LAS VEGAS – For the first time this season at a major on the PBA Tour, someone other than Jason Belmonte will be the top seed in the stepladder finals.
Belmonte, who has dominated on the PBA Tour in 2019, was unable to overcome a hand injury entering the week and failed to make the cut Friday at the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Masters. He had earned the top seed for the finals at the PBA Tournament of Champions, Players Championship and World Championship.
Instead, young two-handed lefty Solomon Salama earned the top seed for the 64-player double-elimination match-play bracket, which begins Saturday at 10 a.m. Pacific live on FloBowling. The bracket will narrow the field to the final five bowlers for Monday’s stepladder.
Salama, who also led after the first round, finished qualifying with a 15-game total of 3,492, a 232.80 average, at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino. Although unconfirmed, the 16-year-old Junior Team USA member is believed to be the youngest player to ever earn the top seed for the Masters bracket.
Belmonte, meanwhile, averaged just 194.73 for the 15 games, posting a total of 2,921, and finishing in 169th place. In the first round, he shot 1,010 for five games but dropped off after that, shooting 913 in Round 2 and 998 in Round 3.
Earning the second seed in the bracket was AJ Johnson with 3,423, while lefty Jakob Butturff was third with 3,362. Michael Machuga earned the fourth seed with 3,335, while Shota Kawazoe was fifth with 3,329.
There was a tie in 62nd place for the last players to make it into the bracket with Patrick Girard and Jonathan Van Hees both shooting 3,069, a 204.60 average, to make the cut.
Defending champion Andrew Anderson was guaranteed a spot in the bracket and bowled qualifying to try to earn the best seed he could. In the end, Anderson finished in a tie for 153rd place with a 2,944 total and as a result will be slotted into the bracket as the No. 64 seed.