SHAWNEE, Okla. – Sweden’s Jesper Svensson struck on 22 of his first 23 shots Thursday morning in the 51st FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions at FireLake Bowling Center, advancing from sixth place to first, and he continued his blistering pace in match play Thursday night to build a 266-pin lead over Mitch Beasley of Clarksville, TN.
Svensson, a 20-year-old left-handed two-hander and PBA’s 2015 Rookie of the Year, averaged 232.1 for his first 32 games to lead the field of 24 finalists into Friday’s final two rounds of match play in the PBA’s first major championship of the year. Following games of 289 and 300, Svensson finished his morning round with games of 220, 258, 235, 213, 223 and 203. He then started Thursday night’s first round of match play with games of 267, 229, 256 and 290, winning all four matches to break away from the field.
He finished the evening round games of 213, 196 and 213 for losses, and a 238 win in his last game for a 5-3 match play record and a 32-game total of 7,624 pins, including 30 bonus pins for each match won.
“That was good,” Svensson said of his start in the evening round, “but I struggled a bit in the middle, so it was good to finish with a good game. In the middle, the urethane ball I was using got a bit shiny, and I couldn’t get as good of pin carry as when it has a fresh surface.
“But I’m happy; I didn’t expect this at all. I’m just going to have a good time and see where I finish tomorrow.”
Chasing Svensson and Beasley (7,358 pins) in the race for Sunday’s five-player stepladder finals were Tom Daugherty of Riverview, FL, with 7,328 pins; Dom Barrett of England with a 7,317 total and EJ Tackett of Huntington, IN, with 7,300 pins.
Australia’s Jason Belmonte, the two-time defending champion, was fifth heading into match play, but posted a 4-4 record in the opening round and slipped back to ninth place.
The 24 finalists will bowl their final two eight-game round-robin match play rounds Friday at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST to determine the five finalists for Sunday’s live ESPN stepladder finals at 1 p.m. CST (2 p.m. Eastern). The finals will be held on a special two-lane installation inside FireLake Arena.
All match play rounds are being covered exclusively, live on PBA’s Xtra Frame online bowling channel. For subscription information visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame link.
FIRELAKE PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
FireLake Bowling Center, Shawnee, Okla., Thursday
Round Five Standings (after 32 games, including match play bonus pins)