Eight months after Jason Belmonte won his first career PBA title at the 2009 Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic, the New York Yankees captured their 27th World Series title in franchise history. Over the next decade-plus, the Yankees sat idle as Belmonte racked up win after win.
At the 2022 PBA Scorpion Championship, 13 years later, Belmonte surpassed the mighty Yankees with his 28th career PBA title. No player has found greater success at the Guaranteed Rate PBA World Series of Bowling than Belmonte, whose victory marked his ninth career WSOB title.
The 38-year-old earned the 16th seed for Tuesday’s match play competition, which meant his only path to the title consisted of winning two best-of-five matches, then climbing the stepladder.
“If anything, it was kind of nice to be able to know right from the very beginning of today, ‘If you make it through, you’re going to be at the bottom of the ladder and you’ve got to climb it,’” Belmonte said. “When I saw the guys who made the show, I was like, ‘I don’t know if it could have been any harder.’”
His matches with EJ Tackett and Anthony Simonsen, two of his fiercest foes on the tour, sandwiched his contests with Tommy Jones and Packy Hanrahan.
In the opening match, Belmonte took down Tackett, who leads the tour in average this season, 247-192. A pair of splits from Tackett spelled his downfall as Belmonte fired seven consecutive strikes down the stretch.
Belmonte then took down Jones 211-177 as he battled uninspiring ball reaction all match. He felt the inclination to jump left—and create the shape that made him famous—but wasn’t sure if the lanes had developed enough. A 2-8-10 leave in the ninth frame, on a shot he liked out of his hands, solidified his decision to move left.
His estimated move was “a board off” after leaving a pocket 7-10 in the on his first shot against Hanrahan. But Belmonte adjusted and fired the next six strikes; Hanrahan, the sole southpaw on the show, failed to keep pace as Belmonte rolled 242-186.
“Once I made that extra move, I was able to see the ball go through the pins the way that I needed,” he said. “And that’s all I needed to see. I’m like, ‘Yep, that’s the right ball. Yep, that’s the part of the lane. Now just make you’re shots.’”
The championship match pitted Belmonte against Simonsen, who defeated Belmonte at the U.S. Open last month. This marked their fifth championship match-up, and while Belmonte holds the head-to-head advantage, he spoke highly of the younger two-hander.
“He’s a rare, rare individual,” Belmonte said of Simonsen. “There isn’t a part of the lane that he can’t play and he can’t play well. Every time I win and he congratulates me, I say to him ‘I have to do this, because you’re going to pass me. I have to keep pushing myself to get more because you’re going to get there.’ There’s no question in my mind that Anthony will be the best player in the world at some point.”
That point, however, will have to come another time, as Belmonte defeated Simonsen 244-176. Back-to-back splits in the fourth and fifth frames dug Simonsen a hole, then consecutive 7-pins on the right lane doomed any comeback effort.
Despite the prowess of the talented players standing between him and a 28th title, Belmonte displayed the wherewithal that separates him from the pack. While no competitor shot above 200, Belmonte averaged 236 with a low game of 211. His strike percentage of 68%, according to Lanetalk, trounced his opponents’ 54%.
“I’ve bowled enough of these things, it doesn’t matter who you’re bowling,” Belmonte said. “What matters is how the lanes are playing and the shots that you’re going to make on that show. Once I saw the ball do the right thing. I knew I could win.”
After earning his third title of 2022, Belmonte seized an even tighter grasp of the Player of the Year race. Though he sits on the verge of a seventh Player of the Year award, which would tie him with Walter Ray Williams Jr. for the most in PBA history, he has no interest in discussing the possibility yet.
“Ask me in May,” he said. With the potential for a fourth title of 2022 at the Shark Championship, plus the USBC Masters starting at the end of the month, Belmonte is focused on the trophy at-hand.
PBA SCORPION CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL STANDINGS
Jason Belmonte $20,000
Anthony Simonsen $11,000
Packy Hanrahan $9,000
Tommy Jones $7,000
EJ Tackett $5,000
No. 4 Belmonte def. No. 5 Tackett, 247-192
No. 4 Belmonte def. No. 3 Jones, 211-177
No. 4 Belmonte def. No. 2 Hanrahan, 242-186
No. 4 Belmonte def. No. 1 Simonsen, 244-176