Belmonte Turns His Attention to a Fourth Consecutive USBC Masters Title

by Jerry Schneider February 8, 2016 01:13

After his fourth-place finish in the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions, three-time PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte will turn his attention to trying for an unprecedented fourth consecutive USBC Masters title.

The 2016 USBC Masters will take place Feb. 8-14 at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis, and Belmonte once again will enter as the defending champion, a role he has assumed each year since 2014.

The unique double-elimination format seems to suit the powerful two-hander, who was the first bowler since 1965 to successfully defend a Masters title when he won in 2014. He then became the first to win in three consecutive years, joining USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Mike Aulby as the tournament's only three-time winners.

"It's hard to put into words what my accomplishments at the Masters means," said Belmonte, who owns 12 PBA titles, including five majors. "I'm proud of what I have done. However, I am not the kind of guy who is content with that. I am always pushing myself to strive for more, and that's why I'm as hungry to win my fourth Masters as I was the previous three."

Belmonte will battle a sold-out field at Woodland Bowl as 420 of the best bowlers in the world look to capture the coveted Masters trophy and $50,000 top prize in 2016.

All players will bowl 15 games of qualifying over three days to determine the match-play field. The top 63 players will join Belmonte in the three-game, double-elimination bracket, where he knows anything can happen.

All qualifying and match play rounds of the Masters will be covered live on Xtra Frame, the PBA's online bowling channel.

As the defending champion, Belmonte is guaranteed the No. 64 spot in the bracket, but bowling qualifying will give him a chance to improve his seeding as well as get a feel for the bowling center and oil pattern. In 2014, he was the tournament leader after qualifying, and, in 2015, he earned the No. 10 seed for match play.

"The Masters is so unique in the fact that you just have to win matches, and depending on your opponent, you can create different strategies for every match," Belmonte said. "The idea of bowling with five different balls in five different parts of the lane against five opponents isn't unusual, but it would be crazy in any other event. In a three-game total-pin match, the scoring pace of the field is irrelevant. The focus is only on the pair you are on."

On the way into the record books last year, Belmonte topped collegiate bowler AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois, 202-157, in the championship match. Belmonte earned his spot in the final by defeating USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber of St. Ann, Missouri, 232-210. Weber owns 10 major titles but hasn't won the Masters.

Regardless of how the 2016 Masters turns out, Belmonte already has enjoyed a major triumph this year. He and his wife, Kimberly, welcomed their third child in late January, but the life-changing event has not taken his focus off his preparation.

"Bowling is always on my mind, just maybe not as much the past couple of weeks," said Belmonte, who was the runner-up to Weber at the PBA Tournament of Champions at Woodland Bowl during the 2012-2013 season. "I am still practicing when I can, as I want to be ready for the February swing of majors. I dropped a few kilos and strengthened my legs and core to help with the long formats coming up. I will practice a little more a few days before I have to go and then practice a little when I'm State-side."

2015 PBA Rookie of the Year Jesper Svensson of Sweden will try to make it two consecutive major titles after winning Sunday’s Tournament of Champions.

The official practice day for the Masters is Feb. 8, which will be followed by three days of qualifying. Match play will take place Feb. 12 and 13 and will determine the five players for the championship round.
Those five bowlers will compete in the stepladder finals, live on ESPN at 1 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, Feb. 14.

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Sweden’s Jesper Svensson Becomes Youngest FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions Winner at 20

by Jerry Schneider February 7, 2016 09:02

SHAWNEE, Okla. – Eight days shy of his 21st birthday, Sweden’s Jesper Svensson, the 2015 Professional Bowlers Association Rookie of the Year, became the youngest player to win the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions Sunday at FireLake Arena.

Svensson, a 6-foot-3, 158-pound left-handed two-hander, defeated top qualifier Mitch Beasley of Clarksville, Tenn., 226-177, to win his third career PBA Tour title, his first major and a $50,000 first prize. The previous youngest winner of the TOC was PBA Hall of Famer Marshall Holman who won the event in 1976 at the age of 21 years, 207 days. Another PBA Hall of Famer, Mike Aulby, is the youngest player ever to win a PBA major title, winning the 1979 PBA National Championship at the age of 19 years, 83 days.

Svensson won the title convincingly, striking on five of his first six shots to build a 30-pin lead while Beasley, making his first television appearance, struggled to figure out the tricky lane condition on the left lane.

“I was pretty comfortable from the start, but then I opened in the second frame (against Daugherty),” Svensson said. “I was a bit nervous. It would be weird if you weren’t when you’re bowling on TV. But I made the right adjustments and I was fine.”

