Australia's Belmonte wins USBC Masters

NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Australian two-handed star Jason Belmonte picked up his first major title and became just the second foreign player to win the United States Bowling Congress Masters on Sunday in front of a capacity crowd at Brunswick Zone Carolier.

Jason Belmonte 2013 MastersBelmonte defeated Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, 258-245, to win the $50,000 first-place prize and a major title on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour. The victory was his sixth career PBA Tour title.

"This is without a doubt the greatest feeling I've ever had on a pair of the lanes," said Belmonte, who joined Finland's Mika Koivuniemi as the only foreign players to win the Masters. "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."

The title match was filled with drama in the final frame as Belmonte delivered three strikes, including a heart-stopping second shot in the 10th when a pin darted across to take out the 10 pin at the last second.

Belmonte's perfect 10th frame, capping a string of six strikes in a row, forced Malott to match him with three strikes of his own to take the title by one pin. Malott's first shot barely struck with the 4 pin falling late, but his second shot went high and left the 3-6-10, giving the title to Belmonte.

"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," said Belmonte, who went undefeated in the double-elimination match-play bracket to earn the top seed for the finals. "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."

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. "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."

Malott, who entered the day as the No. 3 seed, advanced to the title match with a 202-185 victory over England's Stuart Williams in the semifinal. Malott took down Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III of Jackson, N.J., 255-248, in his first match of the day.

The stepladder finals started with a bang as Bohn opened the first game with the first eight strikes against Koivuniemi in a 278-246 victory.

The Masters, which featured a total prize fund of $325,000, is part of the World Tenpin Bowling Association World Bowling Tour. A sold-out field of 468 players from 13 countries started the week in their quest to take home the trophy.

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Brunswick Zone Carolier, North Brunswick, N.Y., Sunday

Final standings

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

Stepladder results

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