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3-time PBA Player of Year returns to winners circle in Columbus

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COLUMBUS -- Three-time Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year Jason Belmonte of Australia captured his seventh major title and ended a two-year streak without a Tour win by winning the Barbasol PBA Players Championship Sunday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.

In a championship match between two players who use the unique two-handed delivery, the top seeded Belmonte defeated Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas, 221-204, to notch his second Players Championship win and 13th PBA Tour title overall.

Belmonte’s win broke a dry spell that started after he won his record third straight USBC Masters and his second consecutive PBA Tournament of Champions back-to-back in February of 2015. Going into the Players Championship he had a string of 16 tournaments in which he made the top five but failed to win. He finished second in five of those events.

“It’s a brand new start,” Belmonte said of the new season. “I was successful staying focused the whole tournament from start to finish. I’ve learned that if you look ahead or behind you’re not staying in the moment.”

In the title match, Belmonte held a commanding 37-pin lead in the fifth frame that was too much for Simonsen to overcome.

“It feels fantastic,” said the 33-year-old Belmonte, who won his first major in the 2011 Players Championship. “Two years is a long time to wait (for a win), especially considering all the times I had made TV.

“I’ve always believed in myself but I’ll admit there’s a lot of weight off of my shoulders now after all that time because believe me, people will remind you,” he added.

The 20-year-old Simonsen, who qualified second for the finals, was trying to become the youngest player to win two PBA Tour majors. He won the 2016 USBC Masters at 19 to become the youngest to win a PBA major.

“I didn’t make my best shots in that match,” said Simonsen. “There were probably a couple of shots where I should have reset myself. I’ll just use it as a learning experience.”

In the semifinal match, Simonsen beat Connor Pickford of Plano, Texas, 204-191, to advance to the title match. Pickford, who was trying for his first Tour singles title, teamed with Simonsen to win the 2016 Roth/Holman PBA Doubles for his first title.

In the opening stepladder match, Pickford defeated Team USA member and former Wichita State bowling star AJ Chapman, 243-154. Chapman was trying to become only the third player to win a Tour title in his first tournament as a PBA member.

In the second match, Pickford defeated Martin Larsen of Sweden 266-182 to advance to the semifinal. With four career runner-up finishes, Larsen was trying for his first Tour win.

The PBA Tour travels to Shawnee, Okla., for the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions Feb. 13-19, the second major of the season.

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