FAIRLAWN, Ohio (Feb. 10, 2019) – Australian two-hander Jason Belmonte won his third PBA Tournament of Champions title Sunday to record his 10th PBA Tour major title, tying him with Hall of Famers Pete Weber and the late Earl Anthony for first on the all-time major titles list.
The 35-year-old Belmonte defeated 2017 Tournament of Champions winner EJ Tackett of Bluffton, Ind., 225-196, in the title match of PBA’s signature tournament at AMF Riviera Lanes to also tie Hall of Famers Jason Couch and Mike Durbin for most Tournament of Champions titles. Belmonte, a four-time PBA Player of the Year, had previous Tournament of Champions wins back-to-back in 2014 and 2015.
“It’s madness,” said Belmonte, who was top qualifier for the stepladder finals. “To work so hard at your craft means the world to be here at this moment. “It hasn’t completely sunk in and to have my name next to Pete and Earl is an overwhelming feeling right now.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would achieve this,” he added. “It doesn’t seem real to have my name on that list with two of the greatest bowlers of all time.”
In the title match, Belmonte started with the first four strikes before leaving a 10 pin in the fifth frame, which he missed. Despite the open frame, Belmonte held a 19-pin lead and Tackett could not take advantage of the opportunity to mount a challenge.
The Tournament of Champions also offered a $1 million bonus if a player bowled a 300 game in the title match.
“I started off with five good shots and was pretty calm for the most part,” Belmonte said. “I did feel the nerves on that spare shot and rushed it. I pride myself on making 10 pins, but my heart was racing and I think I was trying a little too hard to get that frame over with.”
Belmonte, who won his 19th career tour title, also became the youngest to win 10 major titles. Anthony won his 10th major at 46 and Weber won the 2013 Tournament of Champions for his 10th major at 50. It also took Belmonte 12 years since becoming a PBA member in 2008 to win 10 majors which is also a record. It took Anthony 16 years and Weber 35 years.
Tackett, who was trying for his 13th career title and third major, qualified third for the finals and won matches against three-time tour winner Josh Blanchard of Mesa, Ariz., 264-236, in the second match, and No. 2 qualifier four-time tour winner Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., 238-192, in the semifinal match to advance to the title match against Belmonte.
In the opening stepladder match, Blanchard beat Sean Lavery-Spahr of Pasadena, Texas, 190-180, to advance to the second match against Tackett. Lavery-Spahr, a four-time PBA regional winner who qualified fifth for the finals, earned his spot in the Tournament of Champions field through a pre-tournament qualifier.
It won’t be long before Belmonte will have an opportunity to break the majors record when the Go Bowling! PBA Tour travels to Columbus, Ohio for the season’s second major – the PBA Players Championship – Feb. 12-17 at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
“Now that I’ve won 10 I can’t wait to get to 11,” Belmonte said. “If I get to 11, I’ll be able to put my total focus on bowling and not so much on about the records.”
The $ 1 million bonus title match bonus remains in effect for the Players Championship stepladder finals which will be televised live on FS1 Feb. 17 at 1 p.m. ET.
1, Jason Belmonte, Australia, $50,000.
2, EJ Tackett, Bluffton, Ind., $25,000.
3, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., $13,000.
4, Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz., $11,000.
5, Sean Lavery-Spahr, Pasadena, Texas, $10,000.
Match One: Blanchard def. Lavery-Spahr, 190-180.
Match Two: Tackett def. Blanchard, 264-236.
Semifinal: Tackett def. Kent, 238-192.
Championship: Belmonte def. Tackett, 225-196.