DENVER (AP) _ Wendy Macpherson and Walter Ray Williams Jr. have qualified for bowling's battle of the sexes, the $30,000 Merit Showdown on Dec. 13 at Sam's Town in Las Vegas.

Macpherson led the Ladies Professional Bowlers Tour (LPBT) and Williams the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tour in the 1996 Merit Bowling Rankings.

They will bowl against each other in a three-game, winner-take-all format. The high-stakes match is part of the 1996 Merit Mixed Doubles tournament Dec. 12-15 at Sam's Town Hotel, Gambling Hall and Bowling Center in Las Vegas.

The top Merit qualifiers from both the LPBT and PBA tours each receive a $10,000 bonus. If Macpherson wins the Merit Showdown, the $40,000 total payout would be the largest women's tour prize since the late 1980s.

Williams and Macpherson have both posted career years and are the leading candidates for Player of the Year honors. Williams has won five PBA titles this year and leads the PBA tour in earnings with more than $317,000. Williams is also tops in average (225.82) and has cashed in 22 of 24 tournaments.

Until this year, Macpherson was best known as the youngest player ever to capture bowling's triple crown, a feat she completed at age 22. Now the 28-year-old resident of Las Vegas, has put together her most consistent season this year with three tournament victories. She also leads the tour in earnings with more than $102,000 so far in 1996.

Following the Merit Showdown, the top 24 men's and women's professional bowlers will compete in the $200,000 Merit Mixed Doubles Tournament. This event marks the season-ending tournament for both the professional tours and is the only mixed doubles tournament on the two professional tours.