Riveria Lanes, Akron, Ohio, Apr 18-23, 1977

Mike Makes Right

Mike Berlin, a late bloomer on the Professional Bowlers Association tour, won the 1977 edition of the $125,000 Firestone Tournament of Champions in his first appearance when he defeated top-seeded Mike Durbin, 221-205, in the championship match.

The PBA's Rookie of the Year in 1976 at the age of 32, Berlin got revenge for two earlier match play defeats at the hands of Durbin to walk off with professional bowling's biggest paycheck-$25,000.

Berlin qualified for the prestigious 52-man field by winning the 1976 AMF Regional Champions Classic, his first PBA title.

No one gave it much thought when Berlin, of Muscatine, Iowa, and Durbin, the 1972 Firestone champion, squared off for the first time in match play. And no one gave it much thought when Durbin emerged the winner.

Who would have thought that the two would meet again. But fate intervened and PBA history was made.

Entering the crucial position round match the night before the nationally televised finals, Berlin had fought his way to the top of the field, eight pins ahead of second place Wayne Zahn, the 1966 Firestone winner, and 33 ahead of Durbin.

Berlin seemed a cinch to retain the top-seeded spot when he tossed a 244 at Zahn. But only a few feet away, Durbin was electrifying the crowd at Riviera Lanes by throwing strike after strike. When the smoke had cleared, Durbin finished with a 277. For the first time in the PBA's 18-year history there was a tie for top-seeded position.

Once again, it was not Berlin's turn to win as a charged-up Durbin posted a 232-203 victory to earn the envious top-seed.

The four match championship round began with Larry Laub bouncing back from an embarrassing gutter ball to defeat fourth-seeded Sam Flanagan, 179-192. Laub started the next match with four strikes in the first five frames and Zahn was unable to recover as he went down to a 215-203 defeat.

Berlin, itching for another shot at Durbin, then brushed aside Laub, 213-200, to advance to the payoff match.

Displaying a calm demeanor unlike what you'd expect from a first-time Firestone competitor, Berlin opened with four straight strikes against Durbin to take a 29-pin lead. Durbin was unable to get closer than 17 pins the rest of the way and when Berlin toed the mark in the final frame, all he needed was a mark.

He got it.

"This is the greatest day of my life," Berlin said. "Every pro bowler dreams of winning this tournament. Right now I'm on top of the world. My dream has come true."


Pos.Name, City/StateTotalAmount
1Mike Berlin, Muscatine, Iowa434 (2 games)$25,000
2Mike Durbin, Chagrin Falls, Ohio205 (1 game)14,000
3Larry Laub, San Francisco, Calif.594 (3 games)8,000
4Wayne Zuhn, Tempe, Ariz.203 (1 game)6,000
5Sam Flanagan, Parkersburg, W. Va.172 (1 game)4,000

PLAYOFF RESULTS-Laub defeated Flanagan, 179-172; Laub defeated Zahn, 215-203; Berlin defeated Laub, 213-200; and in the championship game, Berlin defeated Durbin, 221-205.


 Name, City/StatePins  WLT+TotAmt
&1Mike Durbin, Chagrin Falls, Ohio 10347 14-7-3 465 10812 
&2Mike Berlin, Muscatine, Ia. 10377 14-9-1 435 10812 
3Wayne Zahn, Tempe, Ariz. 10322 15-9-0 450 10772 
4Sam Flanagan, Parkersburg, W. Va. 10192 16-7-1 495 10687 
5Larry Laub, San Francisco 10216 14-10-0 420 10636 
*6Gary Dickinson, Ft. Worth 10074 17-7-0 510 10584 $3,350
7Les Schissler, Denver 10106 15-9-0 450 10556 3,000
8Johnny Guenther, Seattle 10069 15-9-0 450 10519 2,800
9Dave Frame, Baldwin Park, Calif. 10153 12-12-0 360 10513 2,600
10Eddie Ressler, Allentown, Pa. 10048 14-9-1 435 10483 2,500
11John Denton, Midland, Texas 10089 12-12-0 360 10449 2,400
12Palmer Fallgren, Las Vegas 10092 11-12-1 345 10437 2,300
13Mark Roth, Staten Island, N.Y. 10119 9-15-0 270 10389 2,200
14Marshall Holman, Medford, Ore. 10041 11-13-0 330 10371 2,100
15Dick Weber, St. Louis 10005 12-12-0 360 10365 2,000
16Dale Glenn, Glendale, Calif. 9979 12-12-0 360 10339 1,900
17Dick Ritger, River Falls, Wisc. 10007 11-13-0 330 10337 1,800
18Roy Buckley, Columbus, Ohio 9920 13-11-0 390 10310 1,700
19Curt Schmidt, Ft. Wayne, Ind. 10036 8-16-0 240 10276 1,650
20Bill Beach, Sharon, Pa. 9929 7-17-0 210 10139 1,575
 Paul Colwell, Tucson, Ariz. 9899 8-16-0 240 10139 1,575
22Matt Surina, Longview, Wash. 9779 7-17-0 210 9989 1,500
23Jay Robinson, Los Angeles 9667 8-15-1 255 9922 1,450
@25Dave Soutar, Kansas City 9667 9-15-0 270 9843 1,225


Pos.Name, City/StateTotalAmount
@25Mike Limongello, Las Vegas, (32 games)6507$1,220
26Dave Davis, Atlanta49461,050
27Don Johnson, Las Vegas49411,000
28George Pappas, Charlotte, N.C.49341,000
29Paul Moser, Medford, Mass.49311,000
30Tommy Hudson, Akron, Ohio49161,000
31Steve Jones, Independence, Mo.49151,000
32Billy Hardwick, Louisville49101,000
33Sal Bongiorno, Hollywood, Fla..48891,000
34Teata Semiz, River Edge, N.J.48811,000
35Carmen Salvino, Chicago48501,000
36Nelson Burton, St. Louis48271,000
37Tom Warren, St. Joseph, Mo.48121,000
38Earl Anthony, Tacoma47581,000
39Glenn Carlson, Fresno47531,000
40Jim Stefanich, Joliet, Ill.47481,000
41Steve Neff, Sarasota, Fla.47111,000
42Jim Frazier, Spokane, Wash.46961,000
 Johnny Petraglia, Staten Island, N.Y.46961,000
44Mike McGrath, Huntington Beach, Calif..46751,000
45Louie Moore, Columbus, Ohio46411,000
46Skee Foremsky, Conroe, Tex.46341,000
 John Wilcox, Williamsport, Pa.46341,000
48Tim Godman, Lorain, Ohio46301,000
49Henry Gonzalez, Colorado Springs46181,000
 Bill Straub, Lincoln, Neb.46181,000
51Barry Asher, Costa Mesa, Calif.45061,000
52Don McCune, Munster, Ind.44751,000

*Alternate. 24-game qualifying leader-Roth, 5228. 24th Place-Schmidt, 4949. PRO-AM CASHERS ($50 each)-Palmer Fallgren, George Pappas, Eddie Ressler, Mike Durbin, Steve Jones, Mark Roth. Squad prizes-$1,000 Mike Durbin, $500-Matt Surina, Mike Berlin, Larry Laub, Gary Dickinson. High game awards $250 each-Dave Davis, Louie Moore, Curt Schmidt, Mark Roth, John Guenther, Ed Ressler. @Soutar replaced Limongello in finals, and assumed 94-pin penalty. Soutar and Limongello split 24th and 25th place money, receiving $1,225 and $1,220 respectively. Dave Davis received $50 for alternate. &Durbin and Berlin tied for first place after 48 games and Durbin took one game rolloff, 232-203.