Dale Traber was struggling. His shots weren’t hitting, the pins weren’t falling and by correlation, the bowling tournament victories weren’t coming.
“As bad as my season’s been, I actually thought about not even coming (to Columbus),” said Traber, a 54-year-old bowler from Cedarburg, Wis.
But it’s a good thing he did.
Traber bested the PBA’s most decorated bowler in Walter Ray Williams Jr. — twice — to win the USBC Senior Masters tournament yesterday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, his first victory on the senior tour since 2009 when he won the same event.
Traber had made just one finals appearance on the senior circuit in 2011 and was beginning to have second thoughts about making the trip for the Senior Masters. The expenses were piling up from traveling to other tournaments with no winnings to restock his bank account, he said.
Williams took that point to heart. In their finals pairing — after Traber squeaked out a 631-629 series win against him earlier in the day — Williams fell behind by 65 pins through two of three games. Traber had exploded for a 267 in the second game with eight straight strikes, but he knew the lead wasn’t safe.
“He’s going to come back. That’s a given; that’s expected,” Traber said.
Williams, 51, tossed strikes in the first five frames of game No. 3 while Traber failed to match him. The gap narrowed to a dozen pins.
“I knew I had an outside chance,” said Williams, a resident of Ocala, Fla. “I needed some help and (Traber) gave me some. By (the sixth frame), I was liking my chances.”
Traber’s lead steadied. With a strike in the 10th frame, he guaranteed himself an eventual 707-695 victory and the winner’s $14,000 check. As soon as he released the ball, he said he knew it was on target. The bowler swung his hands downward in a smashing motion before hollering in celebration.
Earlier in the day, defending tournament champion Wayne Webb nearly made it back to the championship round before running into Williams.
Both of Webb’s losses in the double-elimination event came against Williams.
“I just hit a couple of bad turns and happened to hit Walter on both of them,” Webb said about two of his worst scoring matches of the weeklong tournament.
Following a 14-year run in western states, the Senior Masters, one of two majors held by the USBC, landed in Columbus at the lanes owned by Webb and his wife, Elaine. Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl will house the tournament again next summer.
Despite the rigors of putting on a tournament and competing at the same time, Webb said he’s looking forward to doing it again.
“Now we’ve got a stencil to go off of,” said Webb, a first-time host. “There were so many preliminary things we learned for this one.”