Tackett earns his first title of the season and 22nd of his career

In his sixth championship round appearance of the 2024 season, EJ Tackett finally emerged with the title at Strobl Arena inside Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Mich. 

Tackett defeated Shota Kawazoe, 228-213, in the PBA Shark Championship title match as part of the World Series of Bowling XV.

Tackett earned his 22nd career title, tying Marshall Holman for 12th on the all-time list, and first of the 2024 season.

“I’ve made so many shows this year. I’ve been so close and that has a lot of built up and pent up emotion, good and bad,” Tackett said. “When I was on the practice lanes, I just had this feeling come over me that I was ready to bowl. I don’t know if someone was with me today. I lost my grandpa last year, PaPaw. Maybe he was with me today.”

Tackett dedicated the win to his first-born son, who was born in December 2023.

“Now I don't have it looming over my head to try to win as a dad,” Tackett said. “I put that kind of pressure upon myself a little bit, like trying to win in the state of Indiana. The same thing happened when I got married — I went winless in 2020 — so that was tough. Now, it's one of those things where, it doesn't hang over my head, but it definitely makes it a little bit easier moving forward.”

The fifth-seeded Matt Russo's quest to win back-to-back titles — a feat no player has achieved since Jesper Svensson in 2020 — began with back-to-back open frames against Kris Prather. Prather strung a three-bagger and converted all three 10-pin leaves to win 226-198.

Prather and the No. 3 seed Anthony Simonsen each fired nothing but strikes before the break of the second match, though both left 10-pins in their first shot afterwards. Simonsen immediately returned to his striking ways while Prather left a 4-pin and 9-pin in his eighth and ninth frames, respectively.

Simonsen opened in the 10th frame after leaving the 3-4-6-7-10 split to shoot 240, allowing Prather an opportunity to strike twice on the pesky right lane to steal the win. The one-hander, a welcome sight for the traditionalists after Tuesday’s all-two-handed stepladder finals, instead left a 3-6-10 to lose 240-224.

Simonsen jumped almost five boards left to start his semifinal match against Tackett, resulting in three 10-pins in the first five frames. Tackett, meanwhile, was off to the races and struck eight consecutive times from the second through ninth frame.

For the first time in Tackett’s career, he defeated Simonsen on television with a 253-217 win.

That set up a rematch of the 2017 DHC PBA Japan Invitational title match between Tackett and Kawazoe, who sought to become the first Japanese player to win a PBA Tour title.

Kawazoe said it is his dream, and the dream of all Japanese bowlers, to win a PBA Tour title. It appeared the mighty burden of that dream weighed heavily on Kawazoe as he consistently missed left, crossing over the head-pin three times on the right lane.

Despite his struggles, Kawazoe stayed clean and kept himself in the match. 

“There's a reason why he's here,” Tackett said. “Shota is the best in Japan and he's proving it every time he comes over. He didn't have a very good look tonight, but he stuck in there, gutted it out and threw a double in the 10th to make me have to spare. I expect to see that a whole lot more. This won't be the last time you see him.”

It would have taken a near-perfect effort to take down Tackett on Wednesday night. After making five consecutive championship rounds without winning, Tackett would not be denied.

After adding the Shark Championship to his ever-growing résumé, Tackett has now won each of the current WSOB title events. He previously won the 2017 Scorpion Championship, 2023 Cheetah and World Championships.

Tackett, who is on pace to break Jason Belmonte’s 2019 scoring average record of 229.39, said his only chance at repeating as Player of the Year is to win a major championship.

“Bill O’Neill has bowled unbelievable this year with winning a major championship, and Kyle Troup has as well, winning the U.S. Open and winning another title,” Tackett said. “My best opportunity is the World Championship, but we'll be traveling to the Tournament of Champions and I've had a little bit of success there at that bowling center. But before I even think about Player of the Year, I have to win a major championship.”

Tackett, who earned the No. 1 seed in both remaining majors a year ago and won the World Championship, sits fourth in the World Championship entering Thursday’s round-robin match play.

Russo holds a 209-pin lead in the season’s fourth major, which consists of all 45 games of qualifying across the Cheetah, Scorpion and Shark Championships. 

The top nine players after match play will advance to this weekend’s stepladder finals.

Championship Round Scores

Match 1: No. 4 Kris Prather def. No. 5 Matt Russo, 226-198
Match 2: No. 3 Anthony Simonsen def. No. 4 Kris Prather, 240-224
Match 3: No. 2 EJ Tackett def. No. 3 Anthony Simonsen, 253-217
Championship: No. 2 EJ Tackett def. No. 1 Shota Kawazoe, 228-213

Final Standings

  1. EJ Tackett, $20,000
  2. Shota Kawazoe, $13,000
  3. Anthony Simonsen, $11,000
  4. Kris Prather, $9,000
  5. Matt Russo, $7,000

More information on the PBA Scorpion Championship is available here.


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