|Photo courtesy PBA LLC|
Australia’s Jason Belmonte ended his nearly three-year quest for his second Pro-fessional Bowlers Association title, stringing eight strikes to run away from Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., 268-191, in the finals of the Chameleon Open at South Point Casino and Hotel.
The Chameleon Open finals, the second of four PBA “animal pattern” championships con-tested during the third annual PBA World Series of Bowling, aired Sunday on ESPN.
Belmonte, who came into the Chameleon elimination-format finals as the leading qualifier, barely survived the first two games before finding his groove in the title match.
In the opening game, Belmonte’s two-handed rival, Osku Palermaa of Finland, led the four-man field with a 213. Rash was second with a 201, and Belmonte nipped Venezuela’s Ildemaro Ruiz, 189-187, to avoid elimination as low man in the round.
In game two, Rash led the survivors with a 226 while Belmonte edged Palermaa, 200-190, to advance to the title match. Belmonte had lost to Palermaa in the only two previous meetings of the two-handed rivals, and barely escaped a third loss. After throwing a strike on his first ball in the 10th to take the lead over Palermaa, Belmonte left the 3-6-9-10 on his next shot to hand a one-pin lead back to the Finn. But Palermaa then left a 10 pin on his first shot in the 10th frame and failed to convert the spare to hand the game back to Belmonte.
The championship game would pit the once heated rivals from the publicized “bottlegate” incident of 2011, which was essentially a case of ‘speculated gamesmanship’, in which Rash accused Belmonte of intentionally making noises with a water bottle during Rash’s delivery during a televised team event between the two bowlers and their respective teams. Presently, the incident is a thing of the past between the two ‘now more matured’ players, as the players exchanged cordial handshakes prior to the match.
In the title match, the Australian two-hander quickly kicked in the afterburners. After converting the 6-10 spare in the first frame, the 2008-2009 PBA Rookie of the Year executed a string of eight consecutive strikes to run away with the $15,000 first prize and a berth in the Round of 36 for the end-of-season PBA Tournament of Champions. Belmonte won his only previous PBA Tour title in the 2009 Bowling Foundation Long Island Open.
“This feels a million times better than my first title,” Belmonte beamed. “I bowled one of the best games of my life.
“In the second match, I got very lucky,” he added. “When you get a break like that, you have to take it, pardon the expression, in both hands and I was able to do that.”
By winning the Chameleon Open, Belmonte became the third straight international player to win a PBA World Series of Bowling title. In two previous events, Palermaa captured the PBA World Championship and England’s Stuart Williams won the Bayer Viper Open. Rash took home $7500 for second place, Palermaa earned $4500 for third, and Ruiz pocketed $4000 for his 4th place finish.
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