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Tampa's Hays is a winner

Tampa's Darin Hays wasn't spectacular, just consistent Sunday during the final of the eighth annual PBA Southern Regional.

Hays defended his tournament title by marking in every frame during two games and won the $3,000 first-place check. Hays defeated Ken McNeely of Morganton, N.C., 204-197, and topped 1994 tournament champion Jason Couch of Clermont 248-235.

McNeely ran into trouble on lane 37 of the championship pair. He had open frames in the third, fifth and ninth with splits in the latter two. Hays managed four strikes, but a run of spares from the fourth through eighth frames kept him "clean" and enabled him to survive a double by McNeely in the 10th.

The left-handed lane (No.

37), which had a greater hook, also hurt Couch. He opened with four strikes and built a 30-pin lead after three frames. But Couch's first shot in the fifth went wide, leaving the 3-9. He chopped the 3-pin off the 9 for an open frame.

Hays began stringing strikes in the sixth frame for a 248 game. Couch matched him from the sixth through eighth but left a 9-pin in the ninth and the spare was not enough to win.

Couch received $1,800, McNeely $1,300, Boca Raton's Mark Booke $1,100 and Pensacola's Don Best Jr. $1,000.