Setting the record as the youngest TOC champion was never on his mind.

“That’s a bonus,” Svensson said. “I try not to think about how young I am. I just try to compete against the best in the world. Everything has gone pretty quick for me. I just came out here (on Tour in the United States) to get experience. I probably haven’t even realized what I’ve done so far.

“Winning a major is one of the biggest achievements you can have in bowling, so I’m pretty much out of words.”

Beasley said he knew he was in trouble early because the power players on the right side of the lane moved the oil to such an extent he couldn’t figure out where to throw the ball.

“When you throw your best shot and miss the head pin, that’s not good,” the retired 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran said. “The guys in front of me really destroyed the left lane. You try to figure it out, but if I missed left, the ball went right and if I missed right, the ball hooked too much. And then you’re out of time.”

Svensson advanced to the title match by defeating Tom Daugherty of Riverview, Fla., 245-206, breaking open a tie match with a string of seven strikes after leaving and failing to convert a 4-6-7 split in the second frame.

In the second match, Daugherty ended three-time reigning PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte’s bid for a third consecutive TOC title, 220-169. Belmonte contributed to his own defeat, missing a 10 pin in the first frame, a 2-8 spare attempt in the sixth and then failing to convert a 2-4-8-10 split in the ninth frame.

In the opening match, Daugherty finished with seven consecutive strikes to overcome a pair of missed 3-10 spare conversions earlier in the game and rally from a 35-pin deficit to eliminate EJ Tackett of Huntington, Ind., 231-221.

PBA’s “Super February” schedule continues next week with the United States Bowling Congress Masters at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis. Belmonte, the only player ever to win the USBC Masters three consecutive times, will be trying to extend his streak to four in a row. Qualifying begins Tuesday. The top 63 qualifiers plus Belmonte will compete in three-game double-elimination match play Friday and Saturday leading to the live ESPN stepladder finals on Sunday at 1 p.m. EST.

All qualifying and match play rounds of the Masters will be covered live on PBA’s Xtra Frame online video-streaming service. Live scoring also will be available throughout the event on pba.com.

FIRELAKE PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
FireLake Arena, Shawnee, Okla., Sunday

Final Standings
1, Jesper Svensson, Sweden, $50,000.
2, Mitch Beasley, Clarksville, Tenn., $25,000.
3, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., $13,000.
4, Jason Belmonte, Australia, $11,000.
5, E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., $10,000.

Stepladder Results
Match One – Daugherty def. Tackett, 231-221.
Match Two – Daugherty def. Belmonte, 220-169.
Semifinal Match – Svensson def. Daugherty, 245-206.
Championship – Svensson def. Beasley, 226-177.

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FireLake PBA TOC Milestones: Who Will Make History Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN?

by Jerry Schneider February 6, 2016 05:41

The field for the stepladder finals of the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions is set.

Tom Daugherty, EJ Tackett, Jason Belmonte, Jesper Svensson and Mitch Beasley will battle for the first major title of the season in PBA’s signature event Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Who will add their name to the list of great moments in the tournament’s 51-year history?

Here’s a look at some of the TOC milestone moments:

1962 – The first PBA Tournament of Champions was contested in 1962 at Play Bowl in Indianapolis, Ind., and was won by Joe Joseph of Lansing, Mich. Joseph won the inaugural event in the two-game three-player final with 480, followed by Billy Golembiewski, 416, and Carmen Salvino third with 409. Joseph won a $15,000 first prize from the $50,000 prize fund.

1965 – The event was not contested again until 1965 when it moved to Bowlarama in Akron, Ohio, and Firestone’s long-running sponsorship made it possible for the event to be conducted annually. Firestone’s involvement was one of the first and longest-running sport sponsorships by a corporation lasting 28 years. Firestone also became the first company to have titled-event sponsorship on a nationally-televised sports event, launching a new era in sports marketing. Billy Hardwick won the event.

1966 – The event moved to Riviera Lanes in the Akron suburb of Fairlawn, Ohio, where it would remain through 1994.

1967 – Jack Biondolillo bowled the PBA’s first nationally-televised 300 game in a match against Les Schissler. Biondolillo finished third in the event.

1970 – One of the great images in sports was Don Johnson sprawled out on the approach after leaving a 10 pin on the final shot of the championship match when he defeated Dick Ritger, 299-268.

1973 – Jim Godman became the first player to win the event twice (1969 & 1973).

