L-R The finalists of the 2017 Barbasol PBA Players Championship: Jason Belmonte, Anthony Simonsen, Martin Larsen, AJ Chapman and Connor Pickford.
After Friday’s fifth round, the Australian two-hander (pictured right) finished with a 9,249 40-game pinfall total (231.2 average) to clinch the top berth for Sunday’s Sunday’s live ESPN finals at 1 p.m. EST at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl in Columbus, Ohio.
After nearly three years of dominance, in 2013, 2014 and 2015, when he won his Player of the Year crowns, Belmonte’s dry spell started after he won the USBC Masters and Tournament of Champions back-to-back in February of 2015. Since then he has finished in the top five in 16 PBA Tour tournaments without a win finishing second in five of those events.
“I feel as good as I’ve ever felt bowling in a tournament,” said the 12-time Tour titlist. “I just need to focus on what I need to do and eliminate the distractions. I’ve always had 100 percent belief in myself so whatever happens in the championship match I’ll walk away with my head held high.
“After last year the weight is off my shoulders,” Belmonte added. “I didn’t get the wins last year but I was bowling well. “It’s a new season and now I just need to focus on what I need to do in each tournament and let the season unfold.”
In addition to winning the 2011 Players Championship for his first major, Belmonte won a record three consecutive USBC Masters (2013, 2014 and 2015) and won back-to-back PBA Tournament of Champions titles in 2014 and 2015.
Qualifying second for the finals was another two-hander, Anthony Simonsen (left) of Austin, Texas, just 20 pins behind Belmonte with a 9,229 pinfall total. The 20-year-old two-time Tour winner, who became the youngest to win a major when he won the 2016 USBC Masters at 19, will be trying to become the youngest player to win two majors.
Trying for his first PBA Tour title, Martin Larsen (right) of Sweden, qualified third with a 9,083 pinfall. He owns four career runner-up Tour finishes and with a win in the Players Championship would become eligible for next week’s FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions in Shawnee, Okla.
Sunday’s opening stepladder match will feature No. 4 qualifier, former Wichita State standout and current Team USA member AJ Chapman bowling against No. 5 qualifier one-time Tour winner Connor Pickford (left) of Plano, Texas. Chapman finished with an 8,958 pinfall while Pickford finished with 8,946.
Chapman will be trying to become only the third player in Tour history to win a title in his first tournament as a PBA member. The two others were Brian Davis, who won the 1993 Harrisburg (Pa.) Open and Mike McGrath who won the 1965 Portland (Ore.) Open.
In addition to ESPN’s coverage, the Players Championship will be simulcast on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN mobile app for those who would like to watch on-line or on mobile devices.
Jason Belmonte retains lead in Barbasol PBA Players Championship
Jason Belmonte rises to the top in Barbasol PBA Players Championship
Ronnie Russell takes first round lead in Barbasol PBA Players Championship
Canada’s Graham Fach to defend PBA Players Championship
2017 PBA Tour Schedule & Champions
Players with position, hometown and 40-game total; top 5 advanced to Sunday’s live ESPN finals at 1 p.m. EST
1, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 9,249
2, Anthony Simonsen, Austin, Texas, 9,229
3, Martin Larsen, Sweden, 9,083
4, AJ Chapman, Wichita, Kan., 8,958
5, Connor Pickford, Plano Texas, 8,946
6, Andrew Anderson, Holly, Mich., 8,942, $8,000
7, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 8,940, $7,000
8, Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind., 8,924, $6,100
9, Bill O’Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 8,896, $5,500
10, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 8,879, $5,000
11, Jakob Butturff, Tempe, Ariz., 8,846, $4,500
12, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 8,839, $4,200
13, Shawn Maldonado, Houston, 8,826, $3,900
14, DJ Archer, Friendswood, Texas, 8,785, $3,600
15, Francois Lavoie, Canada, 8,776, $3,400
16, Jeff Evans, Supply, N.C., 8,725, $3,300
Players with position, hometown and 32-game total; top 16 advanced to the final eight-game round Friday afternoon
1, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 7,489
2, Anthony Simonsen, Austin, Texas, 7,305
3, Jakob Butturff, Tempe, Ariz., 7,266
4, Martin Larsen, Sweden, 7,219
5, Connor Pickford, Charlotte, N.C., 7,170
6, DJ Archer, Friendswood, Texas, 7,159
7, Shawn Maldonado, Houston, 7,126
8, AJ Chapman, Wichita, Kan., 7,124
9, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 7,121
10, Bill O’Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 7,114
11, Jeff Evans, Supply, N.C., 7,098
12, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 7,079
13, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 7,075
14, Andrew Anderson, Holly, Mich., 7,065
15, Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind., 7,051
16, Francois Lavoie, Canada, 7,048
17, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 7,026, $2,900
18, Jason Sterner, Rockledge, Fla., 7,011, $2,700
19, Patrick Dombrowski, Parma, Ohio, 6,981, $2,600
20, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 6,920, $2,500
21, Graham Fach, Canada, 6,892, $2,500
22, Cameron Weier, Tacoma, Wash., 6,871, $2,300
23, Anthony Lavery-Spahr, Pasadena, Texas, 6,857, $2,200
24, Jesse Buss, Belvidere, Ill., 6,834, $2,100