Kent climbs stepladder to win his first major title

When Marshall Kent won the PBA Illinois Classic in February — his first singles title in seven years — the 31-year-old declared himself to be “back.”

On Sunday afternoon on the historic lanes 27-28 at AMF Riviera Lanes in Fairlawn, Ohio, Kent proved it by winning the 2024 PBA Tournament of Champions.

Kent defeated Anthony Simonsen, 205-201, in the title match to claim his seventh career PBA Tour title and first career major title.

“I've said if I'm going to win one major, I want it to be the TOC at Riviera,” Kent said. “It's still not real to me that we're here. This is a lifelong dream come true. This is what I've been working for since I was two years old. It means the absolute world.”

With the win, the final tournament of the 2024 PBA Tour regular season, Kent earns $100,000 and his second title of the season. He finished the season second in points behind only EJ Tackett, who he defeated in the semifinal match.

Kent, the No. 4 seed, climbed the stepladder finals by defeating Jason Sterner, Matt Ogle, Tackett and Simonsen — the same four players Jason Belmonte defeated to win the 2023 TOC.

The opening match foretold the good fortune on Kent’s side. Sterner split in each of this first three frames and washed out in the fourth, starting the match with four open frames.

“I had a lot of good things go my way today, and sometimes that's what you need to to get through matches on TV,” Kent said.

With Sterner’s loss in the opening match, Andrew Anderson clinched a berth in the PBA Playoffs.

Kent, who entered the TOC with a 1-8 record in major finals, doubled his career win count in major championship finals with a 267-226 over No. 3 Matt Ogle. Kent started the match with six consecutive strikes before throwing his seventh frame shot in the gutter. He converted the spare to keep pressure on Ogle and perhaps ease his own nerves.

In the semifinal match, Tackett sought to become the first player since Johnny Petraglia in 1971 to win three consecutive PBA Tour titles. The Player of the Year front-runner also aimed to put a gold stamp on a potential second consecutive and third career Player of the Year award.

Tackett did not bowl as well as he had to win the PBA Shark and World Championships earlier this month. He battled a shoulder injury that he suffered earlier in the event, an injury that hampered him on multiple spare attempts. Tackett misses a 10-pin in the fifth frame and the 3-6-9-10 in the 10th frame.

Aside from a glaring error in his ninth frame, when Kent only knocked over three pins then missed the spare, he stayed clean to win the match, 212-192.

Kent moved onto the title match to face Simonsen, who earned a top-two seed in the TOC for the fourth time in five years.

Simonsen, who turned 27 in January, sought to become the youngest player to win six majors titles, just as he was the youngest to one through five.

Kent held a steady lead throughout the match and stepped up in the 10th with an opportunity to shut out the two-handed superstar. But he missed the head-pin right once again and gave Simonsen new life.

Simonsen, needing a double and four pins, struck on his first shot in the 10th. He threw his second shot on line, but wrapped a 10-pin. For the fourth time in five years, Simonsen left the TOC finals without the coveted trophy.

“That’s the thing that I can live with,” Simonsen said. “If I make a bad shot at that moment, I'm going to be a little more angry. But I stepped up, made a pretty good shot and gave myself an opportunity and there’s not really more I can ask for. If I figure out how to get a little luck on my side, I might be dangerous.”


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Kent moved from Las Vegas to the Detroit area this offseason and his passion for the game returned. He said he worked harder last fall and winter than he has before any season in years.

The results — two titles, one major, four top-five finishes and five top-10 finishes — speak for themselves.

“When I was working those few months and trying to get ready for the season, I felt like there were glimpses of brilliance where I could feel like I could do it,” Kent said. “I think this is the icing on the cake to tell myself I can do it. I’ve got such a great support system, too. I've got my girlfriend Cassandra and my mom, Susan. My guy Jason Wojnar, my ball rep, he's been through the wringer with me. Without any of them this wouldn't be possible.

“There's one person that I would have loved to be here,” Kent said of his father Jim, who passed away in Sept. 2020. “I know he had a front row seat up above. I can just hear him saying ‘I'm proud of you budro.’”

Championship Round Scores

Match 1: No. 4 Marshall Kent def. No. 5 Jason Sterner, 195-157
Match 2: No. 4 Marshall Kent def. No. 3 Matt Ogle, 267-226
Match 3: No. 4 Marshall Kent def. No. 2 EJ Tackett, 212-192
Championship: No. 4 Marshall Kent def. No. 1 Anthony Simonsen, 205-201

Final Standings

  1. Marshall Kent, $100,000
  2. Anthony Simonsen, $50,000
  3. EJ Tackett, $30,000
  4. Matt Ogle, $25,000
  5. Jason Sterner, $20,000

More information on the PBA Tournament of Champions is available here.


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