1975 – PBA inducts its first Hall of Fame class (Ray Bluth, Don Carter, Dick Weber, Billy Welu, Harry Smith, Carmen Salvino, Frank Esposito and Chuck Pezzano) in ceremonies during TOC week, a tradition that has continued nearly every year since.

1984 – Mike Durbin, who lived in the nearby Cleveland suburb of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, became the first player to win the TOC three times (1972, 1982 & 1984).

1987 – Hall of Famer Pete Weber wins the PBA Tournament of Champions, a tournament his legendary father, Dick Weber, never won.

1991 – Second-seeded David Ozio overcame the distraction of a 40-minute bomb threat delay from a crank call to defeat Amleto Monacelli, 236-203, for the Firestone Tournament of Champions crown at Riviera Lanes. It was his ninth PBA title and third of the year.

1993 – George Branham III became the first (and, thus far, only) African-American to win the TOC. This event was also the last one sponsored by Firestone.

1994 – Norm Duke won the last TOC contested at Riviera Lanes.

1995 – Brunswick picked up sponsorship of the event (and remained as sponsor through 2000) and moved it to the Chicago suburb of Lake Zurich, with an arena finals in Palatine, Ill. Mike Aulby won the event to become the first player to complete the PBA’s “Grand Slam” (wins in the TOC, USBC Masters, PBA National/World Championship and U.S. Open).

1997-2000 – The event moved to Reno (1997), Overland Park, Kan. (1998 & 1999) and then back to Lake Zurich, Ill. (2000).

2002 – After a one-year hiatus, the event returned to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., where it remained through 2007. In 2002, Jason Couch became the first and only player to win the TOC three consecutive times (1999, 2000 & 2002, no event held in 2001) and joined Mike Durbin as the event’s only three-time winners.

2008 – Event moved to Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas.

2010 – Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., made sports history by winning the TOC in Las Vegas, becoming the first woman – and still only woman - to win a PBA Tour title.

2011 – Eligibility for the event was expanded to include all PBA champions (national tour, senior tour and regionals). The TOC also returned to the ABC Network and its original Saturday afternoon timeslot for the first time in 14 years. Mika Koivuniemi won the record $250,000 first prize from the $1 million prize fund by defeating Tom Smallwood in the championship match 269-207. Koivuniemi also rolled a 299 in the semifinal match for a PBA-record 199-pin margin of victory over Tom Daugherty, who bowled a 100 game, the lowest score ever in a PBA televised match.

2012 – Sean Rash wins Tournament of Champions for first major and fifth career Tour title which sealed his first PBA Player of the Year honor.

2013 – Hall of Famer Pete Weber wrote another chapter in bowling history when he defeated Australian two-handed star Jason Belmonte, 224-179, to win the Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis. The victory made Weber the first player to complete the PBA Triple Crown for a second time and tied bowling legend Earl Anthony for most major PBA titles with 10.

2014 – Jason Belmonte, with a strike on his final ball, defeated Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, to win the Tournament of Champions by a single pin at Thunderbowl Lanes suburban Detroit. Belmonte, defeated Malott, 219-218. It was the first of two consecutive major wins for Belmonte who would go on to win the USBC Masters weeks later.

2015 – Jason Belmonte successfully defends his TOC title by winning the 50th annual event at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis. In winning his 12th career PBA Tour title and fifth major, Belmonte defeated Rhino Page in the title match 232-214.

WINNERS OF MULTIPLE TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS TITLES

Jason Couch 3 (1999, 2000 & 2002)
Mike Durbin 3 (1972, 1982 & 1984)
Jason Belmonte 2 (2014 & 2015)
Dave Davis 2 (1968 & 1975)
Jim Godman 2 (1969 & 1973)
Earl Anthony 2 (1974 & 1978)
Marshall Holman 2 (1976 & 1986)
Pete Weber 2 (1987 & 2013)
Mark Williams 2 (1985 & 1988)

