Twenty-year-old Benard becomes third first-time winner of season

On Monday night at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Deo Benard became a PBA Tour champion.

Benard defeated Marshall Kent, 222-204, in the PBA Cheetah Championship title match as part of the World Series of Bowling XV. The 20-year-old earned his first career PBA Tour title and the $20,000 top prize.

“This is the best day of my life,” Benard said as he raised the shiny gold trophy.

Benard’s father, Rick, is a four-time PBA Regional Tour champion. Deo followed in his father’s footsteps at a young age, becoming the youngest PBA member to win a regional tour title in 2020 at the age of 16.

Last year, Benard earned PBA Southwest Region Player of the Year honors after winning three titles in the region and four overall.

His early success in the PBA granted the two-handed lefty a spot on a PBA Legacy Cup: Legends and Rising Stars team, in which he made his television debut almost one month ago to the date.

“That show was the coolest thing in my life. I thought nothing could top this,” Benard said. “If you told me a month later I would make a show and win, I would never believe you.”


In Monday's opening match, Alec Keplinger defeated BJ Moore, 235-227. Keplinger and Moore threw 14 combined strikes and converted all eight single-pin spares. Moore struck eight times, but left two stone-8-pins.

After Keplinger started with four straight strikes in the second match against Benard, Keplinger left five single-pins in his next seven shots. Benard ran into no such carry issues and took out the 2024 Rookie of the Year candidate, 257-226.

Benard continued rolling into the semifinal match, dispatching Mikey Schlabach, 234-165. Nerves appeared to get the best of Schlabach, who was also making his PBA Tour championship round debut.

Despite his age and inexperience on TV, Benard showed immense poise. He struck 16 times in his 23 attempts with just one open frame. Benard’s lone blemish came in the seventh frame of the championship match, leaving the Big Four.

That opened the door for Kent to take the lead, but he failed to take advantage of it. Kent, who sought to win his second title of the season, did not strike on the right lane after the first frame.

Benard needed only a mark in the 10th frame to claim the title. He aced a strike, then added two more for good measure to become the season's first victorious southpaw.

In the first WSOB, in which preliminary rounds were held at Thunderbowl Lanes in 2009, Bill O’Neill and Tom Smallwood won their first career titles. Fifteen years later, Benard became the 20th player to win their first career title in the WSOB.

The PBA World Series of Bowling XV continues with consecutive days of televised championship rounds, airing at 7pm ET on FS1.

Tuesday’s Scorpion Championship finals features the first all-two-handed stepladder finals. Jason Belmonte, the No. 4 seed, will look to defeat four consecutive southpaws, including Jespser Svensson, Keven Williams, Packy Hanrahan and top seed Matt Russo.

On Wednesday night, top seed Shota Kawazoe seeks to become the first Japanese player to win a PBA Tour singles title. He will meet one of EJ Tackett, Anthony Simonsen, Kris Prather and Russo.

On Thursday, the top 16 players in the PBA World Championship bowl 16 games of round-robin match play to determine the nine players advancing to the televised semifinals and finals, airing next weekend on FS1 and FOX.

Championship Round Scores

Match 1: No. 4 Alec Keplinger def. No. 5 BJ Moore, 235-227
Match 2: No. 3 Deo Benard def. No. 4 Alec Keplinger, 257-226
Match 3: No. 3 Deo Benard def. No. 2 Mikey Schlabach, 234-165
Championship: No. 3 Deo Benard def. No. 1 Marshall Kent, 222-204

Final Standings

  1. Deo Benard, $20,000
  2. Marshall Kent, $13,000
  3. Mikey Schlabach, $11,000
  4. Alec Keplinger, $9,000
  5. BJ Moore, $7,000

More information on the PBA Cheetah Championship is available here.