Jason Belmonte bowled as solid a game as you can bowl with as clutch a finish as you can imagine to win the 2013 United States Bowling Congress Masters on Sunday, yet that might not be all Belmonte’s tournament is remembered for.
I have watched virtually every PBA Tour telecast since the 1970s and have not missed one since I got my first VCR in the 1980s, and that might have been the best game I’ve ever seen in a PBA Tour TV title match, considering the circumstances.
It was the title match of a major, Belmonte had no major titles despite several chances, and the TV pair appeared to be getting tricky in a messy semifinal match.
But it was no worries for the smiling Aussie two-hander, who put his Storm LUCID in the pocket every ball save for a light hit that left a 2-pin in the second frame. His three strikes in the 10th frame were spectacular: a huge messenger to take out the 10-pin, a dig-out of the 10-pin and a flush strike he posted as perfectly as any shot has ever been posted.
That gave him a 258, leaving Wes Malott needing three strikes in his 10th for 259. Malott tripped the 4-pin on the first shot but then went high on his second and left the 3-6-10. It was a great effort but not enough for the win.
“This is without a doubt the greatest feeling I’ve ever had on a pair of lanes,” Belmonte, who joined Finland’s Mika Koivuniemi as the only foreign players to win the Masters, said in this USBC news release. “You come out on the PBA Tour, the hardest tour in the world with the greatest players in the world, and at the top of that tree are the majors. To finally get atop one and check the view out for the first time is golden. It’s absolutely beautiful.
“Watching that 4 pin fall at first I was like ‘oh no,’ but then I had an overwhelming feeling that if it was meant to be it would be. It was like the tension just doubled, and there was already a lot of tension. I can assure you the last thing I thought I was going to see was Wes not get the ball to the pocket.”
For more from Belmonte, including details on the equipment he used and how he played the lanes during the week, Above180.com did a great interview here.
After the loss, Malott said a distraction caught his eye on the second shot in the 10th and caused him to pull the ball left.
“Someone in the crowd caught me in the 11th frame. I don’t want to say anything against the fans in New Jersey because they’ve been great, and it happened to some other guys during the week, but it’s a bummer, a heart-breaker,” Malott said in the release. “It happened during the biggest tournament of my career, when I had a chance to win, but I’ll take the positives from this week and move forward. That’s all I can do.”
Distractions may end up being the basis for the biggest impact story to emerge from the Masters, as Mike Machuga posted a blog here on his website Tuesday detailing his views of another Bottlegate-like situation involving Belmonte.
Rather than selectively quoting from the blog, I will post it all:
After a long, lonely drive home from New Jersey, I have had plenty of time to relax and reflect on a solid, yet disappointing week at the Masters. There has been much talk on social media about some “situations” that occurred during the tournament. The ones that involve me are related to my match with Jason Belmonte. Here are the facts as I remember them:
Jason needed a double in the 10th frame of the 3rd game to shut me out. He failed to do so giving me the opportunity to throw a double to win the match. As most people know, I tend to take a little more time in pressure situations to gather myself before making the shot. Throughout my pre-shot routine, Jason was talking to himself, loud enough for me to hear him, as the approach is only just a few feet away. It seemed like he was done, so I attempted to get on the approach when he started again. I looked back at him to try to give him an idea that I could hear it, and he continued….. Finally, I had had enough, so I asked him, sternly, “Are you done yet?! Cuz it’s MY turn now.” He then scampered away seemingly very irritated, while mumbling something about how he can’t even use a pencil to write the scores down, and he was just “adding up the scores” (that were clearly visible on the scoring monitor above.) I had to shake-off his temper tantrum so I could actually make my first shot in the 10th. I aced that one and after getting a little jacked up, I took a little more time, again, to calm myself down and prepare for the next one to win the match. Things didn’t feel quite right and I could hear some of the construction going on for the TV set next to us, so I stepped away and started over. At this point, you could hear an ant’s footsteps in the bowling center. As I got into my approach, I was distracted by someone coughing, so I balked and had to restart, again…..Unfortunately, I was not successful, went high and left the 6-10 to let Jason win.
I have since been told that the person who coughed was a young girl that was attending her first PBA event and feels terrible about it happening. She is scared to come back to another event. I have been contacted by a person that knows her, and I plan on doing something special for her, as we (bowling in general) need to keep every fan that we have.
Shortly after the match, Jason approached me outside the locker room and asked me to go for a walk with him. We went outside and he began explaining how irate he was that he continues to put himself in those situations. After a couple minutes of listening to his rant, I asked him, “Belmo, is this an attempt at an apology?” He replied that it was and continued rambling, blah blah blah, so I told him, “Apology accepted. Good match,” shook his hand and walked away. End of story. But, in his feeble attempt at an apology, never once did he use the words “I’m sorry.” Instead, he said things like he’s so irate that he puts himself in these situations… as if this were all about him….so, if he was sorry about anything, it sure sounded to me like he was sorry only that he found himself in another version of “Bottlegate”.
