The PBA Tour kicks off its new season Wednesday with more questions than answers, as is always the case, but also with a renewed sense of excitement for the new year.
The best bowlers in the world will compete in the PBA Hall of Fame Classic at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas, live on FloBowling after an offseason of huge announcements and moves.
The PBA has new ownership after Bowlero bought the association back in September, Brunswick scooped up Ebonite International and Sean Rash shook things up by signing with 900 Global. Those are just a few of the offseason storylines.
In the meantime, players like 2019 PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte, Rash, Bill O’Neill, EJ Tackett, Norm Duke, Chris Barnes and many others are set to start their 2020 campaigns this week.
Here are a few key points to get you ready for the Hall of Fame Classic:
O’Neill’s career season started in Arlington
O’Neill says his 2019 season was the best of his career and it all started at the Hall of Fame Classic around this time last year.
He survived a tough championship match with Jakob Butturff but escaped with the victory, 199-194. The win was an emotional one for O’Neill as it came just a few months after his mother passed away and was his first singles title in more than three and a half years.
O’Neill, who enters the season ranked No. 2 in the FloBowling PBA Preseason Power Rankings, went on to win the PBA Chesapeake Open over the summer for his 11th career PBA Tour title.
He finished the season ranked third in earnings with $192,448 and seventh in points. He also won the non-title FloBowling ATX Invite.
As he returns to the place that sparked his magical season, no one should have more confidence going into the season than O’Neill as he looks to make a run at his first career PBA Player of the Year award in 2020.
Highlights from the 2019 stepladder
Last year's PBA Hall of Fame Classic had many memorable moments. To help you prepare for this year's event, here are highlights from the 2019 finals:
A slightly different format than last year
This is the second consecutive year the Hall of Fame Classic will be contested inside the 14-lane International Training and Research Center and there are a few changes from last year.
The PBA has limited qualifying squads to four players per pair this year, which means the max number of entries dropped from 70 to 56. The format has also changed.
Last year, the players bowled 18 games of qualifying and then a cut was made straight to the show. This year, they will bowl two six-game rounds of qualifying followed by 14 games of round robin match play.
After qualifying, the top 14 players make the cut and will bowl two seven-game match play rounds throughout the day Friday. The five players with the highest 26-game total will advance to Sunday’s show.
Get ready for more dual pattern events
Another change from last year is the PBA will have more dual pattern events in 2020 and that begins this week with the Hall of Fame Classic.
At last year’s event, the players bowled on the 44-foot Carmen Salvino pattern. This year, they will take on the 45-foot Dick Weber pattern on the left lane and the 38-foot Mike Aulby pattern on the right lane.
Bowling on two patterns often rewards versatility. The PBA had three dual pattern events last year with Norm Duke winning two of them and Dick Allen claiming the other.
How to watch
Every game of qualifying and match play will be broadcast live excuslively on FloBowling starting Wednesday at Noon Eastern.
Subscribers can watch the FloZone channel that switches between pairs showing all the important action or select a specific pair to watch their favorite players.
The stepladder finals on Sunday will be broadcast live on FS1 at 1 p.m. Eastern for audiences in the United States. International viewers can watch live on FloBowling. An archive of the show will be available on FloBowling seven days after it airs live.
Hall of Fame inductions are Saturday
One very special part of this week’s schedule is the PBA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which will take place Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
FloBowling will provide live coverage as Tommy Jones is inducted into the Hall of Fame along with former PBA owners Mike Slade and Rob Glaser.
What the schedule looks like
Here’s the schedule for this event. All times listed are Eastern.
Wednesday, Jan. 15
Noon - Qualifying Round 1, Squad A (six games)
6 p.m. - Qualifying Round 1, Squad B (six games)
Thursday, Jan. 16
Noon - Qualifying Round 2, Squad B (six games)
6 p.m. - Qualifying Round 2, Squad A (six games)
Friday, Jan. 17
Noon - Match Play Round 1 (seven games)
6 p.m. - Match Play Round 2 (seven games)
Saturday, Jan. 18
7:30 p.m. - PBA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Sunday, Jan. 19
1 p.m. - Stepladder Finals* (top five)
* - FloBowling live broadcast only for audiences outside the United States. The archive of the finals will be available for all audiences seven days after it airs live.