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COLUMBUS, Ohio – In a matchup of two of the biggest stars on the PBA Tour, the final position round match featured a jaw-dropping finish Thursday night at the 2020 PBA Players Championship.
EJ Tackett survived a tense and mindboggling final game against Jason Belmonte to earn the top seed for the season’s second major at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. Tackett finished with a 19-5 record and a 42-game total of 10,242 (+1,842), a 230.29 average.
With Tackett leading by 16 pins, he met Belmonte in the final match to decide who would be the No. 1 seed for Saturday’s finals, which will be broadcast live at 5:30 p.m. Eastern on FS1 (United States) and FloBowling (international).
Ahead in the final game by 13 pins, Tackett flagged a 10 pin in the ninth frame, giving Belmonte a chance to steal the top seed. Belmonte, however, threw a shocking gutter on his first shot in the final frame and then left the 10 pin standing on the spare attempt.
“After a couple of minutes of practice, I thought I would try something different and went to the outside part of the lane with urethane,” Belmonte said. “Heading into the 10th, my only goal was to make it hook. But I threw it too fast. I should have thrown the ball a little slower.”
Hey, who made the lane skinnier 🙂— Jason Belmonte (@JBelmo) February 14, 2020
Sometimes, all you can do is shake your head and smile 🤣
I can now add “roll one in the gutter when I needed a strike” to the list of stuff I’ve done. Rough way to end but overall happy to be back on the show!
Now to have some ice cream :)
Needing just seven pins to secure the win, Tackett then got nine on his first shot in the 10th and will bowl for his third career major title.
“Any time you have the opportunity to add a major championship to your resume, it's a good day,” Tackett said.
Despite out-averaging Tackett by more than three pins a game, Belmonte settled for second place with a 12-11-1 record and a total of 10,184 (+1,784). He averaged 233.55 for the 42 overall games and will look to win his 12th career major title Saturday.
Joining Tackett and Belmonte on the show will be Bill O’Neill, Marshall Kent and Kris Prather.
O’Neill claimed the third seed with a 13-8-3 match-play record and a total of 9,889 (+1,489). It’s the second-consecutive week O’Neill has made the show after he earned the top seed for the PBA Tournament of Champions last week before losing in the final.
Kent, a four-time PBA Tour champion, is the only non-major champion in the finals field. He was able to secure the fourth seed with a total of 9,865 (+1,465) and a 12-11-1 record.
Just days removed from winning his first career PBA Tour major title, Prather will have a chance to win back-to-back majors as he earned the fifth seed on the show. Prather went 12-11-1 in matches and finished with a total of 9,857 (+1,457).
Prather defeated O’Neill, 280-205, in the championship match of the TOC on Sunday to earn the $100,000 first-place prize. This week’s top prize is $75,000.
PBA Hall of Famer and 40-time champion Norm Duke flirted with the cut line all day but in the end finished in eighth place, missing the show by 164 pins. Duke, 55, was seeking to become just the second player in PBA Tour history to complete the Super Slam by winning all five majors.
FloBowling correspondent Matt Wozney contributed to this report.