Vince Lombardi must never have seen a pro bowling tournament. Because in the head-to-head round, winning is not everything.
Pins. That's where it's at.
Just ask Debbie McMullen, who endured a seven-game losing streak yesterday in the middle of the match-play round of the Ladies Pro Bowling Tour Hammer Eastern Open.
But she still scored enough points -- 300 of them in one game -- to finish the 24 games in third place.
McMullen, who had 9,980 points in the 18 qualifying games and 24 match-play games finished behind defending champion Tish Johnson (10,371) and Dana Miller-Mackie (10,055) and ahead of Lorrie Nichols (9,811) and Aleta Sill (9,773). Those five will start a stepladder final tonight at 8 (ESPN) to decide the champion.
Nichols will face Sill in the first game; the winner will play McMullen; the winner of that game will play Miller-Mackie; and that winner will meet Johnson for the title. So McMullen is guaranteed a finish no lower than fourth.
It didn't look that way earlier in the day.
"I don't know what it is with mornings," said McMullen, who said she also had trouble with the early games in the qualifying rounds. "I guess I don't really wake up before noon."
McMullen, who represented the United States in the Olympics in the Seoul in 1988, said her losing grew almost comical.
"After a while, it got to be funny," said McMullen, who was the LPBT Rookie of the Year in 1990. "I couldn't win. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't win."
Despite her losing streak, she entered the final eight-game set last night in fourth place. It was in that set she began to build.
After losing her first game, she won six in a row. Included in this set was the fourth perfect game of the tournament.
"I started taking deep breaths and just thinking about what was causing me to make mistakes earlier," McMullen said.
If she is to win her first tournament of the season, McMullen will have to beat Johnson, who won both head-to-head matches yesterday.
"Nobody's put any pressure on her," McMullen said of Johnson, who has played in 101 TV matches in her career and is 4-2 on TV this year. "If you can stay clean and get lucky a few times, you can beat her.
"But she's been in this position many times. Every situation I'm in is new for me."
NOTES: Leila Wagner (Annapolis), who is the only local bowler on the LPBA tour, did not qualify for the third round. She finished 33rd. Wagner will be doing the color commentary for the ESPN broadcast tonight. . . . Alayne Blomenberg, Robin Romeo and Sill bowled the other three perfect games.
Facts and figures
What: LPBT Hammer Eastern Open finals
Where: Country Club Lanes, 9020 Pulaski Highway (about 1 1/2 miles east of the Beltway)
When: 8 tonight
Format: Stepladder. No. 5 will play one game against No. 4. The winner will play No. 3. The winner of that game will play No. 2. The winner of that game will play No. 1 for the championship.