Many already consider him worthy of the tag, but Orange's Jason Belmonte is now legitimately one step away from becoming the GOAT – the greatest of all-time – after equalling the record for most career major wins at this week’s PBA Tournament of Champions.
In downing American EJ Tackett 225-196 in the final Belmonte celebrated his 10th career major victory, drawing level with two of the all-time greats in Earl Anthony and Pete Weber.
The victory was Belmonte’s third Tournament of Champions triumph and he now joins Jason Crouch and Mike Durbin as the just the third bowler to achieve that feat.
The 35-year-old, who cut his teeth at Orange Tenpin Bowl and still lives in the colour city when not on tour, will have a chance to make the outright record his own when the PBA Players’ Championship kicks off in Ohio next week.
“I don’t think it’s completely sunk in but just the simple fact that my name is next to Earl Anthony and Pete Weber doesn’t seem real, it seems a bit odd,” Belmonte told flobowling.com moments after the win.
“I have this really overwhelming feeling to get No. 11 now. It has really motivated me to work harder and not be content equaling them.
“I want to win as many as I can.”
It has really motived me to work harder and not be content equaling them.Jason Belmonte
Belmonte, the top seed, dominated the final against Tackett in much the same way he had in the tournament’s qualifying and match-play stages.
He jumped out to a 30-plus pin lead near the halfway point of the deciding game and didn’t look back, by the 10th frame he’d all but shut Tackett out.
He needed only a mark to shut his American rival out and, after leaving a pocket 10-pin, nailed it for the spare, which sparked raucous celebrations.
There was a $1 million prize on offer had either Belmonte or Tackett produced a 300-game in the championship, the Australian creating some hope by opening the clash with four strikes. He left a hanging 10-pin in the fifth frame though, putting the kibosh on that hope.
Tackett, on the other hand, struggled somewhat through the championship game, notching plenty of spares and only tossing just four strikes in his 196.
The victory was also Belmonte’s 19th career PBA title, he does remain a long way off the overall mark in those terms, with Walter Ray Williams’ 47 considered a mark that will continue to stand the test of time.
The Players’ Championship, at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl in Ohio, begins this week.
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