Belmonte Eyes Record Fourth USBC Masters Title as Top Qualifier for ESPN Finals

by Jerry Schneider February 25, 2017 12:05

Australia's Jason Belmonte averaged nearly 240 in three matches Saturday to remain undefeated at the USBC Masters and now is one win away from becoming the first player to win the event four times.

The 33-year-old entered the day as one of eight players remaining in the winners bracket and rolled sets of 722, 711 and 722 at The Orleans Bowling Center, defeating England's Dom Barrett, Bill O'Neill of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and Alex Hoskins of Brigham City, Utah.

The victory over Hoskins earned Belmonte the top seed at the USBC Masters for the second time in his career. He has a perfect record on Masters telecasts, winning the tournament in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from the No. 1, No. 5 and No. 2 seeds, respectively.

The 2017 event features a total prize fund of nearly $300,000 and is a major event on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour. The finals will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

"Right now, I'm not even thinking about winning again," said Belmonte, who owns 13 PBA Tour titles, including seven majors. "I'm just really happy with today because I was able to execute really well and was able to put up three solid sets. I'll probably start strategizing a little tonight, but most of the decisions will come tomorrow based on who's on the show and where they're playing."

022517MastersFinal_637Hoskins, a 24-year-old right-hander competing in his first Masters, earned the No. 2 spot in the stepladder after notching wins against Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, reigning Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year EJ Tackett of Huntington, Indiana, Argentina's Lucas Legnani, USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber and Sweden's Martin Larsen, before falling to Belmonte in the match to determine the top seed.

"It's a dream come true to even have the opportunity to bowl for a spot on the show," said Hoskins, who is looking to become the first amateur to win the Masters since Arizona's Brett Wolfe in 2002. "I grew up around bowling and bowling centers, always trying to learn and get better as a bowler. My goal was to make the first cut and then apply everything I've learned to get through each round. Then, I was able to stay in the process this week and not let any emotions get in the way."

Belmonte and Hoskins will be joined on the show by brothers Darren and Michael Tang of San Francisco and Larsen, who survived the four-player final elimination match that determined the last three seeds.

Darren Tang won the shootout, flirting with perfection on the way to a 289 game and 742 series, and he will be the No. 3 seed for the show. Michael Tang's 716 set was enough to take the No. 4 spot, and he'll face Larsen, last year's sixth-place finisher (652), in the show's opening match. O'Neill shot 559 in the shootout and was eliminated, finishing sixth.

Both Darren Tang and Larsen have runner-up finishes in PBA Tour events, while Michael Tang won the 2015 Intercollegiate Singles Championships under the TV lights. Sunday will mark the first national TV appearance for Hoskins.

The last time brothers met on a PBA Tour telecast was at the 1994 PBA National Championship, when David Traber defeated his brother Dale in the title match. The last time two brothers met in the stepladder finals at the Masters was 1980 when Neil Burton defeated his brother, Nelson (Bo), in the semifinal, before topping hall of famer Mark Roth for the title.

Defending champion Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas, fell to Mike Dole of Loves Park, Illinois, in the final set of matches in the elimination bracket Friday to end his reign as Masters champion.

Competitors in the 395-player field this week bowled 15 games of qualifying, before a cut was made to the top 63, who joined Simonsen in the double-elimination match-play bracket.

All rounds of the Masters were covered live on Xtra Frame, the PBA's online bowling channel. For subscription information, visit pba.com.

The USBC Masters telecast will be followed immediately by the live ESPN telecast of the World Bowling Tour Finals. Both telecasts will also be available on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app for those who want to catch Sunday’s action on their computers or mobile devices.

For complete Masters match play results click on http://scores.bowl.com/2017Masters/2017MastersBrackets.pdf

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Weber, Belmonte Among Undefeated After First Day of USBC Masters Match Play

by Jerry Schneider February 24, 2017 14:35

USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber said that on a scale of one to 10, the pain he was feeling in his hip Friday at the USBC Masters was closer to a 12, but nothing is going to slow his momentum at the one major that has eluded him.

The 54-year-old right-hander aggravated a nagging hip injury during the second round of match play at The Orleans Bowling Center but was able win that match and one more to remain undefeated. He is one of eight players left in the winners bracket at the 2017 Masters.

The event features a total prize fund of nearly $300,000 and is a major event on the PBA Tour. The finals will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

On the way to a 3-0 record Friday, Weber topped Greg Ostrander of Freehold, New Jersey, Chris Loschetter of Avon, Ohio, and Cotie Holbek of Burlington, Wisconsin.

"As of right now, I don't care about the pain," said Weber, who has 37 PBA Tour titles, including a record-tying 10 majors. "I am here to win. Period."

