As the five finalists for Sunday’s Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions prepare for the live stepladder finals at noon ET on ESPN, collectively they have already made PBA history.
For the first time in PBA history, the four reigning PBA major championship titlists qualified for the stepladder finals of PBA’s signature tournament.
The No. 5 qualifier is defending champion Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., who won the 2013 Tournament of Champions at age 50 by defeating Jason Belmonte 224-179 in the title match and could face him again in Sunday’s championship match if he wins three matches.
Weber will be hoping to break the tie for most PBA major titles (10) he holds with Earl Anthony.
“I live for the majors,” said Weber. “It’ll be a tough road having to win four matches for the title but I consider myself fortunate anytime I can get to the finals to be in a position to defend a title no matter where I qualify, especially a major.”
With a win Weber will also move into third alone on the all-time career titles list. Currently he is tied for third with Norm Duke on the all-time Tour titles list with 37 wins. A win would make Weber the third three-time champion, joining fellow Hall of Famers Mike Durbin and Jason Couch who also accomplished the feat. Weber won the Tournament of Champions for the first time in 1987.
Belmonte, the newly crowned 2012-13 PBA Player of the Year, was the winner of the 2013 United States Bowling Congress Masters notching his first major. As top qualifier for the finals he is one win away from winning his second major title.
The two-hander hopes his second-place finish to Weber in 2013 and third-place finish in 2012 are warm-ups for winning the Tournament of Champions this year.
“It was really important to make it to the finals after just getting Player of the Year,” said Belmonte, who will be trying for his eighth career Tour title and second major. “I wanted to keep that momentum going. You don’t have that many opportunities to be in this spot especially in a major so you really want to take advantage of these situations.”
In addition to winning the Masters, and finishing second in the Tournament of Champions, Belmonte finished second in the U.S. Open, second in the World Series of Bowling IV PBA World Championship and eighth in the WSOB V World Championship.
No. 2 qualifier Dom Barrett of England, who won the WSOB V PBA World Championship last November in Las Vegas, will be trying for his second consecutive major and fourth career Tour title. His most recent Tour win was the Qatar Open in December.
“I don’t know if I have an advantage winning the most recent major but I know I have more confidence,” said the three-time World Bowling Wrtiers Bowler of the Year. “I have more experience and having a few days to prepare for the finals has been beneficial especially from an equipment standpoint.”
Qualifying third for the finals is 2013 U.S. Open winner Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas. The 2008-09 Player of the Year will be trying for his 10th Tour title and second major. He won the 2013 U.S. Open after having missed last season’s Summer Swing in Milwaukee because of a knee injury.
Malott, who feels good physically, says that all that’s left to do is to fine tune his equipment plan for the finals.
“During practice I’ve been using the equipment I used all week to see what works and what doesn’t,” Malott said. “We’re preparing for different scenarios and figuring out if we can use what I have already been using or if we’ll need to drill something else.”
PBA regional titlist Dan MacLelland of Canada qualified fourth for the finals and will be trying for his first PBA Tour title. His best Tour finish are a second in the 2010 Shark Championship and third in the 2013 Bear Open. His best Tournament of Champions finish was sixth in the 2011 Tournament of Champions.
“I’ve made my share of finals so I know I can compete at this level,” said MacLelland who is a three-time collegiate player of the Year and the 2006 Canadian Bowler of the Year. “Any win would be huge for me but especially a Tournament of Champions win.”
The stepladder finals will also feature the return of the revolutionary blue lane conditioning oil that was introduced at the World Series of Bowling last November. The blue oil provides fans with a visual reference for PBA lane conditioning oil application and the challenges players face.