The stage couldn't have been bigger: bowling in a major tournament, on the last night of World Series of Bowling X, at Thunderbowl Lane's historic arena bay, in the official Bowling Capital of the World, Australia's Jason Belmonte won his eleventh PBA major title, breaking a tie with Pete Weber and the late Earl Anthony for most major championships in PBA history.
Unlike the other singles titles this week where seeding was earned in a single game roll-off at the beginning of championship night, Belmonte had already qualified for the number one seed, which guaranteed that he would only have to bowl a single game at the end of the step-ladder finals to make history. And what a game it was...I'll get to that in a moment.
The stepladder finals started with Jakob Butturff, who qualified fourth, beating number five qualifier BJ Moore of Greensburg, Pa., 236-183. Moore, who was trying for his first PBA Tour title, finished fifth which tied his best finish in a major when he also finished fifth in the 2018 Tournament of Champions.
The 24-year-old Butturff then beat ten-time tour winner number three qualifier Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pa, 235-226, to advance to the semifinal match, where he beat part-time tour player and number two qualifier Matt McNiel of Minneapolis, 184-179, to advance to the title match against Belmonte.
Belmonte got off to a fast start in the title match with strikes in the first three frames, while Butturff, trying for his first major and sixth career tour title, struggled until striking in the third frame. Butturff ran into trouble again in the sixth frame when he missed a 7-pin -- this single pin miss would ultimately cost him the match.
“Jakob is a great player and I knew what he was capable of so for him to come back from that missed spare really didn’t surprise me,” Belmonte said. “He put together a clutch performance to the very end.
And clutch he was, as Butturff recovered to throw the last six strikes to eventually force Belmonte to strike on the first ball in the tenth frame and then finish the frame with a spare. The greatest athletes in every sport rise to the occasion in the biggest moments, and Belmonte did just that by throwing two strikes to defeat Butturff 236-227, and etch his name into the record books.
“I’m so overwhelmed right now that if I could express how I feel I don’t know if anyone could understand me,” said Belmonte, who also won his 21st career tour title. “To break a record held by two of the greatest players of all time is just something I never thought was possible when I first started on tour more than 10 years ago. I’m proof that you can achieve your dreams.”
Belmonte also became the season’s first three-time winner having also won the Chameleon Championship on Tuesday. He also extended his record of career tour wins in WSOB competition to six.
I was able to speak with Belmonte Tuesday evening right after the trophy presentation, and here's what he had to say:
The next stop for the Go Bowling! PBA Tour will be the USBC Masters March 26th through April 1st at the Gold Coast Bowling Center in Las Vegas, where Belmonte will try for his twelfth major win. After the season’s fourth major has concluded, the top twenty-four players in points will earn berths in the PBA Playoffs, which begin April 8th with the Round of 24 eliminations at Bayside Bowl in Portland, Maine.
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