Nineteen-year-old Anthony Simonsen won the 2016 United States Bowling Congress Masters to become the youngest player to win a major title on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour.
Simonsen struck on eight of his first nine shots in the championship match at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis to secure a 245-207 victory against Dan Maclelland, who recently gave up his PBA membership and was looking to become the first amateur since 2002 to win the USBC Masters.
The victory earned Simonsen $50,000 and the Masters trophy, while Maclelland took home $25,000 as the runner-up.
Simonsen, at 19 years and 39 days old, surpasses USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Mike Aulby as the youngest major champion. Aulby was 19 years and 83 days old when he won the PBA National Championship in 1979 for the first of his eight major titles.
"It's definitely a dream come true," said Simonsen, who won his first title earlier this year when he teamed with Connor Pickford to win the Mark Roth/Marshall Holman Doubles Championship and just missed becoming the youngest player to win a PBA Tour title. "And it's awesome to break a record. Mike Aulby was a great player. Missing the youngest to be a title-holder by two days was a little disappointing, but to come out and get the job done today, I guess I'll take that as evening itself out."
The decision to pursue a career on the lanes was one Simonsen didn't take lightly, but he quickly was able to prove himself with two PBA regional victories on the way to PBA Southwest Region Rookie of the Year honors for the 2014 season.
Equal success at the national level has been just as quick, but Simonsen still is focused and humble.
"I made the decision at a young age to come on out, and it was about getting out here and getting experience, which really is starting to pay off," Simonsen said. "This is my first full year out on tour, and I bowled a majority of the major events that were possible. To have success is awesome, but a title doesn't define you. You have to keep coming out and trying to perform week in and week out, and see where it takes you."
For Maclelland, this week at the Masters was a vacation away from his full-time job as a bowling center general manager, and a chance to catch up with all the people he no longer gets to see since leaving the PBA Tour.
"It was great to be here and see everyone again, and I really love bowling in the Masters," Maclelland said. "This is one event I always try to bowl in, and it was a fun week. It's a little disappointing, but I'm not upset. Things just didn't go my way. Anthony bowled great all week."
For stepladder round matches leading up to the title tilt between Simonsen and Maclelland, go to: https://www.bowlersjournal.com/old/?cat=7.
Defending champion, Jason Belmonte, was among the final eight bowlers from this year's 417-player field, but losses Saturday to Malott and Sweden's Martin Larsen ended Belmonte's bid for a fourth Masters crown.
The 2016 Masters featured a total prize fund of $295,000. All competitors this week bowled 15 games of qualifying, before a cut was made to the top 63, who joined Belmonte in the double-elimination match-play bracket.
— Matt Cannizzaro, USBC Communications
• To view the full double-elimination match play results, go to: http://scores.bowl.com/2016-Masters/2016MastersBracket.pdf.
• Dennis Bergendorf will have full feature coverage of Simonsen’s victory in the April issue of Bowlers Journal International.
• For a preview of the third major tournament of the PBA’s “Big February” series, go to: https://www.bowlersjournal.com/old/?p=12245.