Rhino Page survived a heated challenge Friday night at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis to hold on to the top qualifying position for Sunday’s finals in the 50th anniversary Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions by 45 pins over defending champion Jason Belmonte.
Page, who is hoping to win the Tournament of Champions title that evaded him in 2009, won 15 of his 24 matches and tied another, averaging 243.9 for 48 games for a 12,172 pinfall total. Belmonte, who hounded Page the entire tournament, closed his Friday morning round with a 300 game to move into second place and stayed there, finishing with 12,127.
Page, the 2008 PBA Rookie of the Year and a three-time title winner, is trying for his first title since 2009 and hopes to erase the memory of his errant four-count in the 10th frame of the 2009 TOC title match that cost him dearly in a 267-263 loss to Patrick Allen.
“It was a lot more exciting than I hoped it would be,” Page said. “I don’t think I’ve ever led from start to finish before, but now it doesn’t matter who I bowl; I get a little payback for the 2009 show. I know I’m going to bowl for the title, no matter what the other guys do.
“That 2009 show doesn’t bother me as much as people think,” he continued. “It doesn’t define my career. It was one bad shot. If people want to call that a choke, then everyone chokes.”
Qualifying No. 1 after undergoing potential career-ending wrist surgery two years ago is what Page thinks about more than that shot.
“When you’re going through surgery, there are some scary moments when you don’t know if you’ll ever be back,” he said. “To persevere through all of that and be bowling in the TOC title match? Tears almost flowed. It’s surreal. I just hope it’s the start of things to come.”
Belmonte, who won the USBC Masters for a record third consecutive time last Sunday, is again in position to make history. The Australian two-handed player is trying for his fifth major title in three years, and also has a chance to become the first player in PBA history to win back-to-back titles in both the Masters and Tournament of Champions.
Also advancing to Sunday’s finals are two-time PBA Tour titlist Ryan Ciminelli, 2012 TOC winner Sean Rash (who won that title with a 239-205 victory over Ciminelli), and Scott Norton, who threw the final five strikes in his 48th game to nip Allen by two pins for the fifth berth.
The five-player stepladder finals will be televised live on ESPN Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern. First place is worth $50,000.