Smallwood Climbs Ladder to Win PBA Players Championship for Second Major

by Jerry Schneider, Professional Bowlers Association 0

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Feb. 25, 2018) – Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, Mich., won four consecutive stepladder finals matches, including the title match against defending champion Jason Belmonte of Australia, to win the Barbasol PBA Players Championship at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl Sunday for his second major and third career PBA Tour title.

With a 10-pin lead heading into the final frame, the 40-year-old Smallwood struck on his first ball in the 10th to beat Belmonte, 259-239, in the title match for his first tournament win since the 2013 PBA Scorpion Championship.

The victory thwarted Belmonte’s attempt for a record-tying 10th major and 17th career tour title. Belmonte was the No. 1 qualifier for the finals, and as top qualifier, needed only to beat Smallwood for the title.

It was an uphill battle for Smallwood for the entire tournament. After finishing 93rd after the first round, he battled back to eventually earn the No. 5 qualifying position for the stepladder finals.

“That’s one of the assets of my game to grind through matches and never quit,” said Smallwood, whose first major came in the 2009 PBA World Championship. “I’m good with the pressure and if I’m not striking a lot I can hang in there to stay in contention. This tournament was a great example of that.”

Smallwood’s stepladder journey to the title started with a 237-206 win over Canadian Patrick Girard, trying for his first tour title, who missed the headpin four times in the first match.

Smallwood then edged out No. 3 qualifier Kris Prather of Plainfield, Ill., who was making his first TV finals appearance, 236-235. With both players working on a string of four strikes and tied heading into the 10th frame, Smallwood was able to take the win with a strike on his first ball and nine on his second shot after Prather struck and then left a seven-count split.

Smallwood then moved on to meet four-time tour winner Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., who was coming off a runner-up finish in last week’s PBA 60th Anniversary Classic. Smallwood again escaped with a one-pin victory, 225-224, when he spared in the 10th frame and threw a nine count on his final ball.

“I just kept telling myself to keep everything slow,” said Smallwood. “It was important to read what the ball was doing going down the lane and not overthink it. I just concentrated on keeping the ball in play.

“You could say there was more pressure on some shots than others, but in reality, there’s pressure on every shot,” Smallwood added. “I’m not complaining, this is what I live for.”

It marked the second consecutive major that the winner won all four stepladder matches for the title. Matt O’Grady of Rahway, N.J., won the PBA Tournament of Champions on Feb. 11 by sweeping all four finals matches.

Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, Columbus, Ohio, Sunday

Final Standings
1, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., $40,000.
2, Jason Belmonte, Australia, $20,000.
3, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., $12,000.
4, Kris Prather, Plainfield, Ill., $11,000.
5, Patrick Girard, Canada, $10,000.

Stepladder Results:
Match One – Smallwood def. Girard, 237-206.
Match Two – Smallwood def. Prather, 236-235.
Semifinal Match – Smallwood def. Kent, 225-224.
Championship – Smallwood def. Belmonte, 259-239.

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