|MACHUGA LEADS EARLY QUALFYING
|Latham, NY - Mike Machuga, Erie, Pa., had a 2,131 nine-game pinfall to take a narrow lead over Hall of Famer Pete Weber after early qualifying in the PBA Empire State Open at Bowlers Club Thursday afternoon.
"I just drilled up a couple of new balls yesterday, and made a few adjustments in my game," said Machuga. "I bowled well the past five weeks, but it just hasn't come together at the right time."
Machuga, who made the championship round of the season-opening PBA Banquet Open, began the day with games of 245, 276 and 264.
Machuga trailed Weber, St. Ann, Mo., by 41 pins heading into the final qualifying game. Machuga shot a 234 while Weber countered with a 192, giving the three-year pro an early one-pin lead.
Tim Mack, Garfield, N.J., was third with 2,084 while Jason Hurd, Titusville, Fla. was fourth with 2,083.
Norm Duke, owner of 21 career PBA Tour titles, is 13th with 1,997. Duke, Clermont, Fla., withdrew from the PBA Miller High Life Open, then missed two of the next three Tour events recovering from a left arm injury.
Defending PBA Empire State Open champion Doug Kent, Newark, N.Y., is currently sixth with 2,064. Left-hander Jason Couch, Clermont, Fla., is currently 10th with 2,029.
The 160-man field will be cut to 64 after today's competition. Tomorrow, the 64 bowlers will roll another nine-game set, after which the field will be trimmed to 32 for match play. Match play is a single elimination bracket format. Bowlers will be seeded based on point totals from the last 20 tournaments. ESPN will televise the five-man finals live Sunday, Nov. 23, from 1-2:30 p.m. ET. Top prize will be $40,000.