Storm's Jason Belmonte is trying to become the fourth player in Professional Bowlers Association history to earn PBA Rookie and Player of the Year honors, but fellow staffer and PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke and a pair of spoilers will try to derail Belmonte’s bid in the finals of the Pepsi PBA Elite Players Championship Sunday on ESPN.
The last of eight PBA World Series of Bowling finals will air at 1 p.m. ET. First prize is $35,000.
Belmonte, who came into the 2011-12 season with one title (won during his PBA Rookie of the Year season in 2008-09) will try to become a four-time titlist when he faces Duke, Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas, and Mike DeVaney of Murrieta, Calif., in the four-player eliminator finals of the PBA Elite Players Championship.
While the PBA Tournament of Champions concludes the regular season the following week at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas, the Pepsi PBA Elite Players Championship may have a strong impact on the Player of the Year race, and some other prestigious PBA honors.
If Belmonte wins and can then win the PBA Player of the Year voting contest, he would join Mike Aulby, Tommy Jones and Chris Barnes as the fourth player to win both Rookie and Player of the Year honors. He also would be the first international player to accomplish that feat.
Belmonte will make a record-tying fifth World Series of Bowling television appearance, matching Sean Rash’s record also set during the 2011-12 WSOB. The Australian star previously won the Chameleon Open and the GEICO Shark Open, finished fourth in the PBA World Championship and fourth in the Mark Roth-Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship with partner Pete Weber.
Duke, on the other hand, made a bold statement in the Player of the Year race when he won the Xtra Frame Tour Dick Weber PBA Playoffs presented by Hammer Sunday for his third title of the season and the 37th of his career, moving him into sole possession of third place on the PBA career titles list. Duke won his 35th title in the Xtra Frame Detroit Open presented by Track and his 36th in the Roth-Holman PBA Doubles Championship with partner Wes Malott which tied him with Pete Weber on the titles list. Walter Ray Williams Jr. (47 titles) and Earl Anthony (43) are one-two on the list.
Duke, the 1994 and 2000 PBA Player of the Year, has a chance to become the fourth player in PBA history to win POY honors more than twice. Williams (seven times), Anthony (six) and Roth (four) are the POY leaders.
This week’s spoilers could be Scroggins or DeVaney. Scroggins in an eight-time PBA Tour champion who last won the 2010 Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator in Columbus, Ohio. DeVaney, a two-time titlist, last won the Scorpion Open during the 2009 World Series of Bowling in Allen Park, Mich.
Pending the outcome of the Elite Players Championship, Finland’s Osku Palermaa and Mike Fagan of Dallas will be factors in the POY chase heading into the TOC. Each has won two each titles this season, and both have won a major. Weber, with his U.S. Open win, and Rash, with his record-setting WSOB performance, also are POY darkhorses.
A PBA Elite Players Championship pre-event show will be webcast at no cost on pba.com’s Xtra Frame online bowling channel starting Wednesday, with a follow-up post-game show immediately following Sunday’s ESPN telecast. To subscribe to Xtra Frame, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo. The monthly subscription rate is $7.99; a full-year subscription is $64.99.
Xtra Frame will provide complete coverage of all preliminary qualifying and match play rounds of the PBA Tournament of Champions, beginning Monday, April 9. The Tournament of Champions concludes with live ESPN coverage on Sunday, April 15, at 1 p.m. ET.