When two-time defending FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions winner, Jason Belmonte, competes in the 2016 edition of PBA’s signature championship Feb. 1-7 in Shawnee, Okla., he will be focused on yet another career milestone that will add to what is already one of the best runs in PBA majors history.
The 32-year-old two-hander from Australia will be trying to win his third consecutive TOC title, something only PBA Hall of Famer Jason Couch accomplished when he won in 1999, 2000 and 2002 (the TOC was not held in calendar year 2001). The tournament’s only other three-time winner is PBA and recent United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer electee, Mike Durbin, who won the TOC in 1972, 1982 and 1984.
Belmonte, who made an immediate impact on the sport with his revolutionary two-handed style when he earned PBA Rookie of the Year honors in 2009, has demonstrated his dominance in two of PBA’s major tournaments, winning a record three straight USBC Masters titles in addition to back-to-back TOCs. He’ll try to extend his Masters streak immediately following the TOC. The Masters, part of a three consecutive Sunday series of live PBA major championship telecasts on ESPN, will take place Feb. 8-14 in Indianapolis. The Barbasol PBA Players Championship is set for Feb. 16-21 in Columbus, Ohio.
“My biggest thought is to just bowl these events and not think about my successes in the past,” said the 12-time Tour winner and two-time defending Player of the Year from his home in Orange, Australia where he and his wife Kimberly are awaiting the birth of their third child. “I am as hungry to win these events this season as I’ve always been.
“I do have to admit that sometimes I feel that I look in the rearview mirror a little bit and trip over with what’s right in front of me, so I’ll be guarding against doing that as much as possible.”
Following his amazing start to the 2015 season, Belmonte appeared to be on his way to a third consecutive PBA Player of the Year title before he slumped a bit late in the year. Still considered a leading contender for the honor, he is awaiting word of the vote by his fellow players and bowling media veterans. The 2015 Player of the Year announcement will be made live on PBA’s Xtra Frame online bowling channel on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 3:45 p.m. ET.
After a 32nd-place finish in the Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open in November, Belmonte couldn’t get on track in the WSOB. He ended up with a 40th-place finish in the Rolltech PBA World Championship after failing to qualify for match play in all four of the animal pattern Tour events. While he has dominated the TOC and Masters, U.S. Open and World Championship titles remain elusive even though he has second-place finishes in each of them. He simply believes the minor setbacks of 2015 were object lessons as he heads into 2016.
“I feel my season was great until the World Series,” Belmonte said. “I was in the top five for just under 50 percent of the tournaments I bowled. My performances at the U.S. Open and the World Championship weren’t disasters. However, I always welcome the challenges of learning more about my game and how to better myself on the lanes.
“Learning from my mistakes has always been an important part of my growth as a bowler,” Belmonte continued. “I admit I probably wasn’t as sharp as I should have been mentally. I had distractions on my mind and that showed a poor performance. Accepting the challenges to get better and not run away from them will be the single biggest reason of my future success.”
Belmonte looks at the upcoming events as an opportunity to return to the winner’s circle despite what will be a grueling schedule.
“The TOC just happens to be the next event on Tour, but it could be any other event and my goal would be the same - to be sharp and ready upon arrival into the USA,” Belmonte said. “This swing of events, though, would suggest that if there was a time to ‘get back on track’ it would probably be the best time for that to happen to me.”
While he admits the thoughts of a new addition to the Belmonte household have been somewhat of a distraction, overall his family is his primary source of support and motivation.
“My family is the biggest source of motivation for me,” Belmont said. “Their support is why I have been able to achieve what I have in my career. Kimberly is an amazing person and she understands the responsibility of what bowling is to our family and to me. Somehow Kimberly manages to juggle everything when I am gone and she assures me that even with a third little person in the mix, my career will go on as usual.”