Note: this is one side of the argument, making the case for Jason Belmonte. For the other side, read why Sean Rash should win the Player of the Year Award.
Going into the 2012 PBA Tournament of Champions, the Player of the Year race included three names in contention and one name with an outside shot. Those three in contention: Jason Belmonte, Norm Duke and Mike Fagan. The outside shot: Sean Rash.
After Rash’s victory in the Tournament of Champions, suddenly Duke and Fagan were the odd men out, and the two-man race was born.
Interestingly, prior to this season, all the talk surrounded Belmonte and Rash, but it had more to do with ridiculous water-bottle incidents than bowling. Now, the two are rivals again, but in the sense they both want to be: who is the best bowler in the world?
Rash’s Win in the TOC Doesn’t Discount Belmonte’s Season
While Rash was able to knock Fagan and Duke out of the race, Belmonte’s performance throughout the season was too good to overlook. Winning three titles is rare, especially these days when the number of tournaments is so limited.
12 cashes, nine match-play events and seven top-five finishes, all from a man who has to fly for 20+ hours to and from each tournament cannot be ignored.
The World Series of Bowling
Opening the PBA Tour season, as is now custom, was the World Series of Bowling. During qualifying, everyone was talking about Sean Rash, and with good reason—he was blowing away the field in just about every event. However, hidden behind all the hype for Rash was Belmonte quietly doing just as well as Rash.
Out of eight events recorded at the WSOB, both Rash and Belmonte made it to the TV finals in five of them. Actually, they both made it to six of nine if you also count the World Bowling Tour Finals.
Despite the fact both Belmonte and Rash made it to the same number of shows, all the hype remained on Rash leading up to the taping of the finals.
After the final ball was rolled during the World Series of Bowling and all tournament champions were crowned, Belmonte and Rash combined for a staggering three titles and a televised 300 game. Of course, these feats all belonged to Belmonte.
Although Rash had everyone talking about him throughout the World Series, Belmonte was the one who came away with all the glory.
Performance in Majors
First, this point must be conceded: Belmonte failed to win a major this season and Rash won the Tournament of Champions. But how did they do in the other majors?
Rash, as mentioned, won the Tournament of Champions. He also finished third in the World Championship, 26th in the U.S. Open and 166th in the USBC Masters, where he didn’t even cash.
Belmonte finished in the top 10 of all four majors. Top nine, actually. While he didn’t win any of the events, he never finished lower than ninth and made it to the TV finals in three of the four major tournaments.
After finishing fourth in the World Championship, Belmonte took ninth in the USBC Masters and third in both the U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions.
Major performance and titles. Belmonte’s three wins on Tour this season were more than anyone other than Norm Duke, who also won three titles. Fagan and Osku Palermaa each had two titles, but other than those four men, nobody had more than a single title, including Rash.
Belmonte started the year stronger than anyone else, winning 37.5% of the WSOB events, each time besting a field of more than 200 of the best bowlers from around the world (yes, including Rash).
Throughout the rest of the season, Belmonte came up big when it counted most—the majors. Never finishing lower than ninth in a major title is almost impressive as Mika Koivuniemi last year, who made it to TV in all four majors. And guess who won the Player of the Year title last year? That’s right—Koivuniemi.
This is Belmonte’s Year
Three titles, three major TV-finals appearances and a televised 300 game are all nice accolades, but there’s one more that would cap his season the way he deserves: being named PBA Player of the Year.
For an opposing argument, read why Sean Rash should be Player of the Year.