It felt like Jason Belmonte clinched the PBA Player of the Year award after winning his fourth title of the season in mid-March. Then Anthony Simonsen reinserted himself into the conversation after winning the USBC Masters, his second major title of the season.

After qualifying at the PBA Tour Finals, the race has never been closer.

Belmonte and Simonsen earned the top seeds in their groups during qualifying. Now, a potential Player of the Year-deciding match between the generational superstars now sits one game away. The two-handed stars bested a field of the world’s best talents at Strikerz Bowling at Angel of the Winds Casino in Arlington, WA.

A few weeks back home in Australia helped Be recharge his batteries.

“It was exactly what I needed after nearly four months in the U.S. at the beginning of the year,” Belmonte said. A fresh set of batteries aided Belmonte as he battled footing issues and a trio of former major champions in Kyle Troup, Tom Daugherty and Kris Prather.

Troup said he had a great game plan for the 38’ Marshall Holman pattern, which was used for the first two games, and always feels confident with urethane. He backed up his confidence with a blistering 269-278 start to take the early lead. Belmonte, who started with games of 257 and 268, trailed by 22 pins.

“It was important for me on that shorter oil pattern to not give up too much of a lead,” Belmonte said. “I was thinking to myself if I can just get between 20 to 40 behind the leaders, I’ll have a good crack at the longer oil pattern.”

That plan came to fruition, though not as Belmonte, or anyone, expected. On the 46’ Johnny Petraglia pattern, Troup limped to a 145 in Game 3. He said he used balls that were too strong, and played too far right initially. While Troup struggled, Belmonte said he wanted to build up as large a lead as possible because he knew he’d have to bowl on Troup’s pair the next game.

The reigning Player of the Year rebounded in Game 4. After Belmonte opened in the seventh frame, the top seed suddenly appeared within Troup’s grasp. As quickly as the door opened, Belmonte slammed it shut. He made a ball change and slight move to the right, then delivered a hambone to lock up the top seed.

Daugherty and Prather weren’t able to string more than a handful of strikes—neither put up a score over 250—and took third and fourth, respectively. They will kick off Sunday’s Group 1 stepladder finals at 3 p.m. ET.

In Group 2, the lead exchanged hands after each game as no player was able to separate themselves. Simonsen, who bookended his block with 279 and 277, snagged the top seed.

Barrett’s consistency on the 38’ pattern gave him the lead after two games, but the 46’ pattern got the best of him and he dropped to fourth place. Butturff conquered the long pattern early and surged into the lead after Game 3, but faltered down the stretch to finish third.

Tackett, the 2017 and 2019 Tour Finals champion, was the lone player to not lead at any point, though he nearly emerged as the top seed. He left a pair of brutal 10-pins during Game 4 that allowed Simonsen to stave him off. Tackett will await the winner of Barrett and Butturff’s match in the Group 2 stepladder, which begins at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.

With four players across four lanes and a lively, jovial atmosphere, the Tour Finals is unlike anything else on the PBA’s schedule. Troup said he had to adjust his process to keep up with the rapid pace. The showman said he focused on having fun and putting on a show for the Pacific Northwest crowd.

“The crowd time gets to kind of view a little bit more of how it is to change pairs and transition,” Belmonte said. “The atmosphere was fantastic and the crowd was electric.”

Group 1 Scores
Jason Belmonte 955 (257, 268, 201, 229)
Kyle Troup 930 (269, 278, 145, 238)
Tom Daugherty 864 (218, 196, 248, 202)
Kris Prather 863 (228, 237, 193, 205)

Group 2 Scores
Anthony Simonsen 977 (279, 184, 234, 277)
EJ Tackett 937 (257, 207, 215, 258)
Jakob Butturff 893 (207, 248, 259, 179)
Dom Barrett 860 (248, 224, 174, 214)

TV Schedule for Sunday, June 5
3-5 p.m. ET – Group 1 Stepladder Finals
5-7 p.m. ET – Group 2 Stepladder Finals
7-8 p.m. ET – Championship

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