Tackett goes back-to-back, makes Player of the Year statement

EJ Tackett wrote another illustrious chapter in his young career on Sunday afternoon at Strobl Arena in Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Mich.

Tackett, the lone right-hander in the field, defeated four consecutive southpaws — Eric Jones, Graham Fach, Jesper Svensson and top seed Matt Russo — to win the PBA World Championship title. He not only defended his 2023 title, but claimed the third World Championship victory of his career.

In the grand finale of the World Series of Bowling XV, Tackett became the seventh player in PBA history to reach 23 titles and five major victories. He joined Walter Ray Williams Jr., Earl Anthony, Norm Duke, Pete Weber, Jason Belmonte and Mike Aulby.

“I'm still young. I’ve got a lot of career left,” Tackett said. “It's something you can't really think about. I've always said that I'm going to go out for about 20 years, give it my all and be competitive. Hopefully over the next decade, I can continue to perform well and win some championships. Who knows where this might take me.”


Tackett, Russo, Svensson and Fach clinched berths in Sunday’s finals by qualifying in the top four of the PBA World Championship, which consisted of 61 games of qualifying throughout the PBA World Series of Bowling XV. 

Jones, who qualified sixth, reached the championship round by winning Saturday's play-in stepladder, featuring the fifth through ninth qualifiers.

Brett Spangler, Motiv’s ball rep and Tackett’s close friend, said their gameplan was similar to their plan in Wednesday’s Shark Championship, but they were more aggressive about manipulating the environment. Essentially, they were intentional with each shot of practice to maximize scoring potential for the entire afternoon.

As the only right-hander on the show, Tackett could set himself up for easier transition if he broke down the 43-foot Earl Anthony pattern the right way. Tackett gave himself a B+ effort for how he set up the lanes.

“I've led a lot of events in my career where you go out there, bowl one game and win,” Tackett said. “That's kind of how I felt today: Just go out there, bowl one game and win and then it's a new tournament. Bowl one game and win, one game and win.”

In the opening match, the now-23-time PBA Tour champion defeated 19-year-old Eric Jones, 246-205.

Tackett fired six consecutive strikes after converting a 4-pin in the opening frame. He left the 4-10 split on the right lane in the ninth, following a shot he thought was good. The reigning Player of the Year rebounded with two strikes to shut out the younger EJ.

Over the next three matches, the left-handers dealt with the ramifications of the additional transition.

Fach, seeking his first title since his 2016 Players Championship victory, left five consecutive single-pins leading into the final frame. After an open frame and two spare conversions by Tackett, Fach had an opportunity to win the match with two strikes and nine pins in his 10th frame.

However, the higher-seeded Fach opted to finish on the right lane, which players have emphatically said all week is the harder of the two lanes. The Canadian southpaw, who decided to add some loft to his shot with a urethane ball, went high and left the 3-10. Tackett advanced with a 213-202 victory.

In the semifinal match, Svensson experienced déjà vu from his semifinal loss in the PBA Scorpion Championship finals last Wednesday. The two-handed Swede boasts the highest rev rate on tour but left seven single-pins in 11 shots: three straight 7-pins, followed by three straight 10-pins and a 6-pin for one final kick in the teeth.

With the match in hand, Tackett was afforded an opportunity in the 10th frame to try a different ball. The result, a 2-10 split, gave Tackett the conviction to stick with the ball he had been using — the exact same ball with which he won the Shark Championship.

“Being able to look at (a different ball) in the 10th is a blessing and an enormous advantage,” Spangler said. “Do we gear down and create some down-lane motion with a ball that we've been using or do we go to something that's going to do that on its own? We got to actually look at it and (the latter) just didn't hook. It's great to have no worry or wonder about what you need to be in going into this title match.”

Tackett prevailed over top seeded Russo in the title match. Though Russo threw reactive equipment, he battled the same carry issues of Svensson.

After Russo’s sixth single-pin leave in the 10th frame, Tackett clinched the title — his first win with his four-month-old son, Eddie III (aka Tripp), in the audience.

Before Tackett grabbed the Earl Anthony trophy, he hoisted his son from his wife, Natalie.

“I can't even describe the feeling,” Tackett said. “It was so cool. I can't wait till he's old enough to understand what was happening during that time and how happy Natalie and I were.”

Tackett made five consecutive championship round appearances earlier in the season, leaving each show without a title. The story of Tackett's season prior to the WSOB was his brilliance in qualifying followed by shortcomings on TV.

Not anymore.

On Wednesday, Tackett won the PBA Shark Championship; on Sunday, Tackett became the first player to win consecutive titles since Jesper Svensson in 2020.

“I've had plenty of stretches in my career where I’ve made a bunch of shows and I just couldn't win,” Tackett said. “Luckily this stretch was one of the shortest ones that I've ever had. Nonetheless it still sucks when you're bowling well and then just not getting it done on TV.”

All of a sudden, Tackett heads into the regular season finale at the PBA Tournament of Champions, where he earned the No. 1 seed a year ago, with the potential to win a third straight title.

The reigning Player of the Year leads the tour with a would-be-record average of 230.81 in 417 games and has overtaken Bill O'Neill in 2024 competition points. O'Neill had led since he won the season-opening PBA Players Championship in January.

The PBA regular season concludes with the PBA Tournament of Champions, which begins Monday with practice and PBA Elite League competition in Fairlawn, Ohio. Qualifying for the season’s final major begins Tuesday.

Championship Round Scores

Match 1: No. 4 EJ Tackett def. No. 6 Eric Jones, 246-205
Match 2: No. 4 EJ Tackett def. No. 3 Graham Fach, 213-202
Match 3: No. 4 EJ Tackett def. No. 2 Jesper Svensson, 193-184
Championship: No. 4 EJ Tackett def. No. 1 Matt Russo, 225-194

Final Standings

  1. EJ Tackett, $100,000
  2. Matt Russo, $60,000
  3. Jesper Svensson, $45,000
  4. Graham Fach, $35,000
  5. Eric Jones, $30,000

More information on the World Series of Bowling XV is available here.