The field at the 2021 PBA Players Championship has been narrowed to the top five players in each region and left standing are 14 PBA champions and 11 players looking for their first title.
The road to that first title won’t be easy for any of those 11 players, however, as the top seeds in each region are all seasoned pros with multiple titles.
Competing across the country in five regions over the weekend, the top five players after 28 games of qualifying advanced to the regional stepladder finals.
Those finals will take place starting Sunday on FS1 (United States) and FloBowling (international) at Noon Eastern when the West stepladder airs live from Jupiter, Florida. The remainder of the regional stepladders will be taped and air in the following weeks.
When the dust settles on the regional stepladders, the five advancing players will return to Jupiter for the live finals on Feb. 21 on FOX (U.S.) and FloBowling (international). The winner will earn $250,000 and a major title.
In the East, six-time PBA champion Kyle Troup led the field with 6,347 to earn the top seed.
Brandon Novak was second with 6,281, Michael Davidson finished third with 6,268, while Chris Via was fourth with 6,170. All three are looking for their first titles.
Bill O’Neill, the defending champion in the Players Championship, advanced by a slim margin with 6,167. He tossed strikes in the eighth, ninth and the first one in the 10th to make it by just 11 pins.
Tim Foy Jr., who was among the leaders most of the weekend, left a heartbreaking Big Four split in the final frame to fall out of the top five. Foy finished sixth with 6,156.
Jesper Svensson, a 10-time PBA champion, made it out of the South with the lowest top-seed score in the country, finishing with 6,184.
Cristian Azcona, who has one title, was second with 6,174, while Ryan Ciminelli, who last year announced his retirement from full-time competition on the PBA Tour, was third with 6,095. Tom Daugherty was fourth with 6,011.
Dick Allen snagged the final spot in the South with 5,994 – the only sub-6,000 score to advance into the regional stepladders from any of the regions.
Francois Lavoie, a two-time U.S. Open champion, put on a clinic in the Southwest as he put up the highest score out of any of the regions with 6,600.
The rest of the players in the Southwest are all seeking their first career titles.
Packy Hanrahan was second with 6,496, Keven Williams had 6,319 for third, Benjamin Martinez took fourth with 6,291 and AJ Chapman shot 6,280 to finish fifth. Chapman’s total was the highest fifth-place score in any of the regions.
Three-time PBA Tour champion Tom Smallwood led the way in the Central with 6,346 to earn the top seed.
Andrew Anderson, the 2018 PBA Player of the Year, was second with 6,278, while Ronnie Russell had two 300 games this weekend and qualified third with 6,217.
Wes Malott, who recently moved to Indiana, was fourth with 6,210, while Zach Weidman finished fifth with 6,207. Weidman is seeking his first title.
In the West, one of the bigger stories of the weekend might be who didn’t make the top five as six-time PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte finished in 19th place and missed the cut by more than 200 pins.
Seven-time PBA champion Anthony Simonsen took the top seed in the West with 6,285 and was followed by Wesley Low Jr. in second place with 6,182.
Jakob Butturff qualified third with 6,173, Darren Tang was fourth with 6,141 and Kris Koeltzow was fifth with 6,097. Low and Koeltzow are seeking their first titles.