FAIRLAWN, Ohio (Feb. 11, 2018) – Advancing from a pre-tournament qualifier earlier in the week all the way to the title match, four-time Professional Bowlers Association regional tournament winner Matt O’Grady of Rahway, N.J., won the 53rd PBA Tournament of Champions Sunday for his first PBA Tour title.
O’Grady, whose best previous PBA Tour finish was fourth, and best major finish was 13th, won three stepladder finals matches at AMF Riviera Lanes before beating top qualifier and 2016 Tournament of Champions winner Jesper Svensson, 207-193, in the title match of the first major of the 2018 Go Bowling! PBA Tour season.
O’Grady held a three-pin lead over Svensson in the eighth frame but was able to pull away when he struck in the ninth frame and the first shot in the 10th. Except for strikes in the second and third frames, Svensson was not able to put another string of strikes together for the rest of the match.
“I feel like I’m sleepwalking—it’s a dream come true,” said the 31-year-old O’Grady, who won PBA’s signature event that requires a player to be a PBA champion to be eligible to enter. “It just shows you what hard work can do. I’ve been working hard the past year to be able to compete at this level.
“I admit that in the past I haven’t been as disciplined as I should be to be competitive out here on tour,” O’Grady added. “I just had to commit to putting my head down, grit my teeth, and do the hard work you have to do.”
For Svensson, it was his second consecutive runner-up finish in a major after finishing second in the PBA World Championship, the final major of the 2017 season.
O’Grady, who became the first player since Dave D’Entremont in the 1996 Tournament of Champions to win four stepladder matches for the title, started the championship round with a 219-174 victory over PBA regional winner BJ Moore of Greensburg, Pa., who finished fifth.
In the second match, O’Grady met four-time and reigning PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte of Australia, who was trying for a record-tying 10th major and third Tournament of Champions title. Needing a double in the 10th frame to pull out the win, Belmonte struck on the first ball but left a 10 pin on a pocket hit on the second shot giving O’Grady the 229-225 win.
“That was like climbing the mountain to win that match,” O’Grady said. “Obviously, I still had a lot of work to do but there was a lot of relief after beating Jason, especially with everything he was bowling for.”
Belmonte, who was the No. 3 qualifier, made a dramatic run to the finals just barely advancing to match play in the 24th and final position. Had he won, he would have been only the fourth player to win a major from that position.
Belmonte finished fourth but will have another opportunity to win a 10th major when the Barbasol PBA Players Championship is held Feb. 19-25 at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl in Columbus, Ohio.
In the semi-final match, O’Grady beat Andrew Anderson of Holly, Mich., a second-year tour player who owns one regional title, 194-185.
Anderson and Moore, making their first tour television appearances, also had to qualify for the tournament field through the pre-tournament qualifier which was for non-tour winners who owned a title in one of PBA’s other divisions.
The 2018 Tournament of Champions marked the return of PBA’s signature tournament to historic AMF Riviera Lanes where it had been conducted from 1966 to 1994.
The PBA Tour moves to Indianapolis for the PBA Go Bowling! 60th Anniversary Classic at Woodland Bowl which begins Tuesday and will conclude with the stepladder finals next Sunday (Feb. 18) at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.
PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
AMF Riviera Lanes, Fairlawn, Ohio, Sunday
1, Matt O’Grady, Rahway, N.J., $50,000.
2, Jesper Svensson, Sweden, $25,000.
3, Andrew Anderson, Holly, Mich. $13,000.
4, Jason Belmonte, Australia, $11,000.
5, BJ Moore, Greensburg, Pa., $10,000.
Match One – O’Grady def. Moore, 219-174.
Match Two – O’Grady def. Belmonte, 229-225.
Semifinal Match – O’Grady def. Anderson, 194-185.
Championship – O’Grady def. Svensson, 207-193.