ORLANDO, Fla. – Australia’s veteran two-handed star, Jason Belmonte, rediscovered his magic just in time to upset his youthful Swedish protégé, 22-year-old Jesper Svensson, and advance to the championship match of the inaugural Main Event PBA Tour Finals at Main Event Entertainment.
The Main Event PBA Tour Finals is a new event featuring the top eight PBA members in total earnings over the past 30 months, divided into two pods of four players for a combination of round-robin match play and stepladder matches. The Group One stepladder finals round aired Tuesday on CBS Sports Network. The Group Two stepladder finals round will air on Tuesday, June 20, at 9:30 p.m. EDT.
Belmonte, a nine-year PBA Tour veteran at age 33, used lessons learned from his experimentation in the round-robin match play qualifying portion of the elite tournament to narrow his choices of equipment and angle of attack to overpower three opponents in the Group One stepladder round.
The three-time PBA Player of the Year and winner of 14 PBA Tour titles, including eight majors, roared out of the starting gate with eight consecutive strikes to eliminate no. 4 qualifier Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas, 262-215. Belmonte’s bid for a 300 game ended when he left the 3-4-6-7-10 split in the ninth frame, but just to add to the excitement, he converted the split.
The no. 3 qualifier was almost as good in eliminating no. 2 qualifier Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., in the second match. Striking nine times on his first 11 shots – and leaving 10 pins which he converted in both non-strike frames, Belmonte eliminated Rash, 255-221. Rash’s downfall came in the fifth frame when he left the 4-6-7-9-10 “Greek church” split, which he failed to convert.
The two-game, total pinfall final match was a thriller. Svensson gained a one-pin advantage after the first game, winning 258-257 only because Belmonte left a 10 pin on his final shot. The decisive second game tilted in Belmonte’s favor when Svensson left a 7-10 split in his third frame. Belmonte then left a 9 pin in the fifth frame, and another in the ninth, converting both, but the single pins disrupted strings of strikes while Svensson was mounting a six-strike rally.
Heading into the 10th frame, Belmonte led by three pins. Svensson’s rally ended when his ball came into the pocket a touch too high and left a 6-8 split, which he failed to convert. Even though Belmonte left a 7-10 split on his first shot in the 10th frame, he had enough to win the game, 225-221, and the match, 482-479.
“Look at our games and we were almost equally lucky and unlucky,” Belmonte said.”(Jesper) threw a couple of shots that weren’t great and got away with them, and then he threw an unbelievable shot and left a 9 pin (in game one). And I did the same thing.
“It was a good match, especially because the scoring pace was low in the second game, but sometimes you’ve got to bring these young kids down a little bit,” Belmonte added with a smile. “Listen, he’s going to be around a lot longer than I am so he should just let me have a few extra wins now, and he can get them all back when I retire.”
The second half of the elite Main Event PBA Tour Finals field will bowl its stepladder round next Tuesday to determine the player who will meet Belmonte in the three-game championship match on Tuesday, June 27, at 9:30 p.m., as well as the runner-up who will bowl the one-game preliminary match against Svensson to determine third and fourth places.
The Group Two stepladder round will begin with no. 4 qualifier Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., bowling no. 3 Dom Barrett of England. The winner will meet no. 2 qualifier Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, N.Y. The semifinal match winner will bowl top qualifier E.J. Tackett of Huntington, Ind., in the two-game, total pinfall final match. The winner will advance to the championship match against Belmonte while the loser will meet Svensson in the third-fourth place preliminary match.
First prize in the Main Event is $30,000 top prize plus a PBA Tour title.
MAIN EVENT PBA TOUR FINALS
Main Event, Orlando, Fla. (aired Tuesday on CBS Sports Network)
Group One Stepladder Round:
Match One (loser earned $3,000): Jason Belmonte, Australia, def. Anthony Simonsen, Austin, Texas, 262-215.
Semifinal Match (loser earned $3,000): Belmonte def. Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 255-221.
Group One Final Match (two games, total pinfall): Belmonte (257-225) def. Jesper Svensson (258-221), Sweden, 482-479. (Belmonte advances to the championship match; Svensson advances to the third- and fourth-place match).
Group Two Stepladder Round Pairings (to air on CBS Sports Network on June 20 at 9:30 p.m. EDT)
Match One: Dom Barrett vs. Tommy Jones.
Semifinal Match: Ryan Ciminelli vs. Match One winner.
Championship (two games, total pinfall): E,J. Tackett vs. Semifinal Match winner.
Championship Finals Pairings (to air on CBS Sports Network on June 27 at 9:30 p.m. EDT)
Third-Fourth Place Match: Jesper Svensson vs. Group Two runner-up.
Championship (three games, total pinfall): Jason Belmonte vs. Group Two champion.