Belmonte Will Bowl for 10th Major Title as Top Qualifier for PBA Tournament of Champions Stepladder Finals

by Jerry Schneider  |  Friday, February 08, 8:38 PM

Belmonte Will Bowl for 10th Major Title as Top Qualifier for PBA Tournament of Champions Stepladder Finals

FAIRLAWN, Ohio  – As top qualifier for the stepladder finals of the 54th PBA Tournament of Champions, four-time PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte of Australia will have to win one match in Sunday’s live FOX telecast for his 10th PBA Tour major which would tie him for the majors record with PBA Hall of Famers Pete Weber and Earl Anthony.

The finals telecast will air Sunday on FOX at 4:30 p.m. ET from AMF Riviera Lanes.

The 35-year-old two-hander from compiled a 16-8 match play record and 10,097 42-game pinfall total, including match play bonus pins, at the end of Friday’s final match play round to finish 224 pins ahead of four-time tour winner Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., who qualified second for the finals with a 9,873 pinfall and 18-6 match play record.

“When you have a big lead you can get complacent so my goal was just to keep a good steady pace,” said Belmonte who owns 18-time PBA Tour titles and averaged 229 for the tournament. “If I could just bowl some solid 220s or 230s and win a few matches along the way, the other guys were going to have to shoot 250s and 260s consistently to catch me and that’s hard to do.”

For Belmonte and whoever ends up as his opponent in the title match there will be more on the line than winning a major title as the Tournament of Champions will be the first of four tournaments during the 2019 Go Bowling! PBA Tour season that will pay a $1 million bonus if a player bowls a 300 game in the title match.

Belmonte will also be trying for his third Tournament of Champions title, which would tie him with Jason Couch and Mike Durbin for most titles in PBA’s signature tournament that requires a player to own a PBA title to compete. Belmonte, who finished fourth in 2018, won the Tournament of Champions back-to-back in 2014 and 2015.

“I just have to do my job to the best of my ability, hit my target and bowl the 10 best possible frames I can,” Belmonte said. “The priority is to win the tournament, but hopefully I can start with at least a few strikes to make it exciting.”

The 26-year-old Kent will be making his first telecast appearance of 2019 and will be trying for his first major title.

Also making his first telecast appearance of the season, 26-year-old EJ Tackett of Bluffton, Ind., a 12-time tour winner including the 2017 Tournament of Champions, won his last seven matches of the final eight-game match play round Friday to take the No. 3 seed for the finals. The 2016 PBA Player of the Year finished with a 14-10 match play record and 9,766 pinfall.

Qualifying fourth for the finals was three-time tour winner Josh Blanchard of Mesa, Ariz., with a 13-10-1 match play record and 9,658 pinfall.

Sean Lavery-Spahr of Pasadena, Texas, who qualified fifth for the finals will try to duplicate what 2018 Tournament of Champions winner Matt O’Grady did last season and that is qualify for the tournament through a pre-tournament qualifier and win all four stepladder matches for the title. Lavery-Spahr, a four-time PBA regional winner, had a 10-13-1 record and 9,608 pinfall.

AMF Riviera Lanes, Fairlawn, Ohio, Friday


(after 42 games. Top five advance to Sunday’s stepladder finals. Includes match play record and total pinfall including bonus pins)

1, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 16-8, 10,097.
2, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 18-6, 9,873.
3, EJ Tackett, Bluffton, Ind., 14-10, 9,766.
4, Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz., 13-10-1, 9,658.
5, Sean Lavery-Spahr, Pasadena, Texas, 10-13-1, 9,608.
6, Michael Machuga, Erie, Pa., 11-13, 9,565, $7,000.
7, Andres Gomez, Colombia, 13-11, 9,548, $6,000.
8, Darren Tang, Las Vegas, Nev., 14-10, 9,531, $5,000.
9, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 16-7-1, 9,528, $4,500.
10, Dom Barrett, England, 15-9, 9,477, $4,400.
11, Jake Peters, Henderson, Nev., 13-11, 9,421, $4,300.
12, Mitch Beasley, Clarksville, Tenn., 13-11, 9,390, $4,200.
13, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 12-11-1, 9,378, $4,100.
14, Bill O'Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 12-12, 9,338, $4,000.
15, Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 12-10-2, 9,297, $3,900.
16, Matthew Ogle, Louisville, Ky., 11-11-2, 9,257, $3,800.
17, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 7-17, 9,215, $3,700.
18, Jon Van Hees, Charlestown, R.I., 10-14, 9,117, $3,600.
19, Dick Allen, Lexington, S.C., 9-15, 9,088, $3,500.
20, Cristian Azcona, Puerto Rico, 9-14-1, 9,028, $3,500.
21, Thomas Larsen, Denmark, 11-13, 9,015, $3,300.
22, Andrew Anderson, Holly, Mich., 7-16-1, 8,994, $3,200.
23, Rhino Page, Orlando, 9-15, 8,986, $3,100.
24, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 8-16, 8,948, $3,000.

300 games – Sean Lavery-Spahr