Weber will face off against Alex Hoskins of Brigham City, Utah, when match play resumes Saturday morning at noon Eastern.

Other winners bracket matches scheduled for Saturday are Sweden's Martin Larsen against Craig Nidiffer of Trenton, Michigan, Bill O'Neill of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, against Darren Tang of San Francisco and England's Dom Barrett taking on three-time Masters winner Jason Belmonte of Australia.

Belmonte is looking for his unprecedented fourth Masters title, having won the event three consecutive times in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The 33-year-old closed Friday with an exciting win against Mike Machuga of Erie, Pennsylvania, who has been publicly outspoken against two-handed bowling.

The match came down to the final frame after a missed 7 pin from Belmonte in the sixth frame helped Machuga close a 51-pin gap. A strike on the first shot of his final frame would've given Machuga the win, but he left a 10 pin on his first offering, eventually falling 729-722.

"I feel like Mike has a gleam in his eye when he has to bowl me, but that makes me step things up, too," said Belmonte, who joins USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Mike Aulby as the only bowlers to win three Masters titles. "He's one of the most versatile players around, so there's really no way to shut him out. Instead, I just tried to bowl my own game and do what I could to help myself score. I did make a careless mistake on that spare, and I have to work on composing myself better in those moments."

Eight bowlers remain in the elimination bracket as well, and they also will return to the lanes at The Orleans on Saturday at noon Eastern.

The list of competitors in the elimination bracket includes Ronnie Sparks of Redford, Michigan, Mike Dole of Loves Park, Illinois, Holbek, Argentina's Lucas Legnani, Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, Michigan, EJ Tackett of Huntington, Indiana, 16-year-old Jalen Mosley of Indianapolis, and Michael Tang of San Francisco.

Defending champion Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas, fell to Dole in the final set of matches in the elimination bracket Friday to end his reign as Masters champion.

All competitors this week bowled 15 games of qualifying, before a cut was made to the top 63, who joined Simonsen in the double-elimination match-play bracket.

All rounds of the Masters are being covered live on Xtra Frame, the PBA's online bowling channel. For subscription information, visit pba.com.

For complete match play results click on http://scores.bowl.com/2017Masters/2017MastersBrackets.pdf

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Kruml, Belmonte Top 64 Players Advancing to USBC Masters Match Play

by Jerry Schneider February 23, 2017 17:10

Saying Australian two-hander Jason Belmonte has been dominant at the United States Bowling Congress Masters would be an understatement, and he is on a tear again this week at The Orleans Bowling Center.

The 33-year-old has been around the top of the leaderboard all week, leaving the lanes with the lead in two of the three qualifying rounds, but he'll enter the double-elimination match-play bracket as the No. 2 seed behind Nick Kruml of Downers Grove, Illinois, who ended qualifying Thursday with games of 288 and 266 to secure the top seed.

The two are among the 64 bowlers who advanced to match play, which includes defending champion Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas, who qualified 59th.

Kruml, a 23-year-old right-hander, finished the 15 games of qualifying with a 3,594 total, a 239.6 average, and now has made match play in all three of his USBC Masters appearances. He exited with 1-2 records in both 2015 and 2016, and he has been focused on using those experiences to improve in 2017.

Belmonte posted a 3,578 total and was followed by fellow Australian Sam Cooley (3,540), Michael Tang of San Francisco (3,517) and Jesse Buss of Belvidere, Illinois (3,470).

Belmonte's career at the Masters has been beyond remarkable. In 10 previous visits, he has finished in the top 10 six times, including three consecutive wins in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He now has advanced to match play for the 10th time in his 11 appearances, and he's looking to become the event's first four-time winner.

"Now, it's a new tournament, and it becomes a lot more strategic," Belmonte said. "We'll be following our own transition, so there will be some discussion about how I want to play the lanes and how my opponent is thinking about playing them. I just need to be smart, watch the lanes and bowl the best match I can. If I get beat, I'll know my opponent bowled better and earned it."

The final two spots in the bracket were decided by a roll-off after Chad Kloss of Cudahy, Wisconsin, Brandon Novak of Chillicothe, Ohio, and Vernon Peterson of Las Vegas tied for 63rd place at 3,223, a 214.87 average.

The three bowled one game to determine which two would advance and who would go home.

Peterson led the way with a 201 game and was followed by Novak (200) and Kloss (188). Peterson will enter the bracket at No. 63, while Novak goes in at No. 64, earning him an opening-round match with Kruml.

All competitors at The Orleans this week bowled 15 games of qualifying over three days to determine the match-play field. Three-game total pinfall will determine who advances in the bracket.

Match play gets underway Friday at noon Eastern and will continue throughout the day Friday and Saturday to determine the five players for the championship round. Those five bowlers will compete in the stepladder finals, live on ESPN at 1 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, Feb. 26.

