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Finally, after 15 games of qualifying and two days of match play, the American Bowling Congress Masters Tournament at the Salt Palace is down to its final five competitors, with Ernie Schlegel of Vancouver, Wash., earning the top seed in today's stepladder final.

Finishing off the top five will be Joe Firpo of Lake Worth, Fla., Bob Belmont of Dunedin, Fla., Rohn Morton of Portland, Ore., and defending Masters Champion Mike Aulby of Indianapolis, Ind. They will compete for the top prize of $50,000 today at 1 p.m.Aulby, who gained an automatic berth to the match play portion of the tournament because of last year's victory, will be looking to become the first man in bowling history to win three Masters championships. He also won in 1989. Aulby would also become only the second man to repeat as Masters champ, joining Billy Welu who won in 1964 and 1965.

Schlegel earned the top spot by defeating Morton 651 pins to 629 in match play last night. Match play involves three games of head to head bowling.

Aulby then defeated Morton 745 to 615 for the second seed. Morton will be seeded third. Firpo lost his last match to Aulby 727 to 670, but is seeded fourth, and Belmont gained the fifth seed by defeating Robert Hanson of Spokane, Wash., 674 to 532.

Overall it was a tough week for bowling's top professionals, as Norm Duke, Walter Ray Williams, Jr. and Dave D'Entremont all failed to make it to match play. It was an especially bittersweet tournament for Charlie Bruno of Sewell, N.J., who led the tournament after the qualifying rounds, but was eliminated early in match play. In fact, the highest seed after the qualifying rounds to make match play is Schlegel who finished in 18th position.

It will be a good payday all around regardless of today's winner. Second through fifth place receive $26,500, $20,000, $15,000, and $10,500 respectively.

Tickets for the Masters final are $15 for general admission and $20 for reserved seating. For those unable to attend, the Masters will be shown on a tape delay by the Prime Sports Network on Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.