2021 PBA50 Season in Review
The 2021 PBA50 Tour season saw records broken, legends snapping title droughts, a much-heralded rookie class battling all season not just for Rookie of the Year but also Bowler of the Year honors and there was even a championship decided in a man’s basement.
Walter Ray Williams Jr. began the season with his 15th career title, putting himself in sole possession of the all-time PBA50 Tour title record. Two more Hall of Famers—Pete Weber and Parker Bohn III—won their first (and second) PBA50 titles since the 2017 season, with each player picking up back-to-back wins during the season.
Norm Duke broke his own title drought, winning for the first time since the 2018 season. Williams, Duke, Weber and Bohn are four of the five winningest players in PBA Tour history and combined for six 2021 PBA50 championships.
One of the main stories entering the 2021 PBA50 season, especially after the cancelation of the 2020 season, was the impressively strong rookie class, highlighted by (alphabetically) Brad Angelo, Chris Barnes, Jason Couch and Tom Hess.
Angelo led all rookies in points for most of the season, finishing in the top 10 nine times, including three runner-up finishes. Couch was the first rookie to win, taking the title in his second ever event, the Johnny Petraglia BVL Open. Barnes was the first rookie to win a major, claiming the PBA50 Cup. But it was Tom Hess, who won each of the last two majors—the Senior U.S. Open and USBC Senior Masters—to claim the PBA50 Rookie of the Year Award and, at the same time, the PBA50 Bowler of the Year Award.
The 61-year-old Williams earned the PBA60 Bowler of the Year Award for players age 60 and over in his first eligible season, as there was no 2020 PBA50 Tour season.
Here’s a quick recap of the 2021 PBA50 Tour season:
PBA50 Lightning Strikes Open
Lightning Strikes Bowl
Fort Myers, Florida
Winner: Walter Ray Williams Jr. (15th career title)
Walter Ray Williams Jr. once again opened a PBA50 season with a victory, this time earning his record 15th career PBA50 title. In 2019, Williams won each of the first three PBA50 events to tie John Handegard’s longstanding record of 14 PBA50 titles.
With a win over 2018 PBA50 Player of the Year Michael Haugen Jr. in a three-game total-pinfall championship match, Williams broke Handegard’s record and now holds the record for both PBA Tour titles (47) and PBA50 Tour titles.
PBA50 Johnny Petraglia BVL Open
Maple Lanes Countryside
Winner: Jason Couch (1)
The first of the highly touted 2021 PBA50 rookie class to win: Jason Couch. In his second ever PBA50 event, the PBA Hall of Famer and 16-time PBA Tour winner qualified as the top seed and defeated Haugen in the championship match.
It was the second straight runner-up finish for Haugen, who bowled a 300 game in the semifinal match against Couch’s fellow rookie, Chris Barnes, who bowled 289.
Florida Blue Medicare PBA50 National Championship
Spanish Springs Lanes
The Villages, Florida
Winner: Pete Weber (12)
For the first time since 2017, PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber claimed a PBA50 championship when he beat Lennie Boresch Jr. in the championship match of the PBA50 National Championship. The win was the 12th PBA50 title for Weber and fifth major championship.
Weber previously won both the U.S. Open and USBC Senior Masters on two separate occasions.
PBA50 Granville Financial Open
Sandhills Bowling Center
Aberdeen, North Carolina
Winner: Pete Weber (13)
Weber’s 13th career PBA50 title moved him into third in all-time PBA50 titles, trailing only Handegard and Williams. Weber was the top seed for the stepladder for the second straight event and then beat Angelo to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 2016, when he won four in a row among his record six in a single season.
PBA50 Bud Moore Classic
Bowlero Centreville/Bud Moore Lanes
Winner: John Marsala (2)
For the first time in professional bowling history—quite possibly professional sports history—a championship was decided in a man’s home. Qualifying and match play were held at Bowlero Centreville, leading to the stepladder finals held at Bud Moore Lanes in Bill Moore’s basement.
John Marsala was the top seed and bested Angelo, who bowled a 299 game earlier in the stepladder, in the championship match to win Marsala’s second career PBA50 title.
South Plains Lanes
Winner: Chris Barnes (1)
The second rookie to win on the 2021 PBA50 Tour was Chris Barnes, claiming a major championship as his first title. Qualifying as the second seed, Barnes rolled 279 to defeat Bob Learn Jr. in the semifinal match, then battled once-again top seed Weber for the title. A 247 for Barnes earned him the win as he continued his chase for the Rookie of the Year Award.
PBA50 Odessa Open
Winner: Amleto Monacelli (10)
Following a gutter-ball scare in the semifinal match against Angelo, second seed Monacelli pulled out a three-pin win and then moved into the championship match, in which he defeated Dan Knowlton.
The win added Monacelli to the short list of players who have won double-digit titles on both the PBA Tour (on which Monacelli has 20 titles) and PBA50 Tour.
PBA50 South Shore Open
Winner: Eugene McCune (2)
For the second time in his PBA50 career, Eugene McCune won the PBA50 South Shore Open. For the first time, it counted as an official title. When McCune won the event in 2018, he wasn’t a PBA member, so while he received the check and trophy, he wasn’t credited with a title. He won his first official PBA50 title in 2019 at the Spectrum Lanes Open.