For complete results after the third round visit http://scores.bowl.com/2017Masters/2017MastersRound3.pdf

All qualifying and match play rounds of the Masters are being covered live on Xtra Frame, the PBA's online bowling channel. For subscription information, visit PBA.com.

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PBA Spare Shots: PBA’s ESPN Telecasts Continue to Post Impressive Viewership Gains

by Bill Vint February 23, 2017 08:16

With the final championship events of “Big February” scheduled to air live Sunday, the PBA on ESPN continues to have strong viewership gains year-over-year. Through the first 10 telecasts of the 2016-17 ESPN season including the WSOB, viewership is up 13%, averaging 650,000.

BelmoBig February’s four shows so far include the Main Event Terrell Owens PBA Super Clash (averaging 712,000 viewers), the Barbasol PBA Players Championship (averaging 664,000 viewers), the State Farm CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational (averaging 834,000 viewers) and FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions (averaging 704,000 viewers). Each of the shows has been among the highest rated sports program on cable on its respective air date.

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Of note, the State Farm CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational had a strong rating among coveted 18-49 year-olds, with 482,000 of the 834,000 average number of viewers in that category (58 percent).

Tackett.EJ_2017 TOC (42)Big February concludes Sunday with another TV first for the PBA on ESPN: back-to-back live telecasts. First the USBC Masters title will be decided with a stepladder final at 1 p.m. EST (10 a.m. PST), followed by the Men’s and Women’s World Bowling Tour Finals at 3 p.m. EST (noon PST), both live from The Orleans in Las Vegas.

In addition to ESPN’s live coverage, the Masters and WBT Finals will be live streamed on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.

WORLD BOWLING TOUR FINALS TO FEATURE EXPERIMENTAL SCORING SYSTEM

The 2016 World Bowling Tour season officially concludes Sunday when the PBA presents the World Bowling Tour Men’s and Women’s Finals, live on ESPN at 3 p.m. EST from The Orleans Bowling Center in Las Vegas.

Sunday’s WBT finals will include men’s top qualifier Martin Larsen of Sweden, Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas, and Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash. The women’s finalists will be defending champion Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y.; Colombia’s Anggie Ramirez, and Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y. Players in both divisions will compete for $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 prizes.

Competition will again be conducted using the experimental “World Bowling scoring system” introduced last year whereby players will bowl 10 frames with a strike counting as 30 points, a spare counting for 10 points plus the number of pins converted (example: a 10 pin spare will be worth 10 plus 9 = 19), and an open frame will count as the actual pinfall (example: if a player leaves the 4-6-7-10 split and converts the 4-7, the score for the frame will be 8).

The maximum score under the World Bowling system is still 300 – based on 10 consecutive strikes - and there is no extra shot or bonus pins in the 10th frame. In last year’s final, England’s Dom Barrett shot the first “World Bowling 300 game” in winning the men’s title over American qualifier Mike Fagan, 300-256.

XTRA FRAME CONTINUES “BIG FEBRUARY” COVERAGE AT THE MASTERS

Xtra Frame’s “Big February” coverage continues with qualifying and double-elimination match play coverage of the USBC Masters today through Saturday from The Orleans Bowling Center in Las Vegas. The Masters finals, followed by the World Bowling Tour Men’s and Women’s Finals presented by the PBA will air live, back-to-back, on ESPN on Sunday, Feb. 26, beginning at 1 p.m. EST.

Xtra Frame subscriptions are available for $3.99 (three days), $7.99 (a full month) or the full year Xtra Frame Season Ticket (at about $5 a month). Visit xtraframe.tv to enroll.

QUBICA AMF PBA REGIONAL UPDATE: BARNES WINS 27TH REGIONAL TITLE IN SHAWNEE

PBA Southwest Region Hall of Famer and 18-time PBA Tour champion Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, defeated Greg Ostrander of Freehold, N.J., 243-200, to win his 27th QubicaAMF PBA Regional title and the $2,500 first prize in the second annual PBA FireLake Grand Casino Resort Southwest Winter Open at FireLake Bowling Center preceding the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions.

Barnes, one of several PBA Tour champions who used the event as a warmup for the TOC, qualified in sixth place for the best-of-two-game match play elimination rounds in the regional event, and he began his march to the title with a 2-0 victory over PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Oxford, Fla. He then disposed of BJ Moore III of Greensburg, Pa., 2-0 in the Round of 8 and won his semifinal round match against defending champion Anthony Pepe of Elmhurst, N.Y., 213-210.

