COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jason Belmonte picked right up where he left off after winning last week’s PBA Tournament of Champions, taking the first-round lead Wednesday at the 2019 PBA Players Championship.
Belmonte, who tied the PBA record for all-time major titles with 10 at the TOC, averaged 251.33 for six games, finishing with a total of 1,508, to lead the field of 120 players after the opening round of qualifying at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
Qualifying continues Wednesday at 5 p.m. with the second block of six games broadcast live on FloBowling. After 18 total qualifying games, the top 24 will advance to round robin match play, which begins Thursday at 6 p.m.
Belmonte got out of the gates quick, starting with games of 268, 279 and 267 for an 814 set. He closed with games of 245, 231 and 218.
“The lanes got really tricky toward the end of the round,” said Belmonte, who has 19 career titles. “The friction was really building up in the middle of the lane so it was time to make an adjustment. You had to go way right or way left and my strength is moving left so that's what I did. The way the lanes transitioned I think a lot of guys will play them differently now that we've seen it for the first time. I'm not taking anything for granted, we'll just have to see what happens.”
The question now is: Can anyone stop Belmonte?
Belmonte has had tremendous success at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl the past two seasons, winning the Players Championship here in 2017 and finishing second in 2018.
The two guys behind him in the standings after the opening round both made the show last year with Marshall Kent sitting in second with 1,442 and defending champion Tom Smallwood in third with 1,434.
Shawn Maldonado is fourth with 1,401, and Anthony Lavery-Spahr rounds out the top five with 1,393. Sitting on the cut line is left-hander Rafiq Ismail of Malaysia with 1,314, a 219 average.