Jason Belmonte, Australia’s two-handed tenpin superstar, continues his dominance on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tour, winning his 22nd title at the Japan Invitational in Tokyo.
The victory marks his fourth title win this season, which includes two majors, to solidify his favouritism for the 2019 Player of the Year honours, in what would be the fifth of his career.
Belmonte qualified third for the stepladder finals, defeating hall of famer Chris Barnes 245-220, then Japan’s Takuya Miyazawa 227-189 to advance to the title match against Jakob Butturff from Texas, USA.
It was fitting final showdown between Belmonte and Butturff as they’re perhaps the two best players on the planet at the moment and the second time they’ve met in a title match this season, after their epic final in March at the PBA World Championship in Detroit, Michigan which saw Belmonte secure his 11th major title, breaking the all-time PBA major victories record.
Butturff dominated for most of the tournament, winning 13 of his 16 games during match play to qualify first in the step ladder finals. But an early open frame in the second (missed spare) proved costly for the left-hander, as Belmonte capitalised to win 224-213.
It’s the third time this season Butturff has finished runner-up, to go with his two titles including one major, however the loss in Japan is a blow to his Player of the Year hopes and he now must find a way to win at least two or three more tournaments to have any chance of catching Belmonte for the award.
In his post-tournament interview, a jubilant Belmonte expressed his relief at finally winning in Japan after 15 unsuccessful years.
“I’ve travelled to Japan to bowl for fifteen years and I’ve never won,” Belmonte said. “Winning in front of the Japanese crowd means a lot; I’m very honoured.
He went on to acknowledge Butturff, a good friend of his off the lanes, saying it won’t take him as long to win in Japan.
“Jakob bowled incredible all week. I feel for the leaders,” he continued. “It’s unfortunate to dominate a tournament and then lose it all in one game. It took me fifteen years but I feel quite certain Jakob will do it much sooner than that.”
The PBA season is far from over, however, and Belmonte will be looking to continue his incredible run of form on the road to October, where North Carolina hosts the final major of the 2019 season, the 75th PBA US Open, the only major tournament Belmonte has yet to win.