Wednesday, Dec. 10, 1997 | 1:12 a.m.
For the second year in a row, Walter Ray Williams enters this weekend's Merit Bowling Showdown and Mixed Doubles Championship as the top-ranked bowler on the PBA Tour.
Which means, for the second year in a row, he again will face the LPBT's No. 1-ranked player, Wendy Macpherson of Henderson, in Thursday's $30,000 Merit Showdown at 5 p.m., then team with Macpherson in the mixed doubles tournament.
Although Williams won the $30,000 winner-take-all "battle of the sexes" matchup with Macpherson in 1996, he is hoping for a reversal of sorts as the competition moves to The Orleans Bowling Center this year.
"Unfortunately for Wendy, I bowled most of my strikes in those three games and didn't in the 24 games," the PBA Hall of Famer said, referring to the mixed doubles portion of the weekend. "She pounded me in the 24 games after (the Showdown)."
Despite winning only one of the three matches against Macpherson, Williams rode his 289-226 victory in the first game to a 765-732 total pinfall in the third annual Merit Showdown. After averaging 255 in those three games, however, Williams could manage only a 229 average while teamed with Macpherson and the duo finished 17th among the 24 teams.
"We finished 17th -- and that was because of me," Williams conceded. "I was 24th out of the men and she was (fifth) out of the ladies, so it was all my fault that we didn't finish any higher.
"I have a great partner and she held me up last year even though I held her down. Hopefully I can reverse the roles and we can both bowl well this year."
While Williams maintains he has a "slight edge" over Macpherson in the Merit Showdown, he said he was somewhat wary about the event moving from Sam's Town to The Orleans -- a house with which Williams is unfamiliar.
"I'm not sure how much time we're going to get to practice and test the lane conditions out," Williams said. "Last year, we had a pro-am before we had our match and you get a little feel for how the lanes are playing. This year, we don't have anything set up before that so it's going to be a little bit different for us."
But Williams knows how well Macpherson can bowl once she nails down the lane conditions.
"Wendy definitely proved that she can bowl and for a three-game match, we were almost even and surprisingly she was able to beat me in the 24 games," he said. "I think she averaged something like seven or eight pins more than I did for the 24 games, which is pretty good.
"Wendy is definitely a very good player and every once in a while I can do all right, too, so I think it will an exciting match again."
* NOTES: The $200,000 Merit Mixed Doubles Championship is the only mixed doubles event on either the PBA or LPBT tours. The top 24 bowlers from each tour, according to the season-long Merit Rankings, are paired together (No. 1 PBA player with the No. 1 LPBT player, etc.) for the tournament, which begins at noon Friday with a pro-am event. The bowlers will roll two eight-game blocks of match play on Saturday (9 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and following a third block Sunday at 9 a.m., the field will be cut to the top eight teams. The final round will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday. The top team will split the $40,000 first prize. ... Last year's Merit Mixed Doubles Championship was won by Aleta Sill and Mark Williams. Sill did not qualify for this year's tournament; Williams did as the 20th-ranked PBA Tour player. ... Wendy Macpherson, with more than $144,000 in earnings in 1997, can become the first woman bowler to earn more than $200,000 in a single season if she wins the Merit Showdown ($30,000) and the Merit Mixed Doubles ($20,000); Macpherson also will receive a $10,000 bonus for being the No. 1-ranked LPBT player. ... The PBA has emerged victorious in each of the first two Merit Showdowns, with Norm Duke beating Tish Johnson in 1995 and Walter Ray Williams defeating Macpherson last year. ... Williams has won three PBA titles this year and leads his tour in earnings with more than $320,000. ... Macpherson has captured four LPBT titles this year and has set a single-season earnings record.