media room after the tournament, Fagan muttered words of respect under his breath. "Hopefully, he'll retire soon," he said, smiled and exited.

Given this year's success, it probably won't happen. Duke was inducted into the PBA's Hall of Fame in January after 27 years on the Tour. Ever since, he signs autographs, as he did Sunday, with his name and writes "HOF 09" at the end.

Been waiting a long time for that, huh, Duke?

He answered with the look of a proud father accepting his newborn: "Yeah. Fifteen years."

--

james.wagner@latimes.com

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