Bob Learn Jr. and Kim Adler survived a grueling week of competition to claim a piece of bowling's triple crown by winning U.S. Open titles Sunday at Milford, Conn.
It was the first major title for Learn, a three-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour winner. He defeated Clermont's Jason Couch 231-215 for the championship and $35,000. Couch, a five-time winner, took home $20,000. Dave Arnold, leader after the first match-play round, finished third and earned $14,000.
Amateur Bob Belmont from Dunedin finished 18th, and Steve Hoskins, nine-time tour winner from Tarpon Springs, failed to make the match-play cut.
Adler, winner of three Professional Women's Bowling Association major titles, stopped Lynda Barnes 213-195 for $35,000. Barnes, twice a tour winner, pocketed $20,000. Cara Honeychurch of Australia, denied a chance to become only the second international player to win this tournament, finished third for $14,000. Defending champion Aleta Sill, winner of 31 titles, finished 89th, and Lisa Wagner, 30-time winner from Bradenton, was 58th. Largo's Stephanie See finished 115th.
It seemed as if the men's title match belonged to Couch, but in the ninth frame he left a 2-4-6-7-10 split and opened. It cost him the title. Entering the 10th frame, Learn needed only a spare to close out Couch. He answered with two strikes and a seven drop for the title.
"The fact that I had the opportunity to control my own destiny that late in the match was unbelievable," Learn said. "I just kept telling myself to please make a good shot. I was very relieved when it came off my hand."
Adler, who finished third here a year ago, shifted control to her side after she and Barnes failed to convert single-pin spares in the fifth and sixth frames, respectively. After opening in the eighth, Adler needed a strike and at least seven pins for the victory. She struck out for the win.
"I feel like I have been bowling great lately," said Adler, who won her last major at the Sam's Town Invitational in 1997. "I felt like I had the experience and the support to allow me to win this tournament."
TOUR NOTES: The PBA is on hiatus until October, but the PWBA opened the Lady Ebonite Classic at Lexington, Ky., Monday through today. The finals will be at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN2. The PBA resumes Oct. 3-6 with the ACDelco Classic at Virginia Beach, Va., with the finals at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN. Clermont's Norm Duke, Hoskins and Couch head a 16-man PBA contingent to the 15th annual Oronamin C Japan Cup against the top Japanese players on Sept. 16-19 at Tokyo's Port Bowl. Vince Range is only the fifth player on the PBA Senior Tour to bowl a perfect game in the championship round, at the Showboat Senior Invitational in Las Vegas. Range's first senior victory qualifies him for the Villages (Lady Lake) Senior Tournament of Champions in October. The seniors are in Naples on Sept. 26-30 before moving to Lady Lake. For the first time on the senior tour, a father and son bowled in the same event. It happened twice at the Showboat Senior Invitational. Darrell Ducat and his son, Larry, competed as did Walt Roy and son Jim. PBA Hall of Famer Larry Lichstein had a successful debut on the senior circuit, finishing sixth at Las Vegas. Lichstein served as director of player services for the PBA for many years. The senior pros and the Showboat raised more than $2,000 for the Special Olympics.
_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report. Phil Gulick can be reached at Xerxes6aol.com or Xerxesprodigy.com.