Walter Ray Williams overcame a personal battle with the 10-pin and won three matches to repeat as champion Wednesday night in the $89,000 Rochester Open at Marcel's Olympic Bowl.
Williams, seeded third in the Professional Bowlers Association stepladder finals, ousted Norm Duke, 238-202, new "local" favorite Chris Hooper of Maple Springs (near Jamestown), 227-202, and successfully defended his title, 232-223, against top-seeded Pete Weber.
In winning his fourth title of the year, Williams left 12 10-pins over the three matches (13 including his final shot) and converted them all.
In the title match, Weber was stymied by leaving the 9-pin in the fifth and ninth frames. He has not won a PBA title since 1993.
Williams' biggest shot against Weber may have been his 1-2-4-10 washout conversion in the ninth frame. "I'm not comfortable with that (conversion) shot," Williams said.
"The washout is not an easy shot. We should make it every one of two tries, but in the last couple of weeks I've been successful about one out of three. But if I don't make it, he is ahead and he can close me out."
The tour's second-leading money winner this year with $187,280, Williams said he knew he had made a bad shot but he was hoping he would get lucky and get away with it.
Weber said he could accept leaving the 9-pin in the fifth frame but not the one in the ninth. "I threw good shots in nine of the 10 frames," the PBA's all-time money winner said. The shot in the ninth "was one of the best I've ever thrown on TV."
Fourth here in 1994 when Duke won the title, Weber was left with the feeling: "You have to take the good breaks with the bad. I had a good tournament here but I don't feel as though I'm back and I never will until I win again."
Williams converted four 10-pins against Duke, four against Hooper and four against Weber. Until his washout, Williams either struck or left that single-pin spare in each of the previous 28 frames. "I had a lot of practice shooting that spare," he said. "You just can't let it get you down."
The second-seeded Hooper opened his match against Williams in grand style with three strikes and, even after throwing the ball in the channel on a 3-6-9-10 leave in the sixth frame, he had a chance to win.
Hooper, a Maple Grove High School and Fredonia State graduate, struck in the seventh and eighth. By striking out he could have closed out Williams, who was en route to his 20th career title.
A high hit left the 4-6-7 in the ninth frame and Hooper was defenseless despite a double in the 10th as Williams spared in the 10th and went on to the title match.
"I thought it was a great shot (in the ninth)," Hooper said. "It must have been too slow but I honestly believed I could do it and win the match."
The opening match between Duke and fifth-seeded Ernie Schlegel was Schlegel's to win even after he had a four-bagger interrupted by a high hit in the eighth that left the 4-6-7-9 standing.
Schlegel came back with a strike in the ninth but Duke stayed clean in the ninth and 10th and Schlegel drew a 2-10 split and converted just the 2-pin to lose by six.
Weber's runner-up check for $8,500 brought his season's total to $50,435 and $1,809,805 in his 18 years on the tour. Hooper earned $5,000 and has $7,545 in '96. Mostly a regional player in his seven years as a pro, he has won a total of $28,339.
Duke's $4,000 check brought his season's total to $45,675 and his 14-year total to $1,135,361. The 53-year-old Schlegel earned $3,000 for $58,850 this year and a 30-season total of $838,644.
PBA ROCHESTER OPEN
1. Walter Ray Williams Jr., Stockton, Calif. $16,000
2. Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., $8,500
3. Chris Hooper, Maple Springs, $5,000
4. Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., $4,000
5. Ernie Schlegel, Vancouver, Wash., $3,000
Match one -- Duke def. Schlegel, 208-202.
Match two -- Williams def. Duke, 238-202.
Match three -- Williams def. Hooper, 227-202
Championship match -- Williams def. Weber, 232-223.