Greg McMahan of Dandridge, Tenn., defeated Brian Kretzer of Dayton, Ohio, 213-205, 216-212, in the best-of-three-game title match to win his fourth QubicaAMF PBA Regional title in the PBA50 Dave Edwards Toyota Spartanburg Southern Open presented by Global 900 at Paradise Lanes in Spartanburg, S.C., Sunday.

McMahan, who was in control throughout both games of the title match, won the $2,400 first prize while Kretzer pocketed $1,400 as the runner-up. In the best-of-three semifinal round, McMahan swept Dave Sill of Titusville, Fla., 237-212, 208-203, while Kretzer rallied to eliminate Dale Csuhta of Wadsworth, Ohio, 208-205, 199-181.

● For complete QubicaAMF PBA Regional schedules, rules and entry information heading into the new year, visit pba.com, open the “schedules” tab and click on QubicaAMF Regional Tours to find the event(s) in your area. For more information about QubicaAMF, visit www.qubicaamf.com or, for social media posts, visit http://bit.ly/QAMFSponsorship1.

QUICK NOTES

● PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber has learned he’ll be inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame in September, along with standout St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter. Additional details will be announced later.

● Just in time for the Mark Roth/Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship in Portland, Maine, the PBA Store (pba.com/store) is offering a new line of Mark Roth signature t-shirts and polos. The Roth/Holman doubles event will include a pro-am and qualifying rounds April 9-12, concluding with live ESPN stepladder finals on Sunday, April 16, at 1 p.m. ET.

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Tang, Belmonte Lead USBC Masters After Second Round

by Jerry Schneider February 22, 2017 15:57

 

Michael Tang of San Francisco holds the top spot in the 2017 USBC Masters after two rounds with a 2,479 total, a 247.9 average. He opened the event with a 296 game and found his stride again Wednesday for the highest block of the day, a 1,261 effort at The Orleans Bowling Center in Las Vegas.

Tang's rise to the top of the leaderboard Wednesday included games of 258, 258, 247, 267 and 231. His low game of the event is 220,

"I've been able to get into a spot with urethane that allows me to have a little bit of miss room right and left," said Tang, a senior at San Jose State University and the 2015 Intercollegiate Singles Championships winner. "As they've developed, it has gotten better for me because I can parallel left and get more aggressive with my hand, which is my strong suit. The lanes have been really coming to me so far, so we'll see how the burn squad goes tomorrow."

Three-time Masters champion Jason Belmonte of Australia is second with 2,416, England's Stuart Williams is fourth with 2,362 and Steve Pavlinko Jr. of Sewell, New Jersey, rounds out the top five with 2,358.

Belmonte is trying for his second major title of the season after winning the recent Barbasol PBA Players Championship. It was his seventh major and 13th career Tour title. It was also the three-time PBA Player of the Year’s first Tour title in two years.

For the second consecutive day, Nick Kruml of Downers Grove, Illinois, is among the leaders at the United States Bowling Congress Masters, and, as has been the case at various points of his bowling career, he's on the cusp of a breakout performance.

The 23-year-old right-hander has averaged more than 237 through two days of qualifying and his 10-game total of 2,378 is third among the 395 competitors.

Kruml is in familiar territory, having advanced to the double-elimination match-play portion of the event in 2015 and 2016, but he's looking to improve on those performances, which ended with 1-2 records and early exits.

The two-time first-team All-American at Wisconsin-Whitewater keeps putting himself in position for something great to happen, as he did at the 2013 Junior Gold Championships and again at the 2017 USBC Team USA Trials, but he's still waiting for a defining moment on the lanes.

In 2013, Kruml was the top qualifier at Junior Gold and earned a spot on Junior Team USA 2014, but he was unable to finish the job, ultimately finishing third in the bracket portion of the tournament. At the Team USA Trials this year, he felt he bowled well, but one disappointing outing in the five-day event took him out of contention for a spot on Team USA.

The Masters competitors will have five additional games Thursday to secure their spots in match play, where they'll join defending champion Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas.

After two rounds, Simonsen is in a tie for 58th place with a 2,160 total, just inside the cut line. Should he finish outside the top 64, he'll earn the final spot in the bracket, and the top 63 players overall will join him. He still can improve his seeding with a strong final qualifying day.

Through 10 games, there is a tie for 64th place with 2,155, a 215.5 average.

All competitors at The Orleans this week will bowl 15 games of qualifying over three days to determine the match-play field. Three-game total pinfall will determine who advances in the bracket.

Qualifying concludes Thursday, and match play will take place Friday and Saturday to determine the five players for the championship round. Those five bowlers will compete in the stepladder finals, live on ESPN at 1 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, Feb. 26.

For complete standings after the second round visit http://scores.bowl.com/2017Masters/2017MastersRound2.pdf

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