WHEN Orange’s Jason Belmonte took out the Barbasol Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tournament of Champions yesterday (AEDT) he moved one step closer to a career goal of being inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame.
The 30-year-old enjoyed a one-pin victory over Texan Wes Malott in the championship final in Michigan.
Belmonte was top qualifier for the finals and downed Malott 219-218 in the final on the Thunderbowl Lanes.
It gave Belmonte his eighth PBA career win and second major title.
“This is just awesome. What a feeling,” Belmonte told the Central Western Daily.
“The best bowlers in the history of the sport have their names written on this trophy and now I get to join that list of names. I’m so honoured.”
The win was made even more special because it makes him eligible to one day be inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame.
Bowlers must have at least eight titles including two majors, or 10 titles to be eligible.
“I want a hall of fame career and this win now entitles me to one day be inducted into the hall of fame,” Belmonte said.
It was thrilling final with Belmonte up by just one pin after three frames and up by 10 after seven frames.
The margin was reduced to one pin after the eighth frame and stayed that way going into the last with Belmonte leading 199-198.
Belmonte bowled an eight-spare-strike in the final frame.
Malott had to strike his first delivery of the final frame to be a chance of winning but he left the eight-pin standing.
“Listening to Wes bowl the last shot (I couldn’t look), I heard the pins and it sounded light,” Belmonte explained.
“I knew something was standing, but the fans were suggesting it could still fall. That’s when I looked up and saw the eight-pin standing, giving me the victory.”
The win reversed the result of last year’s US Open final where Malott came out on top 214-156 over Belmonte.
It also signalled one of Belmonte’s best performances in a tournament, having led from start to finish.
“I led the field by 363 (in qualifying), against the best in the world. It’s just so rare to lead by that much,” he said.
Belmonte, as top qualifier, had a nervous wait to see who his opponent in the final would be.
He looked on as Dan MacLelland downed Pete Weber 259-211, before Malott toppled MacLelland 248-199.
Malott then accounted for Dom Barrett 205-202 to earn his place in the final against Belmonte.
The TOC title made for a special few weeks for Belmonte who last week was voted the 2012-13 PBA Player of the Year.
“I have no idea how I can top this week,” he said.
Belmonte’s next event is bowling in the PBA League with LAX, followed by trying to defend his USBC Masters title.
“I’m excited to try and defend,” Belmonte said.
“I love the city we are playing at in New Jersey and the crowds come out in droves. So I’m looking forward to that.”