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Johnson strikes out for 3 straight titles Two-time champ ready for Hammer


Tish Johnson, the leading money-winner on the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour, will be looking to win her third consecutive Hammer Eastern Open title -- the first "three-peat" of her career.

Robin Whittaker, Charlene Molz and Barbara Dovel -- three local amateurs -- simply want to do well and perhaps win some money in the $50,000 Hammer Eastern Open at Country Club Lanes in Middle River.

All four women will have something in common when the tournament begins tomorrow morning-- they'll all be nervous.

"If I walk into a tournament and I'm not nervous, I'm in trouble. I'm too confident," said Johnson, an established LPBT veteran who was Bowler of the Year in 1990.

Whittaker, Molz and Dovel are among 21 amateurs -- many of them from the Baltimore area -- who are entered in the tournament. Each bowls in a league at Country Club.

And each of them has done less than great in past LPBT tournaments.

Whittaker, who bowled in the Hammer Eastern Open last year, said she was "really nervous" and will try this year to be more calm and focused.

Molz, too, said she will be fighting nervousness -- as well as the tougher lane conditions of the LPBT.

Dovel bowled last week at the LPBT tour stop in Claymont, Del. -- her first national LPBT tournament.

What shook her up the most was the way the pros keep track of their progress, she said.

"They consider anything over 200 [per game] a plus," said Dovel, a secretary for a local engineering company.

"Anything under that would be a minus. That can really work on your mind. You see a lot of fans watching and you have a couple bad games.

"When you actually look at it [the minus score], you say, 'Oh, no. I've got to do better.'

"It makes it very hard. You can't bowl that way. You have to concentrate on each frame," Dovel said.

"The guy at my pro shop told me it'll probably take me four tournaments to relax and do well," Dovel said.

"But you can't get into self-doubt. You have to trust yourself. That's what I lost last week."

As for Johnson, 30, of Panorama City, Calif., she thinks her good fortune at Country Club has to do with the high-scoring lane conditions and the many friends she's made in Baltimore.

As the leading money-winner with $62,000 in 1992, Johnson is in the running for another Bowler of the Year award, and possibly a Player of the Year award.

A close competitor is Carol Gianott, who has won $47,000 and who won last week in Claymont.

The Pro-Amateur tournament began last night and continues today until 9 p.m.

It costs $110 to enter, and those who do get a Hammer bowling ball and a chance to win prize money.

Dennis Baldwin, owner of Country Club Lanes and Faball Enterprises, the maker of the Hammer bowling ball, said they have close to 1,300 entries in the pro-am.

Hammer Eastern Open

What: Ladies Professional Bowling Tour stop.

Site: Country Club Lanes

When: Pro-am competition through today. LPBT tournament begins tomorrow at 9 p.m. and continues through finals on Wednesday.

TV: ESPN on Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Tickets: Free admission during pro-am; $5 during qualifying rounds; $6 during match play; $8 for top 24 match play; and $10 for stepladder finals Wednesday night.

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