April 2018 - www.bowlingworld.com 7 SERVING THE BOWLING INDUSTRY SINCE 1967 Enhancements On Horizon For USBC Open Championships In 2019 By Matt Cannizzaro 2019 OC Rules | 2019 OC FAQs ARLINGTON, Texas - Las Vegas has a growing place in United States Bowling Congress Open Championships h istory, and bowlers will experi- ence some rule revisions when the tournament returns to the South Point Bowling Plaza in 2019. Starting with the 2019 tournament, bowlers will use their USBC Open Championships tournament average (last 27 games) as their entering aver- age. There also will be new average limits for the divisional structure and adjusted guide- lines for team composition. The ideas came directly from bowler and captain feedback and were formalized by a task force of tournament participants, volunteer leaders and staff. Beginning in 2019, the entering average for bowlers will be their Open Championships average (unadjusted) from the most recent 27 games since 2010. Bowlers who do not have a qualifying Open Championships average will enter with the highest average from the following: * Highest USBC-certified league average (winter, summer or composite) based on 21 or more games, from the 2017-2018, 2016-2017 or 2015-2016 seasons, converted to Sport using the appropriate Sport or Challenge Average Adjustment Chart on BOWL.com * Bowlers who do not meet the above requirement will be allowed to enter using their high- est current or composite average for 21 or more games, adjusted to Sport, using the ap- propriate chart on BOWL.com. * Not meeting any of the previous requirements means the bowler will enter with a 220 average. The Open Championships will maintain the three-division structure (Regular, Standard and Classified) introduced in 2017, but the average parameters will be adjusted to align with the use of Sport averages. Starting with the 2019 event, Classified Division bowlers will have entering averages of 155 and below, the Standard Division will have averages of 156-175 and the Regular Divi- sion will be for bowlers with averages of 176 and above. The combined average requirements for doubles will be 310 and below, 311-350 and 351 and above, and team competition will be 775 and below, 776-875 and 876 and above. "In the initial restructuring of the Open Championships, we wanted to make sure the bowl- ers were competing against those of similar skill levels, and adding the Standard Division met an important need for our members," USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy said. "In creating the breakdown for 2019 and beyond, we again used data to help reach our target of 20 percent of the bowlers in the Classified Division and 40 percent in each Standard and Regular." In the 2017 and 2018 events, when determining the division a team will compete in at the Open Championships, only one bowler from a higher division could be on a team, regard- less of the team's combined entering average. That number will change to two in 2019, meaning a Classified Team can include two Standard bowlers, and a Standard team can have two bowlers who individually qualify for the Regular Division, as long as they meet the combined average requirements. Additionally, the tournament rule that restricts the number of professional bowlers and national titlists will expand to include collegiate bowlers and national team members. A team may have a combination of up to two bowlers who are considered professionals by the tournament rules, are under the age of 60 and have been a member of Junior Team USA, Team USA or any other national teams or qualify as collegiate bowlers per the event's rules. All of these bowlers must compete in the Regular Division for every event (team, doubles, singles, all-events) regardless of combined average for doubles and team. A team that includes a Professional Bowlers Association or Professional Women's Bowl- ing Association national titlist, USBC Masters winner or USBC Queens or U.S. Women's Open champion from 2003-2014, under the age of 60, may not also include a bowler as described in the preceding paragraph. Belmonte Ready To Defend Title At 2018 USBC Masters By Matt Cannizzaro SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Often, while most of Orange, New South Wales, Australia, is asleep, Jason Belmonte is on the lanes honing his skills. The late-night practice isn't done to be secretive, it's done because being the best bowler in the world, as well as trying to be the world's best husband and parent, takes sacrifice and a well -balanced schedule. So, the 17-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour champion hits the lanes when his wife, Kimberly, and their three children comfortably are in bed, most recently, preparing to put his title on the line at the 2018 United States Bowling Congress Masters. The event will take place April 9-15 at the Oncenter Convention Center in Syra- cuse, the 48-lane custom tournament venue that will be home to the 2018 USBC Open Championships until July. The two events are sharing the biggest stage in bowling for the first time since 2011. The 2018 Masters concludes live on ESPN on April 15 at 1 p.m. Eastern, with the winner taking home a $30,000 top prize. Belmonte is in a familiar position, having won the USBC Masters a record four times, and he feels the unique format helps make the effects of traveling almost 10,000 miles a little less of a factor. "I've been known to start events kind of slow, usually because I'm a little tired or jetlagged, and my body and brain aren't work- ing well together yet," said Belmonte, who also won the Masters three consecu- tive times from 2013-2015. "This will be the first event of the trip, and the format, along with being the defending champion, will take off some of the pressure of having to get off to a blazing start." As the defending champion, the 34-year-old two-hander is guaranteed the No. 64 spot in the double-elimination match-play bracket at the Masters, but he can improve his seeding by bowling well during the qualifying. In previous years as the reigning champion, Belmonte finished qualifying first (2014), tied for ninth (2015) and first (2016), and he has no interest in using his free pass this year in Syracuse. "I definitely want to try to stay well ahead of that 64th spot, and I don't want to have to use the defending champion clause," said Belmonte, a four-time PBA Player of the Year. "But, I feel I can be patient and let my body get comfortable." Belmonte has been home since the conclusion of a four-event swing on the Go Bowling! PBA Tour in late February, and while that stint did yield a doubles title with Bill O'Neill at the Mark Roth-Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship presented by BowlerX.com, it would be tough to harness the confidence and mo- mentum from that successful swing because so much time has passed. Heading into the Masters, there likely will be some talk of an injury Belmonte suffered a couple days before leaving Australia, when a trailer rolled over his right foot, but he's confident it won't be a factor. He has a bruise that's healing, and it's a little sore when he walks, but it's not broken. He expects to be at 100 percent in time for the start of qualifying Tuesday. All players in the sold-out field of 360 will bowl 15 games of qualifying over three days, five games each day, and total pinfall will determine the 63 players who will join Belmonte in the match-play bracket. Match play, consisting of three-game total-pinfall matches, will take place throughout the day Friday and Saturday. The final five players will advance to the televised championship stepladder. The Masters also will provide Belmonte the chance to join the late Earl Anthony and Pete Weber as the third player in PBA history to win 10 major championships. That opportunity got away from Belmonte at the recent PBA Tournament of Champions, where he finished fourth, and the Barbasol PBA Players Champion- ship, where he was the top seed and lost to Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, Michi- gan, in the title match, 259-239. "At the first two majors this year, when I had a chance to tie the record, it wasn't in my mind," Belmonte said. "I certainly would like to have one shot back from the Tournament of Champions, but I bowled the best game I could at the Players Championship. Tom bowled a great game at me. Winning a 10th major would be incredibly special, but I won't be thinking about it. I just want to stay focused on knocking down as many pins as I can." The 2018 Masters will feature a total prize fund of $270,000 and again is a major event on the PBA Tour. Masters update: After Round 2: Belmonte was in 32nd place.