When the wildcard entrant is Norm Duke, there will always be a good chance for the wildcard to win the event. As we saw, that’s exactly what happened as Duke climbed the stepladder all the way from number five to the crown.
The King of the Swing does not count as a PBA Tour title, so Duke remains tied with Pete Weber for third all time at 38 career titles. Still, any time there’s a contest that involves bowling to determine a winner, the pros are going to compete hard, whether an official title is on the line or not.
A five-man stepladder final pitted each of the four winners from the Summer Swing events (Jake Peters in the Badger Open, Chris Loschetter in the Wolf Open, Jason Belmonte in the Bear Open and Chris Barnes in the Milwaukee Open) as well as the bowler who earned the most competition points without winning a title (Duke). The wildcard competitor, Duke, was automatically given the fifth seed, and the other four bowlers were placed based on their competition points earned throughout the Swing.
Top seed Chris Barnes had the luxury of choosing the oil pattern for the stepladder finals, and just as he did in the Milwaukee Open, he chose the 52-foot Badger pattern.
King of the Swing Finalists
Stepladder Match 1: Jake Peters vs. Norm DukeJake Peters was having a great time of it in life at this point. He’d already won his first career PBA Tour title in the Badger Open, he won his first career PBA Regional title around this time as well, and even his favorite hockey team (the Chicago Blackhawks) were on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup.
Add all that to getting a chance to bowl Norm Duke on television, and Peters was enjoying life.
Of course, the downside to bowling against Duke on television is how good Duke is on television. Both men opened with strikes, then Peters struggled to find his next strike until the sixth. Duke, aside from an open in the fourth, piled up strikes and spares and moved past Peters into a match with Jason Belmonte.
Final scores: Duke 220, Peters 190
Stepladder Match 2: Jason Belmonte vs. Norm Duke
One of the most impressive feats of Duke’s win was having to topple four separate champions, and not just champions who won at some point in their careers, but champions who just won that week and were bowling at the top of their games.
Regardless of championships, Jason Belmonte is one of the most formidable bowlers on Tour, and Duke knew he’d have to step up his game if he wanted to continue climbing the ladder.
Easy enough. He did. Belmonte struck once in his first four frames before throwing four in a row en route to a 226, which quite possibly could’ve been good enough on this pattern. That is, if it weren’t for Duke, who only missed twice in the entire match, leaving a four pin in the fourth and a 10 pin in the 10th (and converting both).
Duke continued to bowl his game the way he wanted, and his reward was another champion.
Final scores: Duke 258, Belmonte 226
Stepladder Match 3: Chris Loschetter vs. Norm Duke
Loschetter, fresh off ending his long drought of winless events, looked as if he was ready to keep winning. He bowled extremely well all week and finished high in each event (especially the Wolf Open, of course, which he won). To win the King of the Swing, though, he’d need to beat Hall of Famer Duke and Hall of Famer-to-be Chris Barnes.
Unfortunately for Loschetter, he wouldn’t get the chance against Barnes.
This match was dead even for eight frames. Not just as in they had the same total score—each man had the exact same line in every single frame. In case you’re curious, here it is, through eight: X 9/ X X 9/ X 9/ 9/
It goes without saying the ninth and 10th frames were exciting. In the ninth, Duke struck to Loschetter’s nine spare. That gave Duke the advantage, but not the shut out. With Duke finishing the 10th with nine spare nine, Loschetter could’ve defeated him. Instead, eight spare strike for Loschetter was not quite enough, setting up a rematch of the Milwaukee Open finals.
Final scores: Duke 207, Loschetter 205
Stepladder Title Match: Chris Barnes vs. Norm Duke
Barnes and Duke battled each other in the finals of the previous event, the Milwaukee Open, and especially since there was no official title on the line here, these two competitors were bowling for pride. Barnes wanted to keep up his winning ways and Duke wanted to avenge his loss.
It was another close match. Both bowlers had rough starts, leaving them both on open frames with a count of 64 in the fourth frame. Basically, this match would turn into a contest of who could bowl the best six frames and not get stuck struggling all the way to the end.
With the talent these guys have, the strikes started flying. The difference came in the fifth and sixth frames, when Duke doubled and Barnes followed a strike with a spare. That was enough to give Duke the advantage he’d need in the end.
Barnes had a chance to win it in the 10th frame, needing three strikes for the win, but he could only get the first one, leaving a nine pin with an attitude problem on his second shot.
Duke avenged his loss to Barnes and claimed the crown as the King of the Swing.
Final scores: Duke 222, Barnes 213
- Norm Duke, $10,000
- Chris Barnes, $6,000
- Chris Loschetter, $4,000
- Jason Belmonte, $3,000
- Jake Peters, $2,000