ORANGE two-handed star Jason Belmonte sits atop of the Professional Bowlers Association world after claiming his first major title in North Brunswick, New Jersey, yesterday Australian time.
Competing in the final of the United States Bowling Congress Masters in front of a packed Brunswick Zone Carolier, Belmonte was made to work for his major title and the $US50,000 first prize by close friend, Texan Wes Malott.
In a drama charged final, Belmonte delivered three strikes in the final frame, including a heart-stopping second shot in the 10th when a pin darted across to take out the 10 pin at the last second.
The climax in a string of six straight strikes, Belmonte’s perfect final frame meant Malott needed to match the Australian with three strikes of his own to take the title by one pin.
But Malott faltered and the title was Belmonte’s courtesy of the 258-245 win.
“This is without a doubt the greatest feeling I’ve ever had on a pair of the lanes,” Belmonte, just the second international bowler to claim the Master’s prize behind Finland’s Mika Koivuniemi, said.
It’s Belmonte’s sixth PBA title in total.
But none have been this sweet, with Belmonte beating 468 players from 13 countries to take home the trophy.
“You come out on the PBA Tour, the hardest tour in the world with the greatest players in the world, and at the top of that tree are the majors. To finally get atop one and check the view out for the first time is golden,” he said.
“It’s absolutely beautiful.”
Belmonte finished the double elimination matchplay bracket of the Masters undefeated, earning top spot in the stepladder finals.
Parker Bohn III opened the first game of the stepladder finals with the first eight strikes against Koivuniemi in a 278-246 victory.
But Bohn, a PBA Hall of Famer, didn’t stand up against Malott.
Malott defeated Bohn 255-248.
In the semi-final, Malott overcome a spirited run from Englishman Stuart Williams to win match three of the stepladder finals, 202-185, advancing to the title match where he eventually went down by 13 pins against Belmonte.
“It was a fantastic match,” Belmonte’s father Aldo said.
“We couldn’t see the pictures but we found a website that had the commentary. It went down to the last ball. It was amazing.
“Wes Mallott is a close friend. It would have been a first major for either of them.
“You could hear the excitement in his voice.”
Belmonte is in a rich vein of form at the moment, having made it through to five of the last six televised finals in this year’s PBA Tour.
But the unprecedented air time the 29-year-old is getting didn’t help his mother as she watched her son edge closer to his maiden major title.
“We were watching the live scoring. Poor Marisa, she was as white as a ghost,” Aldo said.
The Masters, which featured a total prize fund of $325,000, is part of the World Tenpin Bowling Association World Bowling Tour.