HISTORY OF PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS WINNERS

2015 Jason Belmonte
2014 Jason Belmonte
2013 Pete Weber
2012 Sean Rash
2011 Mika Koivuniemi
2010 Kelly Kulick
2009 Patrick Allen
2008 Michael Haugen Jr.
2007 Tommy Jones
2006 Chris Barnes
2005 Steve Jaros
2004 Not contested
2003 Patrick Healey Jr.
2002 Jason Couch
2001 Not contested
2000 Jason Couch
1999 Jason Couch
1998 Bryan Goebel
1997 John Gant
1996 Dave D'Entremont
1995 Mike Aulby
1994 Norm Duke
1993 George Branham III
1992 Marc McDowell
1991 David Ozio
1990 Dave Ferraro
1989 Del Ballard Jr.
1988 Mark Williams
1987 Pete Weber
1986 Marshall Holman
1985 Mark Williams
1984 Mike Durbin
1983 Joe Berardi
1982 Mike Durbin
1981 Steve Cook
1980 Wayne Webb
1979 George Pappas
1978 Earl Anthony
1977 Mike Berlin
1976 Marshall Holman
1975 Dave Davis
1974 Earl Anthony
1973 Jim Godman
1972 Mike Durbin
1971 Johnny Petraglia
1970 Don Johnson
1969 Jim Godman
1968 Dave Davis
1967 Jim Stefanich
1966 Wayne Zahn
1965 Billy Hardwick
1962 Joe Joseph

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Retired Air Force Veteran Mitch Beasley Wins No. 1 Berth for FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions Finals

by Bill Vint February 5, 2016 14:39

SHAWNEE, Okla.  – Retired U.S. Air Force veteran Mitch Beasley of Clarksville, Tenn., will make a bid for his first Professional Bowlers Association major title Sunday as top qualifier in the 51st FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions after dominating match play Friday at FireLake Bowling Center.

Beasley, a 47-year-old right-hander, won all 13 of his final 14 matches Friday, and tied the other one, to advance from third place to first, finishing with a 48-game total of 11,559 pins. Beasley has never finished higher than fourth in a PBA Tour event, but he has won 20 PBA titles, including at least two titles in six of the PBA’s seven domestic regions where he was based during his 20-year military career. Beasley served as a crew chief on C130s and recruiter for the U.S. Air Force.

“I retired on Jan. 1, 2008, and left the next day to bowl on Tour.”

On Sunday, he will face the player who emerges from three preliminary matches in a one-game duel for the $50,000 first prize. Also qualifying for Sunday’s ESPN stepladder finals were 2015 PBA Rookie of the Year Jesper Svensson of Sweden, a left-handed two-hander who turns 21 on Feb. 15; two-time defending champion Jason Belmonte of Australia; 2013 PBA Rookie of the Year EJ Tackett of Huntington, Ind., and one-time PBA Tour winner Tom Daugherty of Riverview, Fla., who is best known for the 100 game he bowled against eventual winner Mika Koivuneimi in the 2011 Tournament of Champions finals.

Daugherty will bowl Tackett, a two-time runner-up in major championships, in the first match. The winner will try to end Belmonte’s bid for a record-tying third consecutive TOC title in match two. The match two winner bowls Svensson in the semifinal match for the right to meet Beasley in the title contest.

For Beasley, Friday’s final round was the best performance of his career.

“I made four changes to my game two weeks ago. I was really focused on the changes and make good shots and let the ball tell me what to do,” he said. “I felt the pressure, but I was just trying to make the shots I needed to make.

“I missed my best years as an athlete while I was in the Air Force, so when you have the opportunity, you have to take advantage of it,” he added. “When I started bowling on Tour, I got hurt twice, once with a shattered wrist and then I missed a couple of years with hip and back injuries, so about half of my time, I’ve been hurt. It feels good to be healthy again.”

Sunday will give him a chance to realize the goal he’s always dreamed of.

“It’s every bowler’s dream to win a national title, and to have a chance to have your first title be a major, that’s the ultimate,” Beasley said. “That’s what I’ve worked for ever since the first time I picked up a bowling ball when I was 19 and in the service in Germany.”

Sunday’s live ESPN stepladder finals will be contested on a special two-lane installation inside FireLake Arena at 1 p.m. CST (2 p.m. Eastern). First prize in PBA’s first major championship of the 2016 season will be $50,000.

FIRELAKE PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS

FireLake Bowling Center, Shawnee, Okla., Friday

Final Match Play Standings (after 48 games, including match play bonus pins)

1, Mitch Beasley, Clarksville, Tenn., 20-3-1, 11,559.
2, Jesper Svensson, Sweden, 14-10, 11,455.
3, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 15-9, 11,421.
4, E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 17-7, 11,300.
5, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 15-9, 11,203.

