Eight days shy of his 21st birthday, Sweden’s Jesper Svensson
(pictured left with the trophy), the 2015 Professional Bowlers Association Rookie of the Year, became the youngest player to win the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions Sunday at FireLake Arena in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
Svensson, a 6-foot-3, 158-pound left-handed two-hander, defeated top qualifier Mitch Beasley of Clarksville, Tenn., 226-177, to win his third career PBA Tour title, his first major and a $50,000 first prize.
The previous youngest winner of the TOC was PBA Hall of Famer Marshall Holman who won the event in 1976 at the age of 21 years, 207 days. Another PBA Hall of Famer, Mike Aulby, is the youngest player ever to win a PBA major title, winning the 1979 PBA National Championship at the age of 19 years, 83 days.
Svensson (right) won the title convincingly, striking on five of his first six shots to build a 30-pin lead while Beasley, making his first television appearance, struggled to figure out the tricky lane condition on the left lane.
“I was pretty comfortable from the start, but then I opened in the second frame (against Daugherty),” Svensson said. “I was a bit nervous. It would be weird if you weren’t when you’re bowling on TV. But I made the right adjustments and I was fine.”
Setting the record as the youngest TOC champion was never on his mind.
“That’s a bonus,” Svensson said. “I try not to think about how young I am. I just try to compete against the best in the world. Everything has gone pretty quick for me. I just came out here (on Tour in the United States) to get experience. I probably haven’t even realized what I’ve done so far.
Winning a major is one of the biggest achievements you can have in bowling, so I’m pretty much out of words.”
Beasley (left) said he knew he was in trouble early because the power players on the right side of the lane moved the oil to such an extent he couldn’t figure out where to throw the ball.
“When you throw your best shot and miss the head pin, that’s not good,” the retired 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran said.
“The guys in front of me really destroyed the left lane. You try to figure it out, but if I missed left, the ball went right and if I missed right, the ball hooked too much. And then you’re out of time.”
Svensson advanced to the title match by defeating Tom Daugherty (right) of Riverview, Fla., 245-206, breaking open a tie match with a string of seven strikes after leaving and failing to convert a 4-6-7 split in the second frame.
In the second match, Daugherty ended three-time reigning PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte’s (left) bid for a third consecutive TOC title, 220-169. Belmonte contributed to his own defeat, missing a 10 pin in the first frame, a 2-8 spare attempt in the sixth and then failing to convert a 2-4-8-10 split in the ninth frame.
In the opening match, Daugherty finished with seven consecutive strikes to overcome a pair of missed 3-10 spare conversions earlier in the game and rally from a 35-pin deficit to eliminate EJ Tackett (right) of Huntington, Ind., 231-221.
PBA’s “Super February” schedule continues next week with the United States Bowling Congress Masters at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis. Belmonte, the only player ever to win the USBC Masters three consecutive times, will be trying to extend his streak to four in a row.
Qualifying begins Tuesday. The top 63 qualifiers plus Belmonte will compete in three-game double-elimination match play Friday and Saturday leading to the live ESPN stepladder finals on Sunday at 1 p.m. EST.
All qualifying and match play rounds of the Masters will be covered live on PBA’s Xtra Frame online video-streaming service. Live scoring also will be available throughout the event on pba.com.
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2016 PBA Tour Schedule & Champions
51st PBA FireLake Tournament of Champions – Stepladder Finals
FireLake Bowling Center and Grand Casino Resort Event Center in Shawnee, Okla., USA (Feb. 1-7, 2016)
1. Jesper Svensson, Sweden, $50,000, 471 (2 games),
2. Mitch Beasley, Clarksville, Tenn., 177 (1 game), $25,000
3. Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 657 (3 games), $13,000
4. Jason Belmonte, Australia, 169 (1 game), $11,000
5, E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 221 (1 game), $10,000
First Match: No. 5 Daugherty def. No. 4 Tackett, 231-221
Second Match: Daugherty def. No. 3 Belmonte, 220-169
Semifinal Match: No. 2 Svensson def. Daugherty, 245-206
Championship: Svensson def. No. 1 Beasley, 226-177.