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After finishing fourth and eighth, respectively, in the AMF Australian Masters in Sydney, Sean Rash of Montgomery, Illinois, and Australia’s Jason Belmonte have locked up a head-to-head “grudge match” that will launch the PBA Tour’s 2011-12 television season on ESPN on Sunday, Dec. 4.
A Rash-Belmonte re-match has been anticipated since their emotional “bottlegate” confrontation during the GEICO PBA Team Shootout in June in Chicago. During a Team Shootout match, Rash angrily responded to Belmonte after he apparently made a noise with his plastic water bottle while Rash was on the approach, preparing to make a key shot. Belmonte later dismissed the incident as an accident, but neither player was apologetic, and both promised to resolve any differences on the lanes when they meet again.
For those expecting to tune in to witness tempers flaring and further heated confrontations, there may be disappointments, or relief, depending on how you look at it. During the recent qualifying rounds of the World Series of Bowling, the two competitors were assigned the same lanes during much of the preliminaries. After a minor snit over filling out each other's scorecards, they wound up getting together for a heart-to-heart talk and have seemingly resolved their differences. How the rivalry plays out will be visible to viewers during the upcoming ESPN telecasts.
For Rash, the reconciliation will prove beneficial for his image, given the fact that he's now one of the favorites to win the coveted PBA World Championship title. Rash dominated the early rounds of the "World Series" event, advancing to the televised finals on ESPN's schedule for each of the four 'animal oiling patterns'—a remarkable and unprecedented feat.
The Rash-Belmonte encounter will occur as the first match of the men’s finals of the World Bowling Tour presented by the PBA, which will air at 1 p.m. ET on Dec. 4 on ESPN. Rash qualified second in the season-long WBT points standings behind points leader Mika Koivuniemi of Hartland, Mich., while Belmonte finished third on the points list.
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