PBA Players Championship Kicks Off 2021 Season
Season-opening major championship features several potential history-making moments
New York, NY – The 2021 PBA Tour season begins this weekend with the PBA Players Championship. For the first time in PBA history, five regional events will take place across the country, with PBA bowlers competing for the top five spots in their respective regional finals. FloBowling will stream all the qualifying competition live on Saturday and Sunday, followed by the regional finals airing on Fox Sports’ FS1 beginning Jan. 24.
The winners of each event will compete in the PBA Players Championship Finals live on FOX Broadcast Channel, Sunday, Feb. 21.
Here are the top storylines heading into the weekend.
$1,000,000 Prize Fund
The first event of season features a $250,000 top prize, the most awarded to a PBA champion since Mika Koivuniemi won the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions. Second place will receive a record high $130,000.
O’Neill Looks to Defend His Title
Bill O’Neill will attempt to repeat as champion, having defeated EJ Tackett in the title match of the 2020 PBA Players Championship by a single pin. O’Neill, who also won the season-ending 2020 PBA Playoffs, finished second in last season’s Player of the Year voting. O’Neill enters the new season as defending champion for the second straight year (the 2020 season began with the Hall of Fame Classic, which O’Neill won in 2019).
Belmonte Seeks Another Major Championship Record
Jason Belmonte looks to become the first player in PBA history to win four different majors on three separate occasions. He’s already the first player to win three majors three times each. The all-time record holder in PBA major championships with 13, Belmonte owns four USBC Masters titles, three PBA World Championship titles, three Tournament of Champions titles, plus two wins in the PBA Players Championship, and a victory in last year’s U.S. Open.
A win in the PBA Players Championship would also be Belmonte’s third consecutive major as he won the final two majors of 2020, the U.S. Open and World Championship. No one has won three straight majors since Norm Duke closed the 2007-2008 season with two majors, followed by the the season-opening 2008-2009 World Championship.
Duke Attempts to Complete Super Slam
With a win in the Players Championship, Duke would become the third player in PBA history to complete the Super Slam of all five majors, joining Mike Aulby (who accomplished the feat in 1996) and Belmonte (2020). Duke has won the PBA World Championship three times, the U.S. Open twice and has one victory in each of the USBC Masters and Tournament of Champions.
Tackett and Simonsen Try to Shed Runner-Up Status
Tackett, the top seed in the 2020 PBA Players Championship, and Anthony Simonsen, who won the 2019 PBA Players Championship, both look to capture a title after neither were able to win in the shortened 2020 season. Simonsen, the youngest player in PBA history to win two major titles, finished second four times in 2020, including each of the last two majors.
Players Look for First Major Championship
Since the PBA Players Championship resumed in 2011 after a 10-year hiatus, it’s been held eight times (it was not held in 2012 or 2014) and three different players have made it their first major championship: Belmonte (2011, although the major status was retroactively credited after he’d already won five other major titles), Scott Norton (2013) and Graham Fach (2016). Fach’s win also made him the first Canadian to win a PBA Tour title.
PBA Players Championship Winners Since 2011
2011 – Jason Belmonte
2012 – not held
2013 – Scott Norton
2014 – not held
2015 – Parker Bohn III
2016 – Graham Fach
2017 – Jason Belmonte
2018 – Tom Smallwood
2019 – Anthony Simonsen
2020 – Bill O’Neill
Live coverage on FloBowling begins Saturday, January 16 at 9 a.m. ET and will cover each of the following regions:
- West: Bowlero Christown, Phoenix, Ariz.
- Southwest: AMF Garland Lanes, Garland, Texas
- Central: Bowlero Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, Wis.
- East: Bowlero West End, Richmond, Va.
- South: AMF University Lanes, Tampa, Fla.
For more on the 2021 PBA Players Championship, read the official press release.