Australia’s two-handed star, Jason Belmonte, leads the field of four players in Sunday’s Mike Aulby Division finals, the fourth and final elimination round leading into the PBA World Championship finals. The Aulby round will air in high-definition on ESPN Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
The Aulby Division winner will join Finland’s Osku Palermaa; Ryan Shafer of Horseheads, NY, and Sean Rash of Montgomery, IL, in the World Championship finals on Sunday, Jan. 15, at 1 p.m. ET. At stake will be a $50,000 first prize, the Earl Anthony Trophy and the PBA Tour’s first major title of the 2011-12 season.
All competition will be conducted on a pair of lanes specially installed in an exhibit hall at South Point Hotel and Casino.
Belmonte, 28, hasn’t won a title since his first PBA Tour victory in the 2009 Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic propelled him to 2009-09 PBA Rookie of the Year honors. During the 40-game qualifying portion of the PBA World Championship, he finished third behind Rash and Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, MI, averaging 226.18 for five rounds on five different lane conditions. He will be joined in the Aulby elimination round by Brian Kretzer of Dayton, Ohio; rookie Josh Blanchard of Gilbert, AZ, and Mike Fagan of Dallas, TX.
Kretzer won his only PBA Tour title in the 2010 Go RVing Match Play Championship. Fagan is a two-time title winner. His most recent victory was in the 2010 One A Day Dick Weber Open. Blanchard, a former Wichita State University star, joined the PBA in October and won a PBA West Region Non-Champions tournament in Reno, NV, in his first appearance as a member. Sunday’s telecast will be his PBA Tour television debut.
In the Aulby eliminator event, all four players will bowl a one-game match with the lowest scoring player eliminated. The three survivors will bowl a second game, again with the low man knocked out. The two finalists will bowl a final game to determine who will advance to the World Championship finals.
The four World Championship divisional finals have been named for PBA superstars who excelled in the event during their careers. Palermaa won the Don Carter Division berth, Shafer the Billy Hardwick Division title and Rash topped the Johnny Petraglia Division. The championship trophy is named in honor of Anthony, the only player ever to win the event six times.
A preview of the Aulby Division finals will be webcast on pba.com’s Xtra Frame beginning Wednesday, and a post-game show will be presented on Xtra Frame immediately following Sunday’s ESPN finals.