Credit: Bill Vint, PBA
In winning his first title, Simonsen, a two-handed player, became the second-youngest player to win a PBA Tour title, missing the record set by PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke in 1983 when he won the Cleveland Open at the age of 18 years, 345 days. Simonsen miss by two days.
RENO, Nev. – Teenager Anthony Simonsen of Princeton, Texas, and partner Connor Pickford of Charlotte, N.C., raced away from Josh Blanchard of Mesa, Ariz., and Andres Gomez of Colombia, 223-173, to win their first Professional Bowlers Association Tour titles in the Mark Roth/Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship presented by Storm, kicking off the PBA Tour’s 2016 season.
The PBA Doubles Championship, contested during the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VII presented by Silver Legacy, aired Sunday January 17th on ESPN.
After earning the top berth in the Roth/Holman Doubles event during preliminary qualifying in the PBA Fall Classic in Las Vegas in October, Simonsen and Pickford charged into the lead with four consecutive strikes in the Baker format (alternate frame) title match and never trailed against their more experienced opponents. Blanchard and Gomez threw back-to-back strikes in the second and third frames, but those were the only two strikes they recorded in the entire game.
“I think we both wish it would have happened (in Las Vegas),” Simonsen said of the finals, which were delayed to accommodate PBA’s television package, “but sometimes you have to wait, and I think it worked out for the best.
“I was originally a little bitter about the age record,” he added. If the finals had been held in Las Vegas and the team had won, Simonsen would have broken Duke’s youngest titlist record. “Early in the year, when I found out what the record was, I made it a mission to bowl every tournament that offered a Tour title to get the record. But missing it by two days? A tour title is a tour title, no matter when it happens.”
Pickford, whose closest brush with a title came in the 2014 PBA Viper Championship when he lost in the title match to Finland’s Mika Koivuniemi, said he and Simonsen both had to overcome unsettled nerves.
“We were both nervous…but you have to keep it down to the process,” the 23-year-old Pickford said. “There’s already enough stuff running through your mind, so you have to dial it down to one shot, one frame at a time, and we were able to do that.
“It’s an awesome feeling, an unbelievable feeling, for sure.”
Simonsen and Pickford had never bowled as partners before the Roth/Holman Doubles. As “Team Fish” teammates for the five-player PBA Team Challenge during the PBA Fall Classic, Team Fish founder Kyle Troup and Pickford came up with doubles teams.
“Kyle wanted to bowl with Dick Allen; I was fine with Anthony,” Pickford said. “We made an agreement a couple of months after meeting each other for the first time that the next doubles tournament that came along, we’d bowl together and it seemed to work out.”
Blanchard and Gomez advanced to the title contest after winning their semifinal match against Finland’s Osku Palermaa and England’s Dom Barrett, 233-186. That win followed a 10-9 one-ball sudden death roll-off victory over Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pa., and Australia’s Jason Belmonte after they tied at 216 in the second match. Needing a mark in the 10th frame for the win, Belmonte left a 2-8-10 split and picked up two pins to send the match into the roll-off.
O’Neill and Belmonte eliminated rookie Matt McNiel of Prior Lake, Minn., and Anthony Pepe of Elmhurst, N.Y., 196-153, in the first match.
MARK ROTH/MARSHALL HOLMAN PBA DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY STORM
National Bowling Stadium, Reno, Nev. (contested Dec. 19, aired Jan. 17, on ESPN)
Stepladder Results (Baker Doubles format): Match One – O’Neill/Belmonte def. McNiel/Pepe, 196-153. Match Two – Blanchard/Gomez def. O’Neill/Belmonte, 216-216, 10-9 in one-ball sudden death roll-off. Semifinal Match – Blanchard/Gomez def. Palermaa/Barrett, 233-186. Championship – Simonsen/Pickford def. Blanchard/Gomez, 223-173.