Two-handed bowler Jason Belmonte’s return to Australia from another banner season on the PBA Tour in the United States was never going to be easy.
Due to a logjam of Australians trying to return Down Under because of the coronavirus shutdown, Belmonte sent his family ahead of him back to Sydney via Los Angeles from Las Vegas. He flew from San Francisco. When they met up in Sydney, they drove nearly four hours to their home in Orange in western New South Wales state, where they spent two weeks in quarantine to ensure they hadn’t imported the virus. They finished that quarantine over the weekend, all clear of the virus.
“It was a really weird situation, what we were hearing while in the U.S. was that they were going to close the borders up,” Belmonte said Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I was in the middle of a tournament, my concentration was wobbling. But when they said they were closing up the borders, I figured this was getting really serious.”
Fortunately, Belmonte’s parents and siblings in Orange stocked their house with groceries and other supplies before they arrived, making the quarantine slightly less difficult — although Belmonte tweeted that his kids made it hard for him to get into their bedroom one day. They created a fort with blankets and demanded more information from their dad before they'd let him in.
That tournament Belmonte mentioned was the PBA World Championship in Las Vegas, which finished March 15. Belmonte scored his second major of the PBA Tour season and 13th of his career with a win in the Vegas tournament.
Belmonte has a two-handed delivery from the right side, with the ball spinning at up to 600 revolutions per minute, nearly 20% more than bowlers using a conventional, one-handed style.
After the first day of qualifying, in 70th position and nearly 400 pins behind the leader, Belmonte out-bowled a field of 120 competitors over 56 games on four different lane conditions to earn the top seed for the PBA World Championship stepladder finals.
In the title match, Belmonte’s opponent — fellow two-handed player Anthony Simonsen from Texas — had a bad start with two open frames after leaving difficult splits. Belmonte took a commanding lead by stringing strikes from the third through seventh frames to seal a 213-190 win and collect $150,000.
Due to the coronavirus, the PBA closed the event to the public, leaving the final to be contested before an audience limited to PBA players, family members and tournament officials.
“Playing before like 12 people was a weird sensation, but having my family there was also very special,” Belmonte said.
A dominant season on the PBA Tour in 2019 earned Belmonte his fifth PBA player of the year and then player of the decade honors. There are no official rankings in pro bowling, but Belmonte is generally acknowledged as the No. 1 player. He began playing professionally in 2009.
Belmonte, 36, admits it’s a difficult time for the bowling industry during the shutdown of major sports.
“We are going to have to work really hard to get it back,” Belmonte said. “The powers that be are working on making sure of that.”
In the meantime, Belmonte, who just led a funding campaign to raise nearly $150,000 for the victims of the destructive Australian wild fires, will spend time with the family in Orange, a primarily farming and wine-producing area with a population of about 40,000.
Like other parents, Belmonte and his wife Kimberly have a new-found respect for teachers after home-schooling their three children — daughters Aria and Sylvie and son Hugo — for the past two weeks.
“It’s so difficult to keep them creative and entertained,” Belmonte said. “For all the teachers out there, I don’t know how they do it.”
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