Unintentional as he makes it sound, I cannot ignore the fact that this has happened in many different ways to opponents of his in the past. Crinkling water bottles, rocking in squeaky chairs, and talking behind your opponent (to no one) are not things that a professional should be doing while their opponent has a chance to perform to beat him. There is no defense in bowling and a true professional does all they can to AVOID such situations.
Belmonte never responded to a message I sent him.
Update: But he did comment to Bowlers Journal International.
"I am disappointed that Machuga decided to use a private conversation we had, but I wasn't surprised to read that he elaborated on the situation and, more importantly, left out 99 percent of the conversation," he said, denying that he had done anything that should have been a distraction to Machuga.
"I have never and will never display any kind of unsportsmanlike behavior to my fellow competitors. These allegations are absolutely ridiculous."
On Saturday night, Belmonte appeared on the InsideBowling.com webcast of the Fusion Realtors Open and Mike Flanagan asked him about the match with Machuga. Belmonte doesn't directly address the things that became the basis of Machuga's blog.
The interview with Belmonte is here and the part on the Machuga match is at the 2:44 mark.
I wasn’t there and don’t know what happened, so I can’t provide any insight. But it obviously can’t be good for the public perception of Belmonte that another player has called him out alleging tactics that are at best disrespectful and uncaring and at worst unethical.
Unlike with Bottlegate, this incident didn’t happen on TV, but the incident was spreading quickly across social media and Internet message boards after Machuga posted it Tuesday.
(Full disclosure: As most of you know, Belmonte and I both are Storm staffers. What many may not know is Machuga is the brother-in-law of my long-time teammate and close friend Mike Shady.)
Here is what Belmonte posted on Facebook after his Masters win:
With time to reflect - I want this message to be about those who helped me win my first Major Championship.
To my beautiful family! @Kimberly Belmonte, Aria and Hugo.
No one will ever truly know the love I have for you all. You all are the air i breathe. Leaving home is the single hardest thing I have to do in my life. I miss you so much. This win is yours as much as it is mine. I can’t wait to share this win with you!
Mum/Dad/Bec - thanks for building a bowl when I was born. Wouldn’t want to play any other sport. Nothing compares to this one. Love reading your messages every day wishing me luck and being there for the bad days also. I am who I am because of you guys. Thank you
@Storm_nation - can’t strike as much without the best balls in the world. Our products are undeniably the greatest on Earth. Thank you for making such wonderful products. Thank you
In particular @Chris Schlemer and @Del Ballard. You guys rock as ball reps and always have an open mind to discuss ways to help me. Thank you.
@artofbowling - Such a great team supporting me. @Diandraasbaty was instrumental in advice and ball choice. If not for her suggestion of trying the Lucid on TV, i probably would not have won. Thank you
@Dexter bowling- Only the greatest shoes in the world. Can’t post my shots if I can’t get to the line great. Thank you
@Turbo 2 N 1 grips - Like Storm, such a wonderful family of people working there. No better feel/fit in the world then these grips. Thank you.
@high5gear - Your support and innovative ideas, especially the compression sleeve - let me look and feel great on the lanes. Thank you.
My fans - I read every message and postings (even the bad ones haha) - I truly have such a wonderful and supportive fan base. I do love my fans and enjoy sharing my career with you all. Thank you.
To the haters - Keep firing those bullets - they keep bouncing right off me. Getting stronger everyday because of it. Believe it or not, but it’s you guys who inspire me the most. So thank you.
Smile at the world and it will smile back at you!
Here is the Storm In the Bag video from the Masters.
Malott had advanced to the title match with a 202-185 victory over England’s Stuart Williams in the semifinal after downing Hall of Famer and local favorite Parker Bohn III 255-248, in his first match. Bohn opened the show with a 278-246 win.
UNITED STATES BOWLING CONGRESS MASTERS
Brunswick Zone Carolier, North Brunswick, N.J., Sunday
1, Jason Belmonte, Australia 258 (one game), $50,000 2, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 702 (three games), $25,000 3, Stuart Williams, England, 185 (one game), $18,000 4, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 526 (two games), $13,000 5, Mika Koivuniemi, Finland, 246 (one game), $10,000
Match One - Bohn def. Koivuniemi, 278-246 Match Two - Malott def. Bohn, 255-248 Match Three - Malott def. Williams, 202-185 Championship - Belmonte def. Malott, 258-245