Having followed the Professional Bowlers Association for many, many years, I can say without any hesitation that last week was the best week ever for the PBA as far as live, prime-time coverage of its televised events.
In case you missed it, there were two-hour shows of PBA stepladder finals on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, and a taped two-hour show of the U.S. vs. The World on Friday night from Thunderbowl Lanes in the Detroit suburb of Allen Park, Mich.
And when it was all said and done, Australia’s Jason Belmonte proved what just about every bowling fan already knew — he is the best bowler on the planet.
Dick Allen of Lexington, S.C., started the week off by winning the PBA Cheetah Championship with a 234-195 decision over Kyle Sherman.
Belmonte then won his 20th career title, the PBA Chameleon Championship, on Tuesday, beating Andres Gomez of Colombia in the finale.
On Wednesday, Kris Prather of Plainfield won his first career title, the PBA Scorpion Championship, knocking off top-seeded B.J. Moore of Greensburg, Pa., for the win.
Then Belmonte capped off his great week by winning the PBA World Championship for his record 11th major PBA title.
He defeated Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Ariz., 236-227, for the title, rolling a clutch strike his first ball in the 10th frame to seal the deal.
That means that Belmonte, who uses a two-handed release, has won more majors (11) than regular PBA titles (10) in his 11 years on tour.
He was tied with Earl Anthony and Pete Weber with 10 PBA majors before winning his 11th.
On Friday’s telecast, Belmonte rolled the final ball of the match against the U.S. team to clinch the first win by The World team (Belmonte, Pontus Andersson of Sweden, Andres Gomez of Colombia, Dom Barrett of England, Sam Cooley of Australia, and captain Amleto Monacelli of Venezuela) in three years.
The U.S. squad included Bill O’Neill, Kyle Sherman, Tom Daugherty, Anthony Simonsen, EJ Tackett and captain Marshall Holman.
Belmonte, who has been the top seed for all three majors this season (winning two of them), is the PBA’s earnings leader this year by than $100,000. He also leads in points and average (by more than nine pins a game).
Some are already tabbing Belmonte as the greatest bowler of all time because of what he has accomplished in such a short amount of time. For me, the jury is still out, although I believe he has the ability to surpass every PBA record out there.
It’s tough to compare his accomplishments with those of PBA greats such as Anthony, Mark Roth, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Pete Weber, or any other Hall of Famer who dominated an era.
The lane conditions were different. The ball surfaces were different. The lane surfaces were different. The formats were different. The field sizes were different.
And, of course, there was no social media "back in the day" for bowlers worldwide to get to know and "follow" their favorite pros online.
Belmonte is the face of bowling right now, and is generating tons of coverage for the sport, creating new fans and a generation of two-handed bowlers.
As long as he keeps winning, and the finals keep showing up on FS1, the future looks pretty good for the PBA and its fans.
BIG SCORES: Kenny Shockency rolled an 803 series Monday night in the Bill Mastronardi/Striketown Bowl Masters league at Linn Lanes to help keep his Aramark team in contention for the second-half title.
Shockency had games of 278, 257 and 268 in a 43-7 win over T&D Windshield.
Brad Moore also had an award score at Linn, rolling a 300 in the middle of a 724 series for Roxy’s Lanes.
Then on Thursday night, Eric Zueck and Vince Pollard also posted some big numbers. At Roxy’s, Pollard had games of 298, 235 and 277 for an 810 series.
At Mt. Hawley Bowl, Zueck finished his night with games of 279, 248 and 289 for an 816 series.
JOHNNY CAMPOS is the Journal Star bowling columnist. He can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.