California attorney Scott Norton ended the longest title drought for left-handed bowlers in 50 years of Professional Bowlers Association Tour competition when he defeated Australian two-handed star Jason Belmonte, 227-223, to win the PBA Chameleon Championship at South Point Hotel and Casino.
Norton, the 2010-11 PBA Rookie of the Year, became the PBA’s first left-handed title winner since Jason Couch won the Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship in March, 2011. The last full season in which there was not a left-handed winner in PBA competition was 1962.
The Chameleon Championship finals, the third of five GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling IV events, aired Sunday on ESPN.
“I didn’t think I’d be the one to end the drought, but why not?” Norton grinned. “Someone had to do it. I’m so happy. This is the best week of my career.”
The Costa Mesa, Calif., resident won his second PBA Tour title by throwing three pressure-packed strikes in the 10th frame after Belmonte, the top qualifier, missed an opportunity to lock him out when he failed to strike on his first shot in the 10th frame.
“That was a lot of fun,” Norton said. “The first match I bowled on TV I started with eight strikes, so I didn’t have to come from behind. The second time I was on TV, my opponent started with eight strikes. This one? I don’t know. I don’t remember half of it.”
Belmonte started the title match with four strikes in the first five frames, but left the 3-10 split in the sixth frame and failed to convert. With the match tied at 127-127, Belmonte ran off another string of three strikes and regained the lead when Norton left the 4-7 in his eighth frame to fall behind by 19 pins.
“When I got up in the ninth and 10th frames, I knew if I threw the ball as well as I could, that’s all I could do, and whatever happened, happened,” Norton said. “That’s all I focused on.”
Norton started the finals with a 225-194 win over Bahrain’s Fawaz Abdulla, who bowled in excruciating pain after suffering a chronic case of gout in his right foot – the foot he uses to push away in his approach – on the eve of the finals, resulting in a brief hospital stay for treatment. Despite bowling in severe pain, the first Middle Eastern bowler ever to appear in a PBA Tour final led Norton until he left the 2-4-6-10 split and opened in the eighth frame. Norton responded with a late string of four strikes for the win.
In the semifinal match, Norton eliminated PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Ocala, Fla., 236-195. Williams made his first television appearance in more than a year. His record 26-year streak of making at least one PBA Tour television appearance ended during the 2010-11 season, and his bid for his 48th PBA Tour title ended when he left eight single pins during his match against Norton.
The GEICO World Series of Bowling continues on ESPN next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET with the finals of the Bowlers Journal Scorpion Championship. Finalists will include Tom Daugherty of Wesley Chapel, Fla.; Jason Sterner of McDonough, Ga.; Belmonte and top qualifier Osku Palermaa of Finland. The final telecast of the World Series IV series will be the PBA World Championship which airs on Sunday, Jan. 13, at 1 p.m. ET.
Pre- and post-telecast shows for all PBA-ESPN telecasts will be available on Xtra Frame, PBA’s online bowling channel.
South Point Exhibition Hall, Las Vegas
Final Standings: 1, Scott Norton, Costa Mesa, Calif., $20,000. 2, Jason Belmonte, Australia, $10,000. 3, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Ocala, Fla., $7,000. 4, Fawaz Abdulla, Bahrain, $5,000.
Stepladder Results: Match One – Norton def. Abdulla, 225-194. Semifinal Match – Norton def. Williams, 236-195. Championship – Norton def. Belmonte, 227-223.