ORANGE’S Jason Belmonte yesterday became the first tenpin bowler in almost half a century to defend his United States Bowling Congress Masters title.
Belmonte defeated American EJ Tackett, the reigning Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) rookie of the year, in the final at the Brunswick Zone Carolier, in New Jersey.
Belmonte downed Tackett 221-177 in the final match after opening up a big lead early. The two-handed bowler eased to the title, earning $50,000 in the process and making him just the third bowler to successfully defend a Masters title, joining Billy Welu (1964 and 1965) and Dick Hoover (1956 and 1957) in a prestigious club.
Getting out of the gates quickly, Belmonte took advantage of Tackett’s slow start to take out his ninth career PBA Tour title, and his third major. Belmonte started the match with a spare, before rattling off four consecutive strikes to take a commanding lead.
It took until the final frame for Belmonte to secure victory however. He converted a four-pin and finished with a strike on his final ball.
“In the ninth frame I was thinking to get up and get a strike to put it beyond a doubt,” he explained.
“I threw it OK, not great but OK. Leaving a big four I knew I had to do a lot of work. I should’ve just thrown my plastic ball down the middle all day - I threw a strike with it earlier, I should’ve used it for four games.”
Belmonte said the win capped off an incredible year, and was the result of countless hours of hard work on the lanes.
“I’m beyond proud,” he said.
“To do what I’m doing is really heartfelt and proud. I’m extremely honoured to be a part of the PBA and win the Masters twice, along with back-to-back majors, and break a few records along the way.
“ I’m just very honoured.”
With the win Belmonte also added his name to a shortlist of players who have won back-to-back major titles. He won the Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions in January and is the seventh player in history to win back-to-back majors.