ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Jason Belmonte is now officially in a class of his own.
The Australian two-hander became the first bowler in the history of professional bowling to win 11 career majors by defeating Jakob Butturff, 236-227, to win the 2019 PBA World Championship on Thursday at Thunderbowl Lanes.
After tying the record for career majors with Earl Anthony and Pete Weber at 10 earlier this season at the PBA Tournament of Champions, it took less than six weeks for Belmonte to hold the record outright.
Although it appeared early on it might be an easy victory for Belmonte, who entered as the top seed and needed just to win one match to win the title, Butturff put up a fight down the stretch.
Struggling with his carry, Butturff threw six strikes to close out the game and put the pressure on Belmonte in the final frame.
Belmonte was up to the challenge. Needing a strike and nine, spare to win, Belmonte threw an absolutely perfect strike the first shot in the 10th frame. He followed it up with another one to secure the title.
Belmonte said he typically does not get outwardly emotional after victories, but after seeing a video on the television broadcast of students at his children’s school cheering after the winning shot, Belmonte teared up.
“I really try to keep it together because I’m not typically very emotional like that with tears,” Belmonte said. “I usually just feel it all inside, but when I saw those kids, Aria, Hugo and their classmates, in the school, it just hit home that there’s people 15,000 kilometers away who want this as much as I do. To see a whole school rise, it just hit me that my kids are a part of that group, and they were all supporting me. It just hit me really, really hard.”
In a tense and low-scoring semifinal, Butturff survived a 184-179 match against fellow lefty Matt McNiel to advance. In the final frame, Butturff needed a strike and eight pins to win and tossed a perfect strike and left a seven pin to get the job done.
In the eighth frame, Butturff suffered from a nearly fatal bad break when he hit light and left the 5-6 split. The pins were off spot and close together, but the pinsetter didn’t pick up the 5 pin, so it had to be spotted again.
According to PBA Deputy Commissioner Kirk von Krueger, the rule is that the six pin, which had been picked up, remained off spot while the five pin was placed on spot. The result was a virtually unmakeable 5-6 split because the six pin was too far to the right. Butturff missed the split but it ended up not mattering in the end.
Butturff put together a come-from-behind victory to top Bill O’Neill in the second match of the semifinal, 235-226.
O’Neill struck in the seventh, eighth and ninth frames and sat on the bench with a 21-pin lead. Butturff, however, stepped up and struck in the ninth and doubled in the 10th to put the pressure on O’Neill. In the final frame, needing strike, nine, spare to win, O’Neill left a flat 10 pin to lose.
“I bowled a really good game, but it’s frustrating to not come out with a win,” O’Neill said. “I thought I threw the one in the 10th pretty good. It may have been a pinch farther right than I would have wanted, but that just shows you how tough they are.”
Butturff opened the stepladder with an easy 236-183 victory over BJ Moore, who was seeking his first career PBA Tour title.
Butturff popped strikes in six of the first seven frames as he built a big lead and never looked back. Moore, meanwhile, struggled with the right lane, missing the headpin and leaving the 1-2-4-8 in the second frame, which he missed. He also left the 2-10 split in the fourth and sixth frames on that lane.
The PBA Tour resumes next week with the first round of qualifying at the USBC Masters in Las Vegas. Live coverage on FloBowling begins Wednesday at 11 a.m. Eastern.