Eight-time Team USA member, AJ Johnson, celebrated his thirty-first birthday during the qualification rounds of the Storm Lucky Larsen Masters. However, there was little time for celebration as he remained steadfast in his mission to secure his first-ever PBA Tour title.
For much of his eight-year professional career on PBA Tour, AJ Johnson had been regarded as one of the world's top bowlers without a PBA Tour title to his name. But after an incredible performance in Helsingborg, Sweden, the narrative has changed dramatically.
Sweden will forever hold a special place in AJ's heart for reasons that are now abundantly clear.
The most significant birthday gift arrived a week after AJ's actual birthday, on September 10th, when he defeated twelve-time PBA Tour title winner, local favorite Jesper Svensson of Sweden, 220-174, in the title match to win the Storm Lucky Larsen Masters.
'People always say, ‘If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,’ AJ Johnson said to BowlingLife.eu after the final game. 'I think I did that today.'
Yet, Johnson's journey to this remarkable achievement was not without its challenges.
Before clinching his career's first PBA Tour title in the Storm Lucky Larsen Masters finals against Svensson, Johnson achieved a perfect game against Kris Prather in the quarterfinals and came up clutch in the semifinal against Anthony Simonsen, 193-191, who finished in the top 10 in all seventeen title events this season.
'Going up against Jesper in his home country is a tough task. He bowls great here; he is one of the best players not only on the Tour but in the world,' Johnson praised his opponents. 'I escaped the one against Anthony Simonsen, who is arguably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, on Tour right now."
When asked about the special place he'd reserve for the Kosta Boda crystal trophy, Johnson revealed that it would find a prominent spot in their new home with AJ's girlfriend Allie Hedges.
'This one's gonna be front and center with a sportlight on it, that's for sure,' AJ Johnson smiled.
AJ Johnson expressed deep appreciation for Allie, describing her as an 'absolute rock' who had supported him during the sole international PBA Tour event of the season in Helsingborg, Sweden.
For his triumphant performance, AJ Johnson earned 150,000 SEK, about $13,500 USD. The victory marked a turning point in his professional career, solidifying his status as freshly baked PBA Tour titleist.
FINAL STANDINGS OF THE STORM LUCKY LARSEN MASTERS