Before Jason Belmonte narrowly squeaked into the 2021 USBC Masters bracket as the 58 seed following a tough few rounds of qualifying that left him -30, the possibility that he might miss the cut also left his PBA Playoffs chances in the balance. Yet even if he finds another gear in the Masters today to make a run and improve his PBA Playoffs standing, don't expect to see him shoe up for the tour's season-culminating clash among its top 16 points earners.
“Oh, I’ll make the PBA Playoffs, because I’m going to bowl well at the U.S. Open. But whether I qualify for the playoffs or not, I’m still going home after the U.S. Open,” he said.
Belmonte insists that the mental grind of being in the States for four months because of Australia’s rigid COVID-19 policy has taken a toll.
“It’s been fourth months since I’ve been home,” Belmonte said. “My grandparents are getting old and not doing too well. My wife Kimberly is pregnant with our fourth child. We’re building a new house. The kids have been busy. I’ve pretty much left everything to my heavily pregnant wife who also works as a registered nurse. I’ve really, really missed home.
“If I stay for the playoffs and do well,” he rationalized, “it’s another month, followed by two weeks’ isolation in Australia. I would miss the birth of my child. And I’m not going to turn up just for a paycheck and, if I bowl well, leave before the final four and give someone a bye. The event deserves 100 percent commitment and effort.
“In the end, there is no amount of money that would convince me to miss the birth of my child. I want to be home and see Kimberly and my kids, who I’ve missed terribly.”
Belmonte missed out on a similar, though smaller scale, event in 2020 when COVID restrictions prevented him from making the trip to the U.S. to bowl last year's PBA Tour Finals, which was a contest among the tour's top eight points earners over a two-year span. Belmonte would have been the No. 1 player for that event.
Of the possibility that Belmonte could be a no-show for the 2021 playoffs, PBA Commissioner Tom Clark said, "Jason and I had a conversation about the PBA Playoffs during the World Series of Bowling. He walked me through his thought process. Given all the variables, the timing, COVID protocols in Australia and his family as the priority, I understand Jason's position."
By rule, if a player cannot compete in the playoffs, all qualifiers move up one spot relative to the missing competitor.