Teenager Anthony Simonsen
of Princeton, Texas, and partner Connor Pickford
of Charlotte, N.C., raced away from Josh Blanchard
of Mesa, Ariz., and Andres Gomez
of Colombia, 223-173, to win their first Professional Bowlers Association Tour titles in the Mark Roth/Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship presented by Storm, kicking off the PBA Tour’s 2016 season.
In winning his first title, Simonsen (pictured right) , a two-handed player, became the second-youngest player to win a PBA Tour title, missing the record set by PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke in 1983 when he won the Cleveland Open at the age of 18 years, 345 days, by two days.
The PBA Doubles Championship was contested during the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VII. The stepladder finals, which were contested Dec. 19 at the National Bowling Stadium, Reno, Nev., aired Sunday, January 17, on ESPN. The Roth/Holman Doubles Championship counts as a 2016 PBA Tour title.
After earning the top berth in the Roth/Holman Doubles event during preliminary qualifying in the PBA Fall Classic in Las Vegas in October, Simonsen and Pickford charged into the lead with four consecutive strikes in the Baker format (alternate frame) title match and never trailed against their more experienced opponents.
Blanchard (left) and Gomez (right) threw back-to-back strikes in the second and third frames, but those were the only two strikes they recorded in the entire game.
“I think we both wish it would have happened (in Las Vegas),” Simonsen said of the finals, which were delayed to accommodate PBA’s television package, “but sometimes you have to wait, and I think it worked out for the best.
“I was originally a little bitter about the age record,” he added. If the finals had been held in Las Vegas and the team had won, Simonsen would have broken Duke’s youngest titlist record.
“Early in the year, when I found out what the record was, I made it a mission to bowl every tournament that offered a Tour title to get the record. But missing it by two days? A tour title is a tour title, no matter when it happens.”
Pickford, whose closest brush with a title came in the 2014 PBA Viper Championship when he lost in the title match to Finland’s Mika Koivuniemi, said he and Simonsen both had to overcome unsettled nerves.
“We were both nervous…but you have to keep it down to the process,” the 23-year-old Pickford said. “There’s already enough stuff running through your mind, so you have to dial it down to one shot, one frame at a time, and we were able to do that.
“It’s an awesome feeling, an unbelievable feeling, for sure.”
Simonsen and Pickford had never bowled as partners before the Roth/Holman Doubles. As “Team Fish” teammates for the five-player PBA Team Challenge during the PBA Fall Classic, Team Fish founder Kyle Troup and Pickford came up with doubles teams.
“Kyle wanted to bowl with Dick Allen; I was fine with Anthony,” Pickford said. “We made an agreement a couple of months after meeting each other for the first time that the next doubles tournament that came along, we’d bowl together and it seemed to work out.”
Blanchard and Gomez advanced to the title contest after winning their semifinal match against Finland’s Osku Palermaa and England’s Dom Barrett, 233-186.
That win followed a 10-9 one-ball sudden death roll-off victory over Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pa., and Australia’s Jason Belmonte after they tied at 216 in the second match. Needing a mark in the 10th frame for the win, Belmonte (right) left a 2-8-10 split and picked up two pins to send the match into the roll-off.
O’Neill and Belmonte eliminated rookie Matt McNiel of Prior Lake, Minn., and Anthony Pepe of Elmhurst, N.Y., 196-153, in the first match.
PBA World Series coverage on ESPN concludes next Sunday, Jan. 24, at 3 p.m. EST with a special PBA Challenge Finals telecast. A four-match telecast featuring PBA50 Tour, PWBA-PBA Women’s Regional, PBA Regional and Teen Masters contestants will conclude with four winners meeting in a “best frame” Clash of Champions.
Finalists include Teen Masters Grand Championship boys and girls winners Brandon Soedarmasto of Levittown, N.Y., vs. Brigitte Jacobs of Freeport, Ill.; PWBA-PBA Women’s Regional finalists Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y. (PBA East Region) vs. Ingelimar Beasley of Nashville, Tenn. (Midwest Region); PBA50 Tour finalists Parker Bohn III of Jackson, N.J. vs. Amleto Monacelli of Venezuela (replacing injured Pete Weber), and PBA Regional finalists Josh Blanchard of Gilbert, Ariz. (West Region) vs. Patrick Allen of Mount Kisco, N.Y. (East Region).
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Mark Roth/Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship – Stepladder Finals
National Bowling Stadium, Reno, Nev., USA (contested Dec. 19, aired Jan. 17, on ESPN)
1, Anthony Simonsen, Princeton, Texas/Connor Pickford, Charlotte, N.C., $22,000
2, Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz./Andres Gomez, Colombia, $11,000
3, Osku Palermaa, Finland/Dom Barrett, England, $10,000
4, Bill O’Neill, Langhorne, Pa./Jason Belmonte, Australia, $9,000
5, Matt McNiel, Prior Lake, Minn./Anthony Pepe, Elmhurst, N.Y., $8,000
Playoff Results (Baker Doubles format):
First Match: No. 5 O’Neill/Belmonte def. No. 4 McNiel/Pepe, 196-153
Second Match: No. 3 Blanchard/Gomez def. O’Neill/Belmonte, 10-9 in roll-off after a 216-216 tie
Semifinal Match: Blanchard/Gomez def. No. 2 Palermaa/Barrett, 233-186
Championship: No. 1 Simonsen/Pickford def. Blanchard/Gomez, 223-173.