BY MIKE PANOZZO
Admittedly, 2021 has not been Jason Belmonte’s best on the PBA Tour. In fact, he says it has arguably been one of his worst.
But the six-time PBA Player of the Year insists he has plenty of motivation as his title defense at the U.S. Open begins today at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada.
“It would mean a lot to me, going through a lot of homesickness and tough times on the lanes to still be able to pull it all together and do something special,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte announced last week that the U.S. Open would be his final event of the season, and that he would skip the PBA Playoffs to return to Australia, where he and wife Kimberly are expecting their fourth child.
“Leaving the U.S. on a positive note will help me be more focused,” Belmonte added. “And there is still motivation to be the only player to own the Super Slam twice over.”
Belmonte became only the second player to claim the Super Slam — winning all five PBA major titles over the course of a career — when he won the U.S. Open in 2020. Mike Aulby was the first. A second U.S. Open crown would complete a second Super Slam for Belmonte.
Belmonte admitted that four months in the U.S. has been a grind, both physically and mentally, leading to his decision to return home following the U.S. Open.
“It really weighs on you,” Belmonte said of his bout with homesickness.
“But the good news is that I always feel like there’s a story for me to create,” he added. “And this one, for me, is that during a season that would arguably be one of my worst, I’m still motivated enough to come out and want to win a U.S. Open. Every time I hit the lanes, no matter my recent form, I believe I will find a way to win. I intend to really do well.”
As for his approach to the long U.S. Open format and its multiple patterns, Belmonte was matter of fact.
“I’ve won plenty of tournaments in various formats. For me, as long as I have a ball in my hand and I’m bowling, I like the format,” he said, adding coyly, “and I’m keeping my strategy on the lanes between myself on my tour reps.”
And win or lose, Belmonte is comfortable with his decision to return to Australia next week, even if he earns a spot in the lucrative PBA Playoffs.
“I understand what this means,” he said. “There’s a lot of money at stake and a title I haven’t won. But there is no amount of money that would make me miss the birth of my fourth child and seeing my family again.”