Australia’s Jason Belmonte became the first two-handed player in Professional Bowlers Association history to win a PBA Tour title when he upset top qualifier Michael Fagan of Patchoque, N.Y., 215-201, to win The Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes Sunday.
Belmonte, making his PBA Tour singles television debut, won $25,000 and an exemption to bowl on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour during the 2009-10 season. He also joined Sweden’s Mats Karlsson, Venezuela’s Amleto Monacelli and Finland’s Mika Koivuniemi as the fourth international player to win a PBA Tour title.
“The PBA Tour is the ultimate bowling competition in the world,” said Belmonte. “With all the media attention I have received, it’s now time for us to put the foot down on the gas and go mainstream; this is not just about me. There are many great stories and great athletes out here. It’s time all of us knock on all the doors of we can, the next one could be the ‘golden key’ door we are all looking for.”
The 25-year-old Australian has been a terror in international competition over the past few years, but had not experienced PBA competition until this season. In limited PBA Tour participation, he had finished in the top 15 four times with a best finish of 10th place in the season-opening PBA World Championship in Wichita, Kan.
“I was very nervous on those first two shots, I threw it where I looked at but then I realized I was looking at the wrong spot,” said Belmonte about his first shots on television. “I settled down after that.”
Belmonte developed his unusual style as a toddler growing up in his parents’ bowling center in New South Wales, Australia, bowling with bowling balls that were too heavy to throw with one hand. By inserting the middle two fingers of his right hand into the ball, and using his left hand to guide and spin the ball, he is able to generate hooking power very few one-handed players can match.
In the title match against one of the Tour’s premier power players, Belmonte bowled an error-free game, needing only a pair of doubles to build an advantage after Fagan opened in the first and fifth frames. Belmonte used an aggressive reactive bowling ball to play a deep inside angle on the left lane, and a hard plastic ball to play a straight, outside line on the right lane to combat the PBA’s Shark and Viper lane conditioning patterns used on the championship left and right lanes, respectively.
“I knew the lanes would break down faster,” said Belmonte. “If Mike had another game, he would have shot 240.”
In the opening match, Ritchie Allen of Columbia, S.C., finished with eight strikes in a row to eliminate Robert Smith of Columbus, Ohio, 258-244. Bill O’Neill of Southampton, Pa., overcame an open in the first frame with six strikes on his next seven shots to defeat Allen, 237-218.
Belmonte then slipped past O’Neill in the semifinal match, overcoming a spare/open start with eight strikes on his next nine attempts for a 245-236 victory. O’Neill’s hopes for his first PBA title ended when he left a solid 10 pin after striking on his first ball in the 10th frame.
“I threw mine great and couldn’t believe I left the ten,” said Belmonte after leaving a ringing tenpin on a solid pocket hit in the 7th frame. “When I saw Billy’s last shot go down, I thought ‘well that was fun, see you later’, but then his ten stood.”
Fagan earned $13,000 for second place, O’Neill $6,500 for third, Allen $5,500 for fourth and Smith $5,000 for fifth place.
The PBA Tour concludes its 50th anniversary season next week with the 66th Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open which gets underway Tuesday at Brunswick Zone Carolier in North Brunswick, N.J. Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., is defending champion. ESPN will televise the 2-hour live finals on Sunday, April 5, at 1 p.m. Eastern.
LUMBER LIQUIDATORS PBA TOUR
Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic
AMF Babylon Lanes, West Babylon, N.Y.
1, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 460 (two games), $25,000
2, Michael Fagan, Patchogue, N.Y., 201 (one game), $13,000
3, Bill O’Neill, Southampton, Pa., 473 (two games), $6,500
4, Ritchie Allen, Columbia, S.C., 476 (two games), $5,500
5, Robert Smith, Columbus, Ohio, 244 (one game), $5,000
Match One – Allen def. Smith, 258-244
Match Two – O’Neill def. Allen, 237-218
Semifinal Match – Belmonte def. O’Neill, 245-236
Championship – Belmonte def. Fagan, 215-201