Australia's Jason Belmonte became the first bowler in the 64-year history of the United States Bowling Congress Masters to win the event three consecutive times on Sunday, defeating collegiate bowler AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois, 202-157.
Belmonte, the two-time reigning Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year, pulled away down the stretch at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley to claim the Masters for the third straight year live on ESPN.
Utilizing his unique two-handed delivery, Belmonte has amassed 11 career PBA Tour titles, including four major victories. He earned $50,000 for winning the Masters.
"I just think the Masters is just a brutal tournament to not just win, but just to make it to the TV show," said Belmonte, who joined USBC Hall of Famer Mike Aulby (1989, 1995 and 1998) as the event's second three-time winner. "This means more to me than anyone can possibly imagine - that a kid from Australia who bowls different than everyone else is now in the history books."
The title match was a low-scoring affair as Belmonte and the top-seeded Johnson both got off to shaky starts. After four frames, both players were working on opens with Belmonte leading by just four pins.
Strikes in the fifth and sixth frames helped Belmonte build more of a lead before he converted the 3-4-10 split in the seventh frame to stay ahead. Johnson had a chance to put pressure on Belmonte in the final two frames but closed with a pair of open frames.
"I feel a little disappointed because I wish I would have bowled a better game in the finals," said Johnson, a two-time Team USA member and senior at McKendree University. "The lanes got tough and it went by so fast that by the time I could settle down the game was almost over."
In the semifinal, Belmonte won a tense match against USBC Hall of Famer Pete Weber of St. Ann, Missouri, 232-210. Weber had an opportunity to strike out in the final frame to force a tie, but left the 3-10 split on his first shot in the final frame.
Weber entered the stepladder finals as the No. 4 seed, taking down Martin Larsen of Sweden in the opening match, 237-223, and then defeating No. 3 seed Mike DeVaney of Winchester, California, in the second match, 211-204.
The Masters, which featured a total prize fund of $253,000, is part of the World Bowling Tour and a major event on the PBA Tour. A sold-out field of 336 of the top bowlers in the world competed in the event.
For more information on the Masters, visit BOWL.com/Masters.
2015 USBC MASTERS
At The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley, Green Bay, Wisconsin
1, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 434 (two games), $50,000
2, AJ Johnson, Oswego, Ill., 157 (one game), $25,000
3, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 658 (three games), $15,000
4, Mike DeVaney, Winchester, Calif., 204 (one game) $10,000
5, Martin Larsen, Sweden, 223 (one game), $8,000
Match One - Weber def. Larsen, 237-223
Match Two - Weber def. DeVaney, 211-204
Match Three - Belmonte def. Weber, 232-210
Championship - Belmonte def. Johnson, 202-157