Failed to advance

6, Dom Barrett, England, 14-9-1, 11,188, $5,500.
7, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 16-8, 11,168, $5,000.
8, Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., 12-11-1, 11,088, $4,500.
9, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 12-12, 10,964, $4,000.
10, Bill O'Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 12-12, 10,857, $3,800.
11, Anthony Simonsen, Princeton, Texas, 11-13, 10,801, $3,600.
12, Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 15-9,  10,793, $3,400.
13, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 8-16, 10,774, $3,200.
14, D.J. Archer, Friendswood, Texas, 11-13, 10,747, $3,100.
15, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 7-16-1, 10,744, $3,000.
16, Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 12-12, 10,732, $2,900.
17, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 11-13, 10,654, $2,800.
18, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 10-14, 10,609, $2,700.
19, y-Jason Sterner, Covington, Ga., 9-7, 10,602, $1,850.
20, Andres Gomez, Colombia, 8-16, 10,535, $2,500.
21, Tyler Jensen, Ft. Worth, Texas, 8-16, 10,501, $2,400.
22, x-A.J. Johnson, Oswego, Ill., 10-14, 10,349, $1,850.
23, Connor Pickford, Charlotte, N.C., 7-17, 10,316, $2,300.
24, Dino Castillo, Carrollton, Texas, 8-16, 10,295, $2,200.
25, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 4-4, 7,133, $1,500.
26, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 0-0, $1,700.

x-Johnson replace Norm Duke, who withdrew due to a neck injury; y-Sterner replaced Pete Weber, who withdrew due to a hip injury.

300 Games: Anthony Simonsen, Dom Barrett.

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Svensson Leads by 32 Pins Heading into Final Round of Match Play in FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions

by Bill Vint February 5, 2016 06:48

SHAWNEE, Okla. – Sweden’s Jesper Svensson cooled off during round five of the 51st FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions, but he managed to hold onto first place heading into the final round of match play at FireLake Bowling Center Friday night.

Svensson, who turns 21 on Feb. 15, won four of his eight matches Friday morning and finished the round with a 40-game total of 9,161 pins, including 270 bonus pins for his nine match wins, as his 266-pin lead shrunk to a 32-pin lead over Tom Daugherty of Riverview, Fla., going into Friday night’s final eight games of match play. Svensson, PBA’s 2015 Rookie of the Year, won his first two PBA Tour titles last year, but is still looking for his first major title.

Daugherty finished round five with an 11-5 match play record and 9,399 pins. Mitch Beasley of Clarksville, Tenn., was third with 9,348 pins followed by EJ Tackett of Huntington, Ind., at 9,296 and two-time defending champion Jason Belmonte of Australia with a 9,284 total. Brad Angelo of Lockport, N.Y., was 54 pins behind Belmonte in the race for the five berths in Sunday’s finals.

The 24 finalists will bowl their final eight-game match play round Friday at 5 p.m. CST to determine the five finalists for Sunday’s live ESPN stepladder finals at 1 p.m. CST (2 p.m. Eastern). The finals will be held on a special two-lane installation inside FireLake Arena.

All match play rounds are being covered exclusively, live on PBA’s Xtra Frame online bowling channel. For subscription information visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame link.

FIRELAKE PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS

FireLake Bowling Center, Shawnee, Okla., Friday

Round Five Standings (after 40 of 48 games, including match play bonus pins)

1, Jesper Svensson, Sweden, 9-7, 9,431.
2, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 11-5, 9,399.
3, Mitch Beasley, Clarksville, Tenn., 12-3-1, 9,348.
4, E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 12-4, 9,296.
5, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 10-6, 9,284.
6, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 11-5, 9,230.
7, Bill O'Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 8-8, 9,081.
8, Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 11-5, 9,076.
9, Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., 6-9-1, 9,055.
10, Dom Barrett, England, 8-7-1, 9,022.
11, Anthony Simonsen, Princeton, Texas, 8-8, 8,998.
12, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 8-8, 8,984.
13, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 4-12, 8,947.
14, Andres Gomez, Colombia, 7-9, 8,925.
15, Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 8-8, 8,902.
16, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 5-10-1, 8,881.
17, D.J. Archer, Friendswood, Texas, 7-9, 8,858.
18, Tyler Jensen, Ft. Worth, Texas, 6-10, 8,797.
19, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 6-10, 8,793.
20, y-Jason Sterner, Covington, Ga., 5-3, 8,776.
21, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 7-9., 8,712.
22, Dino Castillo, Carrollton, Texas, 6-10, 8,661.
23, x-A.J. Johnson, Oswego, Ill., 7-9, 8,524.
24, Connor Pickford, Charlotte, N.C., 4-12, 8,411.

x-Johnson replace Norm Duke, who withdrew due to a neck injury; y-Sterner replaced Pete Weber, who withdrew due to a hip injury.

300 Game: Anthony Simonsen.

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