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Geico Open win gives player of year Koivuniemi a fifth career title

Mika Koivuniemi won the PBA Geico Open at Mesa, Ariz., Sunday as Clermont's Norm Duke fell short in his bid for a 22nd tour title.

Koivuniemi, last year's player of the year, defeated Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III 200-196 for his fifth title and $40,000. Koivuniemi avoided early ouster by converting a difficult 3-4-6-7 split in the third frame. Bohn, a left-hander with 29 career titles, opened the door for Koivuniemi with a ninth-frame open. Bohn earned $20,000.

"I was just thinking about my next shot. It was a grind the whole day," said Koivuniemi. "I made certain I stayed with my routine the best I could I made sure that I felt good and knew what I was doing."

Koivuniemi, of Hartland, Mich., defeated Mike Machuga of Erie, Pa., 192-177 in the first semifinal match. Duke's late charge against Bohn fell short in the other semifinal. Bohn overcame a first-frame open to win 236-206. Duke and Machuga each earned $10,000.

Bohn ousted Titusville's Jason Hurd in the round of eight and Clermont's Jason Couch in the round of 32. Ocala's Walter Ray Williams Jr., trying for a record-tying 41st career title, failed to make the round of 32. Other early departures were Randy Pedersen of Fort Lauderdale and Steve Wilson of Lake Worth.

The tour changed its format for this event. The round of 64, which was match play, consisted of 14 qualifying games. The 32 players with the highest pinfall advanced to match play.

The tour is in El Paso, Texas, today for the El Paso Classic, with the finals live on ESPN starting at 1 p.m. Sunday.

PBA NOTES: Tommy Delutz Jr., two-time winner, is sitting out the season to recover from right wrist surgery in July. Duke soon will become the sixth bowler to reach the $2-million mark in career earnings, needing $14,146. Williams leads with more than $3-million. PBA Hall of Famer Carmen Salvino earned a commissioner's exemption for the Birmingham Open Jan. 26-30 at Trussville, Ala. Bob Glass is the PBA senior player of 2004 and David Ozio senior rookie of the year. Danny Wiseman is the tour's money leader with $136,680 this season. Tommy Jones is second at $114,200 and Brian Voss third at $98,200. Denny'srestaurant chain has signed as a PBA sponsor in 2005. The PBA renamed its March 26 event the PBA Denny's World Championship at Taylor, Mich. The tour currently has 17 sponsors.

AMATEURS ON DECK: The USA Bowling National Amateur Championships, the first United States Bowling Congress event, opened Monday at Dallas with 220 of the nation's best amateurs vying for the title.

Included in the 220-player field are Palm Harbor's Ashly Galante, 16, and Tampa's Lucy Sandelin, a perennial Team USA qualifier. The field also will be shooting for berths on Team USA 2005, the squad that represents America in international amateur competition.

The U.S. Military Tournament will be conducted simultaneously with the amateur event, featuring 12 players each from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

All players rolled eight qualifying games Monday, another eight games Tuesday and Wednesday, with the top 32 men and top 24 women advancing to match play today. Match play continues through Friday with the top five men and top five women automatically qualifying for Team USA 2005. Another three men and three women will be chosen by a national selection committee.

Galante was the youngest player in last year's field at 15. She became sick during competition and finished 57th. Pinellas Park's Bob Smolka finished 27th.

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