Belmonte wins his 4th Masters title

Jason Belmonte, from New South Wales, Australia, defeated Michael Tang, from San Francisco, CA, 279 – 212 Sunday, February 26, 2017 to win his 4th USBC Masters title.

Both bowlers started the championship match with 2 straight strikes, but the third frame would prove to be a telling sign for how the match would play out.

Belmonte bowled his third frame first, and he came in very light and got a lucky strike when the 4 and 10 pins fell down late. Tang also came in light in his third frame, but it was a better shot than Belmonte’s. Despite this, the 7 pin did not go down for Tang, who did pick-up the spare. However, for the next several shots Tang would alternate strikes and spares, not because he was making bad shots but he was getting a bit unlucky with his pin action. Belmonte, on the other hand, was also making good shots and getting good pin action, and he started with the first 7 strikes in a row before leaving a swisher 7 pin in the eighth frame, very similar to Tang’s third frame. By that point, however, the match was already over.

Tang, who is only 21, won 3 matches before losing to Belmonte in the championship match. Tang beat Martin Larsen in the first match, 264 – 229. Larsen struggled to hit the pocket in the middle frames of his game, and Tang got a lucky brooklyn strike in the middle of his game to make it so the match was never really close.

The next match was a special one, as Tang had to bowl his brother Darren Tang, who is 23. This marked only the third time two brothers bowled against each other on TV. The first was Neil Burton versus Bo Burton in the 1980 Masters and the second was Dale Traber vs. Dave Traber in the 1994 PBA National Championship.

Darren did not have as good of a ball reaction as Michael did, as he went high leaving the 3-6-10 and then light leaving the 2 pin, and Michael continued his great shot-making, winning by a score of 248 – 212.

The third match was the best of the bunch, as it came down to the 10th frame. Early on, Alex Hoskins, an amateur just like Michael Tang, had trouble getting the 10 pin to fall, leaving 3 solid 10s in the first 4 frames. Michael wasn’t able to pull away from Hoskins, however, as he was having trouble hitting the pocket on the left lane.

The left lane seemed to be the harder of the two lanes from about the middle of the first match on, as it tended to hook earlier than the right lane.

Both bowlers stayed clean through the first half of the game before each threw 3 strikes in a row. Michael struck in the 6th, 7th, and 8th frames, while Hoskins struck in the 7th, 8th, and 9th frames. Michael threw a great shot in the 9th frame, but in resulted in a combination solid 10 and missed messenger, and he had to settle for a 9, spare. This put all of the heat on Michael because he now trailed going into the final frame, and Hoskins was working on a strike. Michael threw 2 flush strikes and then a solid 4 pin in the 10th frame to force Hoskins to go strike, 9, spare to win by one pin. Hoskins had not missed the pocket all game, but in the first ball of the 10th he threw his worst shot of the match (although it wasn’t a terrible shot) and he left the 2 pin, and that is how Michael Tang advanced to the final match to face Jason Belmonte.

With this win, Belmonte has won the USBC Masters title four times in the last five years, and he became the first bowler to win four Masters titles. Belmonte also now has eight major championships, which is tied for third most all-time with Mike Aulby and Walter Ray Williams, Jr. Belmonte is two major titles away from Earl Anthony and Pete Weber, who each own 10.

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