EJ Tackett defeated Jason Belmonte, 254-247, to win his second major and the fifth title of the season at the 2023 PBA World Championship finals, which many bowling analysts and fans already named as the all-time greatest.
The 30-year-old became the youngest bowling player to achieve 21 PBA Tour titles. He probably would have done it sooner if not for the one Australian opposite him in last night's title match.
The 15-major-champion and one of the best bowling players ever to walk on this planet, Jason Belmonte, held a 3-0 record in major finals and a 6-2 record on TV against Tackett before the PBA World Championship title match, to be that last rock at which high Tackett's tide would usually crash.
Although Tackett maintained the score on his side for most of the game, Belmo striked out in the 10th frame, forcing Tackett to strike twice to claim the win. Though the history of televised finals between him and Belmonte might have put some pressure on Tackett's shoulders, the 30-year-old stepped onto the approach with atypical confidence in his eyes.
'The lanes got to where I thought they would and where I wanted them to be.' Tackett said after the match. 'At that point, it was just all about execution.'
And he delivered. EJ Tackett made two perfect shots to claim his second major and fifth title of the season. He practically locked up the Player of the Year award for the second time in his career.
'It feels really good to have the opportunity to have to get up to double in the 10th against the greatest of all time and get it done,' Tackett said. 'That is what dreams are made of. It's so rewarding because you know that all the hard work you've put in is actually worth it.'
The runner-up, Jason Belmonte, made another near-miracle of his long bowling career. A PBA record 15-time major champion entered the match play round in the last 12th place, 324 pins under the top 5. Still, Belmo assembled an 11W-1L record, averaging over 250, to surge to the No. 4 seed. Australian bowling prodigy then won three consecutive matches at the Stepladder, finishing just one good shot away from his 16th major.
'I knew it was going to hook, I was hoping it was going to last one more frame for me,' Belmonte said after the game. 'The story was right there. One more shot on that right lane. If the pattern held up just one more shot, it would have been a pretty good story to tell later on.'
In the opening match, Jason Belmonte defeated the 2022 Harry Golden PBA Rookie of the Year winner and the only European bowling player at the Stepladder finals, Santtu Tahvanainen.
The PBA World Championship stepladder finals were Tahvanainen's third telecast of the WSOB XIV, as he finished fourth at the PBA Scorpion Championship and fifth at the PBA Shark Championship earlier last week. But the 26-year-old was still feeling the pressure. Finland's rising bowling star poorly executed a couple of shots at the beginning of the game, giving Belmo an advantage.
'I was like, 'Now we're gonna look to strike out, shoot 250 and put pressure on Belmo," Tahvanainen said after the game. 'It was a good shot (in the fifth frame), but I left the four-pin. I felt like 230 wouldn't be enough anymore.'
Santtu's assumptions were accurate, as the Australian bowling megastar sealed the deal with a 334-330 victory. Belmonte then took down Jakob Butturff 204-223 and No. 2 seed Anthony Simonsen 204-236.
The PBA Tour will now move to New Jersey, as the PBA Players Championship will start at the North Brunswick on May 2nd. Over 120 participants will compete for the final season's major title and a prize fund of $400,000.