Landmark wins in two 2015 PBA Tour major championships helped Australian two-handed competitor Jason Belmonte
(pictured left) of Australia earn his third consecutive GEICO Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year award, PBA CEO and Commissioner Tom Clark announced Wednesday during a special webcast on PBA’s online bowling channel Xtra Frame.
Also announced as 2015 award winners were Jesper Svensson of Sweden as Harry Golden Rookie of the Year; Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz., as Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award recipient, and Ed Godbout of Felton, Calif., who was selected as winner of the Tony Reyes PBA Community Service Award.
In a very close vote, Belmonte edged Ryan Ciminelli (right) of Cheektowaga, N.Y., to become the fourth player and first international player to win the award in three consecutive seasons. PBA Hall of Famers Earl Anthony (1981-83 and 1974-76), Mark Roth (1977-79) and Walter Ray Williams Jr. (1996-98) also won the honor three years in a row.
Belmonte won the Player of the Year by receiving 47.36 percent of votes cast by his fellow PBA members and veteran members of the bowling news media while Ciminelli received 43.22 percent of the votes. Parker Bohn III (left) was a distant third, receiving 2.99 percent of the votes.
“This will be the greatest day of the year for me,” said Belmonte from the hospital as he and his wife Kimberly were awaiting the imminent arrival of their third child. “Kimberly and I soon will have our third child and I have joined the great Walter Ray Williams, Mark Roth and Earl Anthony as three-time winners. What an unbelievable day!”
Early in 2015, Belmonte became the first bowler in the 64-year history of the United States Bowling Congress Masters to win the event three consecutive times last February in Green Bay, Wis., defeating collegiate bowler AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois, 202-157.
The 12-time Tour winner then followed that up by successfully defending his PBA Tournament of Champions title in the 50th anniversary Barbasol TOC in Indianapolis, posting a 232-214 victory over top qualifier Rhino Page of Orlando, Fla.
Belmonte will try to become the second player to win the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions three consecutive times when the 51st classic begins Feb. 1 at FireLake Bowling Center in Shawnee, Okla. Hall of Famer Jason Couch accomplished the feat in 1999, 2000 and 2002.
In addition to his wins in the Masters and Tournament of Champions, Belmonte had nine other top-five finishes including runner-up finishes in the PBA Grand Oklahoma Open and PBA Maine Xtra Frame Shootout. He led the PBA Tour in earnings with $178,542 and ranked fourth in average with 225.40.
Jesper Svensson (left; photo Seija Lankinen), a 20-year-old two-handed lefty, won his second PBA Tour title, and first on American soil, when he defeated Germany’s Pascal Winternheimer, 267-193, to win the PBA Chameleon Championship presented by HotelPlanner.com at the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VII presented by Silver Legacy at the National Bowling Stadium. Earlier in the year he won the 13th Kingdom of Bahrain Open after defaeting Belmonte in the title match, 258-244.
Svensson was a runaway winner in the Rookie of the Year race, voted upon by PBA members. He was the choice on 68.5 percent of the ballots cast, topping Texas teenager Anthony Simonsen‘s (right) 14.11 percent and Washington’s Cameron Weier‘s (below left) 10.33 percent. Svensson was the leader among rookies in average (225.81) and earnings ($57,870).
“I am very proud and honored to get this award,” said Svensson. “Just a lot of happiness going through my body right now. I have always dreamed about competing and winning on U.S. soil and that dream came true. I think that is a big thing that helped to get this award.”
Belmonte and Svensson became the first players from outside the U.S. to earn Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the same season. They were also the first players who use the unique two-handed delivery to earn those honors in the same season.
Josh Blanchard (right), who won both of his PBA Tour titles in 2015, was selected as the Nagy Sportsmanship Award by his fellow competitors. Established in 1966, the Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award is named after the late PBA Hall of Famer and founding members of the PBA.
A colorful and talented performer, Nagy made such an impact on his fellow pros that the award was established shortly after his death. Other players receiving strong support were Ronnie Russell and Dom Barrett who were next in line in Steve Nagy Award voting by PBA Tour players.
“I’m very honored, of course, that my peers would vote me this honor especially this early in my career,” said Blanchard. “No matter who you are out there on Tour I do my best to treat each player with respect and I’m happy to say that I get that same respect in return. For me, competing with that attitude helps me be a better bowler.”
Ed Godbout, a PBA West Region competitor, was selected by a special PBA committee as the recipient of the 2015 Tony Reyes Community Service Award which is named after the PBA champion who died in 2012 as the result of a traffic accident.
Godbout, who is a youth director and a USBC bronze level coach 4th Street Bowl in San Jose, established several charitable initiatives in Reyes’ name including the Tony Reyes Memorial Scholarship and the Tony Reyes Memorial Youth/Adult Doubles Tournament.
He is also co-founder of the 4th Street Bowl Junior bowling program and is a past recipient of the NorCal Tony Reyes Memorial Award.
“This is a huge honor and I’m a little overwhelmed,” Godbout said. “I had just started to work with Tony to organize a youth program at 4th St. Bowl and it was only a month after I met him that he passed away.
“I’ll never forget how much help he was to me and how enjoyable it was to work with him, so that was really my inspiration to get involved in putting the tournament and scholarship together in his honor.”
2015 PBA Tour Schedule & Champions
Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year Award winners
2015 – Jason Belmonte
2014 – Jason Belmonte
2012-13 – Jason Belmonte
2011-12 – Sean Rash
2010-11 – Mika Koivuniemi
2009-10 – Walter Ray Williams Jr.
2008-09 – Wes Malott
2007-08 – Chris Barnes
2006-07 – Doug Kent
2005-06 – Tommy Jones
2004-05 – Patrick Allen
2003-04 – Mika Koivuniemi
2002-03 – Walter Ray Williams Jr.
2001-02 – Parker Bohn III
2000 – Norm Duke
1999 – Parker Bohn III
1998 – Walter Ray Williams Jr.
1997 – Walter Ray Williams Jr.
1996 – Walter Ray Williams Jr.
1995 – Mike Aulby
1994 – Norm Duke
1993 – Walter Ray Williams Jr.
1992 – Dave Ferraro
1991 – David Ozio
1990 – Amleto Monacelli
1989 – Amleto Monacelli
1988 – Brian Voss
1987 – Marshall Holman
1986 – Walter Ray Williams Jr.
1985 – Mike Aulby
1984 – Mark Roth
1983 – Earl Anthony
1982 – Earl Anthony
1981 – Earl Anthony
1980 – Wayne Webb
1979 – Mark Roth
1978 – Mark Roth
1977 – Mark Roth
1976 – Earl Anthony
1975 – Earl Anthony
1974 – Earl Anthony
1973 – Don McCune
1972 – Don Johnson
1971 – Don Johnson
1970 – Nelson Burton Jr.
1969 – Billy Hardwick
1968 – Jim Stefanich
1967 – Dave Davis
1966 – Wayne Zahn
1965 – Dick Weber
1964 – Bob Strampe
1963 – Billy Hardwick