|PWPT Champ, Bernie Hipkins|
The Pop Whitten Pro Duckpin tour visited AMF Southwest on the weekend of March 26-28, 2010. The field of 129 entries featured another cavalcade of the top duckpinners in the country, and after it was all over, standing at the top of the mountain was Hagerstown, Maryland's Bernie Hipkins, as he edged Abindgon, Maryland's Don Dove by a score of 162-159 in the championship match. Hipkins, a front-runner for the honor of "Number One Bowler in the Country" for the 2009-2010 season was undefeated in divisional play, with a 5-0 won/lost record.
The head-to-head competition resulted in division winners in the following seeding order: Bernie Hipkins, Chris Kruger, Don Dove, Tim Bosley, and Eddie Darling, with Walt Brooks as the wildcard. As the stepladder got underway, the first match was between Eddie Darling and Walt Brooks. Darling had won Division A, holding a pinfall total of 720. Brooks was in the same division, and had an identical record to Eddie at 4-1 with higher pinfall (744). But because Darling had defeated Brooks in match play, Eddie had the nod on the tiebreaker, under PWPT rules. The competition began, and Walt got out to a fast start while Eddie had trouble getting out the gate, and Brooks raced to a 156-106 opening game victory. Next, Walt faced fellow Baltimorean, Tim Bosley. Brooks maintained his sharpness, and took the next contest, 150-134. Brooks, who, on the whole, was fresh from his recent "Eastern Classic" win from earlier in the month, would soon be facing his next opponent, the 16-time tour winner from the DPBA circuit, Don Dove, so something had to give. In a tough match, Don was able to surge ahead at the right times, and held steady for a 138-117 win.
As Dove moved on, he would next meet young superstar, Chris Kruger. Dove was now in gear, and began the offensive assault. Kruger battled back, but couldn't slow Don down, and Dove leaped forward with a 171-136 victory. With Dove now primed with 2 wins under his belt, the task would be difficult for the final opponent, the top-seeded Hipkins.
Don opened at a frantic pace, with 4 straight spares. Bernie, still a bit cold after the lengthy wait from the top seed position, had opens in his first 2 boxes, but came alive with spares in the 3rd and 4th frames. After 6 frames, Dove held a 20-pin lead with a strike working in the 7th, and things appeared bleak for Hipkins. With his back firmly against the wall, Bernie pushed the pressure of the situation to the side, and began a strong march down the stretch. Hipkins went spare, strike, spare in frames 7-9, and in light of Dove's open frame in the 9th, Bernie had a chance to direct the pressure back in Don's direction. Bernie needed a big count on his 9th frame spare, and a mark in the 10th to force a mark out of Don to win the title. Hipkins came through, tossing a devastating strike, and applied a 9-count for a 162 game. Dove, with 150 after 9, now needed a mark to close out the win. Don went forward, but may have rushed his shot a bit, as he went slightly wide of target, leaving the headpin as part of a 6 pin flock. Dove couldn't convert the spare, and so, Bernie Hipkins' gritty comeback didn't go unrewarded.
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