Australia’s Jason Belmonte won his third Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour title of the 2011-12 season, and the fourth of his career, when he defeated Mike DeVaney of Murrieta, CA, 255-238, to win the Pepsi PBA Elite Players Championship at South Point Casino and Hotel.
The finals of the eighth and final event in the PBA World Series of Bowling aired Sunday on ESPN.
The victory tied Belmonte with PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke for current season titles as the PBA Tour heads into its final event of the 2011-12 season, the PBA Tournament of Champions, which gets underway Monday at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas. The TOC, the fourth major championship of the season, offers an $80,000 first prize. The finals will air live on ESPN Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Belmonte, whose only PBA Tour title prior to this season was in the 2009 Bowling Foundation Long Island Open, wrapped up a stunning PBA World Series of Bowling performance with his Elite Players Championship. He won titles in three of his six WSOB television finals, plus he had a third-place finish in the World Bowling Tour Finals presented by the PBA which kicked off the World Series.
As he had done in previous World Series eliminator-format events, the Australian two-handed star got off to a modest start in the Elite Players Championship. DeVaney, a two-time PBA Tour title winner, led the four-player opening match with a 257 game. Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas, was second with a 247. Belmonte was third with a 237. Duke’s hopes for his 38th career title, and fourth of the 2011-12 season, ended when he left a 7-10 split followed by a “big four” 4-6-7-10 split in the eighth and ninth frames, respectively, bowing out of the competition with a 222.
DeVaney again led the three survivors in game two with a 234. After finishing with a 205, Belmonte got a break when Scroggins, needing a strike in the 10th frame to advance, left the 4-6-7-8-10 “Greek Church” and opened for a 190.
If there was one player in the field who wasn’t concerned about Belmonte’s dominating performance in the World Series, it was DeVaney.
"I won't be watching Belmo. (His two-handed technique) doesn’t impress me,” DeVaney said before the match. “I’m not interested. I don't care. I throw it the right way. I put my thumb in there the way I was taught and how everybody should throw it."
In a classic title-match battle, Belmonte and DeVaney both pounded the pocket, but DeVaney left an 8 pin in the fifth frame, a 9 pin in the seventh and a 10 pin on his first ball in the 10th, and Belmonte capitalized with a late string of five strikes to take charge of the contest.
“Anyone who wins has a little luck go their way,” Belmonte said, “but to win three times during the World Series, I had a lot of luck go my way. Osku (Palermaa) missed a 10 pin (allowing Belmonte to reach the Chameleon Open title match)…Chris Barnes shooting 300 (in the second game, not the title match of the GEICO Shark Open)…Scroggins opening in the 10th…a lot of things really fell into place.
“I’m just overwhelmed right now."
“That second game might be the best 205 game I ever bowled,” he continued, referring to seven single pins he left standing during that game. “The pins were brutal to knock over. I didn’t know how I was going to double. But in the final game, I got the pins to fall.
“My expectation coming into the World Series was just to bowl well, and if I bowled great, to make a TV show,” Belmonte added. “To come home with a title was the ultimate dream, but to have exceeded that three times over? There’s no way I would have predicted it. I’m seriously overwhelmed.”
Competition in the Tournament of Champions gets underway with Champions Field qualifying on Monday. Xtra Frame, the PBA’s online bowling channel, will webcast all of the preliminary qualifying and match play rounds beginning with the Champions Field and continuing through Friday night’s Round of 36 match play finals when the four stepladder finalists will be decided. To subscribe to Xtra Frame, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo.
PEPSI PBA ELITE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
South Point Exhibition Hall, Las Vegas, April 8
Round One (lowest score eliminated): Mike DeVaney, Murrieta, Calif., 257; Mike Scroggins, Amarillo, Texas, 247; Jason Belmonte, Australia, 237; Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 222 ($10,000).
Round Two (lowest score eliminated): DeVaney 234, Belmonte 205, Scroggins 190 ($11,000).
Championship: Belmonte ($35,000) def. DeVaney ($18,000), 255-238.