As the top seed, McCune ended Norm Duke’s run through the stepladder, with McCune defeating Duke 225-205.
PBA50 Spectrum Lanes Open
Winner: Parker Bohn III (5)
Parker Bohn III put an end to his PBA50 winless streak, winning the PBA50 Spectrum Lanes Open for his first victory since 2017. In between, Bohn made nine stepladder finals appearances, but wasn’t able to get a win until he defeated Bob Learn Jr. in the championship match.
It was Learn’s only loss that day, having earned the top seed with a 12-0 match play record. Bohn, the second seed, beat Tom Hess in the semifinal match before defeating Learn.
PBA50 Dave Small’s Championship Lanes Open
Winner: Parker Bohn III (6)
After a four-year wait between his previous two titles, Bohn barely had to wait four days to get this one. Similar to the way Bohn ended a title drought on the PBA Tour with back-to-back wins in 1997, Bohn ended his PBA50 title drought with two straight wins in 2021.
Bohn also won two regional titles surrounding his PBA50 national wins, giving him four victories in 10 days.
PBA50 David Small’s JAX 60 Open
Winner: Norm Duke (6)
Another title drought came to an end when PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke won all four stepladder matches to win the PBA50 David Small’s JAX 60 Open for his sixth career PBA50 title and first since 2018. Duke defeated Larry Verble, Ryan Shafer, Eugene McCune and ultimately Brad Angelo to claim the title. It was Angelo’s third runner-up finish of the season.
PBA60 Dick Weber Classic (PBA60 event)
Winner: Ron Mohr (3)
In an event held exclusively for players age 60 and over, Ron Mohr emerged victorious for his third career PBA60 title to go with 11 PBA50 titles. Mohr was the top seed and won the title match against John Kirker Jr. to claim the title.
PBA50 Senior U.S. Open
Harvest Park Bowl
Winner: Tom Hess (1)
The Rookie of the Year race got even closer when Tom Hess beat Chris Barnes in the championship match of the PBA50 Senior U.S. Open. Hess became the third rookie to win this season and put himself within 700 points of both Barnes and frontrunner Angelo for the Rookie of the Year Award, which is based on competition points.
USBC Super Senior Classic (PBA60 event)
Sam’s Town Bowling Center
Las Vegas, Nevada
Winner: Amleto Monacelli (1)
A fresh 60 years old as of August 27, Monacelli won the first PBA60 event he was eligible to enter, earning the top seed for the finals and defeating Mohr to take the title.
USBC Senior Masters
Sam’s Town Bowling Center
Las Vegas, Nevada
Winner: Tom Hess (2)
Tom Hess entered his rookie season with three goals: to win a title, to be Rookie of the Year and to be Bowler of the Year. He accomplished the first goal in the Senior U.S. Open. When Hess defeated Pete Weber, who led in Player of the Year points entering the event, in the second match of the USBC Senior Masters stepladder finals, it left both Hess and top seed Chris Barnes with an opportunity to win Player of the Year with a Masters victory.
Then, when Hess eliminated No. 2 seed Doug Kent in the semifinals, the title match for the final event of the 2021 PBA50 season became even more important: the winner would win the USBC Senior Masters (which would be the second major for either Barnes or Hess) and also claim Bowler of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors.
Barnes, who was undefeated through the double-elimination match-play bracket, had to be beaten twice, which is exactly what Hess did to him, rolling 278 and 237 to Barnes’ 226 and 203. Closing the season with two major championships earned Hess Bowler of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors.
Hess also became just the third player in PBA50 history to win both the Senior U.S. Open and USBC Senior Masters in the same season, joining Tom Baker (2006) and Weber (2016).
Final 2021 PBA50 Points Standings
- Tom Hess, 29,475
- Pete Weber, 27,245
- Chris Barnes, 26,485
- Brad Angelo, 24,550
- Amleto Monacelli, 21,605
- Parker Bohn III, 18,630
- John Marsala, 16,960
- Lennie Boresch Jr., 16,910
- Norm Duke, 15,945
- Walter Ray Williams Jr., 15,565
2021 PBA50 Champions
Majors in bold
PBA60 events in italics
PBA50 Lightning Strikes Open: Walter Ray Williams Jr. (15th career title)
PBA50 Johnny Petraglia BVL Open: Jason Couch (1)
PBA50 National Championship: Pete Weber (12)
PBA50 Granville Financial Open: Pete Weber (13)
PBA50 Bud Moore Classic: John Marsala (2)
PBA50 Cup: Chris Barnes (1)
PBA50 Odessa Open: Amleto Monacelli (10)
PBA50 South Shore Open: Eugene McCune (2)
PBA50 Spectrum Lanes Open: Parker Bohn III (5)
PBA50 Dave Small’s Championship Lanes Open: Parker Bohn III (6)
PBA50 David Small’s JAX 60 Open: Norm Duke (6)
PBA60 Dick Weber Classic: Ron Mohr (3)
PBA50 Senior U.S. Open: Tom Hess (1)
USBC Super Senior Classic: Amleto Monacelli (1)
USBC Senior Masters: Tom Hess (2)