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Duke pinned as fan favorite

The cries of "Doo-ook" may echo at AMF Thruway Lanes today during the televised championship finals of the Denny's PBA GEICO Classic (ESPN, 12:30 p.m.).

Norm Duke, a Texas native living in Clermont, Fla., probably will be the crowd favorite again, and each time he's struck fans at Thruway have crooned the familiar "Doo-ook."

"That started in 1983 when I was bowling against Earl Anthony. I was 18," Duke said. "In some places it's 'Duke-Duke-Duke' like that. Other places it's just 'Doo-ooo-ok.'

"I appreciate the fans for doing it, and they lift me. Fans can take you places where you thought you can never go."

The affable Duke will face Mike Edwards of Tulsa, Okla., in the second semifinal. Parker Bohn III, of Jackson, N.J., will face his brother-in-law, Doug Kent of Newark, N.Y., in the opener. The winners will meet for the championship.

None of the finalists owns a victory this season, but Bohn has won 30 career titles, Duke owns 22 while Kent has six, including the 2002 World Championship. Edwards' lone tour title came in 1994.

Duke is determined to break through after reaching the championship round four times in 16 events. He stands stands fifth on the points list (159,359), third in earnings ($130,300) and second in average (222.85).

"I've bowled extremely well, but I'm winless. I have to change that," Duke said.

Edwards went through match play almost unsullied. He swept Jason Couch and Steve Jaros in his last two matches Friday to go 12-2. He's averaged 240.29 in the tournament, highest of the four finalists.

Going into the GEICO he stood 38th on the tour in points (73,400.50) and earnings ($33,550). However, Edwards feels comfortable bowling at Thruway. In the previous PBA Tour event held at the Cheektowaga house in 1992, Edwards and his partner, John Hricsina, finished fifth in a Senior/Touring Pro doubles tournament.

Duke was 12-6 in this tournament after his seven-game struggle against Tim Criss in the round of eight Friday. He's averaged 239.

Bohn, the only left-hander among the finalists, is a two-time PBA Player of the Year (1999 and 2002) and won the 2001 ABC Masters in Reno, Nev. Kent, a big Bills fan who operates a bowling center in Newark, considers Bohn his toughest opponent.

While Kent is bowling here, his center will be hosting a pro tournament that is expected to attract many of the tour's exempt pros. Most of the pros have stayed in New York because the next stop is the PBA Pepsi Championship at Riviera Lanes in Fairlawn, Ohio, outside Akron.

Bohn was 12-3 in match play and averaged 237.97 in the tournament. Kent was 12-6 and had a 231.5 average.

Although none advanced beyond the round of 16, the four Western New York bowlers who made match play Friday proved to be tough outs. The average score in winning games against amateur Ryan Ciminelli, Jack Jurek, Tom Baker and Brad Angelo was 258.2.

For the tournament, Ciminelli averaged 237.71 and Jurek 233.65.

e-mail: mnorthrop@buffnews.com

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