Games of 227 and 222 in the first two days of the GEICO Classic might have bought you a seat at the coffee shop bar in AMF Thruway Lanes. The scoring was that high.
Sunday, though, those scores were more than enough to give Doug Kent of Newark, N.Y., the tournament championship, his first PBA Tour title in more than three years.
The 39-year-old owner of Doug Kent's Rose Bowl Lanes in Newark defeated Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., 222-201, in the championship final and took home the $40,000 top prize in front of an energetic sellout crowd of more than 500 in the wrap-up of the first tour event in Buffalo since 1991.
After winning $185,010 on tour in the 2001-02 season, Kent went through three lean campaigns. There were no injuries or other physical problems. It was just a matter of timing. When he needed a good shot, he didn't get it. When his opponent needed a good shot, he usually got it.
"I just wasn't winning, and I was beginning to doubt myself," the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Kent said after his victory Sunday.
Kent calls it "fighting the demons," and he kept working and practicing. Even though he had not won this season, he said he began to sense that success was close.
"And lo and behold, here it is," he said triumphantly.
Kent got to the finals with a 227-213 win over his brother-in-law, Parker Bohn III, in the first semifinal. Bohn had the only open frame in the game, when he left the 3-7-9 split in the fourth. Kent struck in the seventh, eighth and ninth, and when he spared in the 10th, he closed out Bohn.
An average of 222.36 in 14 games of qualifying Thursday was not good enough to make match play, and the four finalists all averaged 231.5 or better for the tournament.
During the warm-up for the championship game, Kent noticed a change in the lane conditions and decided to make a ball change.
"I went to a less aggressive ball," he said.
Obviously, the move paid off.
Kent defeated Chris Barnes to win his last title in the Empire State Open in Latham on Dec. 8, 2002. Sunday was his first TV appearance since he lost to Walter Ray Williams in the title match of the 2004 Uniroyal Classic in Wickliffe, Ohio.
Kent took the lead in the second frame of the championship match when Duke left the 7-10 split on his first ball. Kent had only a one-pin advantage after four frames, but four strikes in a row put him on top by 35 pins. Duke needed to strike out in the 10th to force Kent to get at least an eight count in the 10th. The Floridian struck on his first ball in the 10th, but when he left the 10-pin on his second ball, the game belonged to Kent.
Duke's 7-10 split was the turning point.
"This game is that way," Duke lamented. "I hadn't left the 7-10 all week."
It was the third second-place finish of the season for Duke, who was runner-up to Tommy Jones in the Japan Cup and to Mike Scroggins in the USBC Masters.
Duke wasn't feeling sorry for himself.
"I chose this life," he said. "I've bowled over 700 tournaments in my career and won 22 of them. I've lost close to 680."
Duke was brilliant -- and he had to be -- in his semifinal against Mike Edwards of Tulsa, Okla. Each bowler struck through the sixth frame. Edwards left the 3-6 in the seventh while Duke left the 10-pin for a one-pin advantage. Duke then finished with five strikes.
Poor Edwards was looking at a possible 278 game but no chance of winning when he got up to bowl in the 10th frame. He was already closed out and ended up losing, 279-265.
In the championship game, though, things were different for Duke, who couldn't get the ball to carry as well.
Besides banking the $40,000 to bring his earnings to $86,320 for the season and $1,119,206 for his career, Kent earned a spot in the season-ending Tournament of Champions on April 5-9 at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. Kent stood 21st in the tour point standings going into the GEICO but doesn't need to worry about that anymore. He earned a seasonlong exemption on the 2006-07 PBA Tour.
Duke remains winless on tour this season but collected $20,000 to increase his earnings to $160,200. He has $2,201,681 in career cash.
Edwards and Bohn each collected $10,000. Edwards, who joined in 1981, extended the longest title drought on the tour to 241 events. He has not won in 12 years.
Bohn increased his Denny's PBA Tour earnings to $2,399,715.