LAS VEGAS – Anthony Simonsen of Las Vegas continues to rewrite the bowling record book, and he added another chapter Sunday as he claimed his fourth major championship and second win at the United States Bowling Congress Masters.
The 25-year-old two-hander recorded the win at the 2022 event with a strike and eight pins in his final frame. He defeated USBC and Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Norm Duke of Clermont, Florida, 219-216.
The win Sunday at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino netted Simonsen his second $100,000 top prize in less than two months. He won the U.S. Open in February. Duke collected $50,000 for the runner-up finish.
The championship round of the 2022 USBC Masters was broadcast live on FOX.
Simonsen’s first win at the Masters came in 2016 and helped him become the youngest bowler in history to win a major at 19 years and 39 days old.
His wins at the 2019 PBA Players Championship and 2022 U.S. Open also set the mark for youngest to win two and three majors, respectively, and he added another record Sunday as the youngest to four at 25 years and 87 days old.
He’s now just one of nine players to win the Masters twice, and the victory marked his 10th PBA Tour title. He’s also the first player to win both the Masters and U.S. Open during the same season since USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Mike Aulby accomplished the feat in 1989.
“It’s one of those things where I just like going out and bowling,” Simonsen said. “I didn’t have any expectations for the career. It was just something I wanted to do for a long time, because I grew up watching them. It’s kind of wild how quickly it all has happened. Someone mentioned that it was six years ago when I won this event, and it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. It’s been one heck of a ride, and I’m just trying to enjoy it.”
The title match Sunday saw Simonsen start with four consecutive strikes, before a 4-9 split in the fifth frame slowed him down. The open frame allowed Duke to sneak into the lead after he delivered a double in the fifth and sixth frames.
After converting a 4 pin in the ninth frame, Duke lost the chance to shut out Simonsen, who had rolled a strike in his foundation frame.
Duke spared a 10 pin and toppled nine pins on his fill ball in the 10th frame, giving Simonsen the opportunity to win if he was able to strike on his first delivery. He made the right adjustment after leaving a 4 pin on the right lane in the eighth frame and rolled the strike he needed. He secured the title with eight pins on his next shot.
“I made a pretty good shot on the right lane and left a 4 pin,” Simonsen said. “I was a little hesitant, because there were a couple lanes throughout the week that would get through the spot but wouldn’t come off it very well when you tried to throw it a little harder. Also this week, sometimes when you moved left, the ball hooked earlier, so I was on a real fine line. I decided to go ahead and just move one and made sure I used my legs.”
Duke, who earned the top seed for the stepladder after going undefeated in the event’s double-elimination bracket, also was looking to add another record to his legendary career on the lanes.
He was in search of his 41st PBA Tour title, eighth major and second win at the Masters after claiming the title in 1993.
The 58-year-old right-hander is the youngest bowler ever to win a PBA Tour title at the age of 18, and he would have become the oldest player to win a national tour title, major and the Masters with a victory Sunday.
USBC and PBA Hall of Famer John Handegard won the 1995 PBA Northwest Classic at the age of 57, and fellow hall of famer Ernie Schlegel captured the 1996 Masters title at 53 years old.
Simonsen and Duke have shared some parallels in their careers, even with the difference in ages. Both originally hailed from Texas and found early success on the PBA Tour at a young age. As Duke looks toward the end of his professional career, Simonsen has appreciated the mentorship provided by the hall of famer.
“Norm always has been respectful to me, and my mom and him were friends for a long time,” Simonsen said. “I think that’s where part of my love and appreciation stands with Norm. It’s been an absolute privilege to share the lanes with him. Norm’s a special one, and I don’t think there will be anybody who does it like him ever again.”
Simonsen started Sunday with a win in the semifinal against Brad Miller of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, 189-185, which included a clutch conversion of the 2-4-8-10 from Simonsen in the eighth frame.
Miller could have doubled in the 10th frame to force Simonsen to match him to advance, but he left a 2-8 combination on his second delivery. Simonsen rolled a strike and knocked over eight pins to move to the championship round.
Miller’s first match Sunday was not settled in 10 frames, as he and AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois, finished tied at 224.
Miller left a 4-10 split in his final frame and was unable to convert, giving Johnson the chance to record three strikes in the 10th frame to win by a single pin. Johnson rolled two strikes but left a 4 pin on his final shot.
They matched each other with eight pins on the first shot of the roll-off, and Miller posted a nine count after leaving a 2 pin on his second attempt. Johnson’s second shot missed the headpin to the right, leaving the 1-2-7 to end the roll-off.
Miller and Johnson both were searching for their first PBA Tour titles.
Johnson made his second championship-round appearance at the Masters after finishing as the runner-up at the 2015 event. He was the top seed as a senior at McKendree University during the appearance and lost to Australia’s Jason Belmonte in the title match.
Johnson won the opening match of the stepladder against Shawn Maldonado of Sugarland, Texas, 189-143. Both players struggled to find the pocket early, but Johnson jumped ahead with three consecutive strikes, starting in the seventh frame.
Maldonado is a two-time PBA Tour champion and was looking for his first major Sunday.
The 2022 Masters started Tuesday with the first of three qualifying rounds for the 414-player field. After 15 games over three days, the top 63 athletes, based on total pinfall, joined defending champion Thomas Larsen of Denmark in match play.
Simonsen was the qualifying leader after 15 games on the event’s 40-foot oil pattern.
Larsen lost his first two matches in the bracket and finished tied for 49th place.
All bracket matches leading up to the stepladder were three-game total-pinfall contests.
BowlTV.com provided livestream coverage of the 2022 Masters during qualifying and match play.