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Jan. 20, 2010
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Two Hand Jam
Aussie's double-handed style bowls over PBA
By JEFF WOLF
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Australian Jason Belmonte's nursery was a 16-lane bowling center that his parents still own and operate about 160 miles from Sydney.
He recalls using both hands to push the ball down a lane before he was 2 and within a year using two hands to roll it, a style he never changed.
He resisted every effort from family and friends to dump the unorthodox style.
"I really liked how I could get the ball to curve more than any of the other kids," he said after practice Tuesday afternoon at Red Rock, where the Professional Bowlers Association Tournament of Champions begins at 10 a.m. today.
No one regrets the stubbornness of the 26-year-old right-hander -- with considerable assistance from his left -- any longer. He qualified for this week's event by winning a PBA tournament in March.
He doesn't mind the added attention but would prefer it to be for being the reigning top rookie on the PBA Tour.
He understands the interest in his two-handed approach.
Belmonte's technique looks traditional for the first two steps, but his left hand remains on the 15-pound ball until just before release to ensure balance and leverage.
With only the tips of two middle fingers on the right inserted, it allows him to bend his wrist more, and that allows him to generate extraordinary finger lift to create the most revolutions and one of the top speeds on the Tour.
Belmonte produces up to 17 percent more ball rotation than traditional one-arm bowlers, according to a Wall Street Journal article.
Through eight tournaments this season, Belmonte finished second once and ranks 12th in championship points and 33rd in average with a 213.32 norm -- about 12 pins behind leader Walter Ray Williams Jr. He has six top-10 finishes in 17 PBA events.
Belmonte said there is a downside to his wide, arcing curve.
"A bad ball for most of these guys might be seven or eight pins. For me it's five or six," he said.
Bowlers are known for personalizing traditional 20- to 25-foot approaches to the foul line. Old-timers recall the bent-elbow backswing of Don Carter and the robotic, rhythmic approach of Earl Anthony.
When Pete Weber, 47, joined his late father, Dick Weber, on the tour full time in 1980, his backswing was so high it received nearly as much attention as Belmonte's two-handed style.
"Jason's (ball) is about 10 times more powerful than mine today," said Weber, who has won 34 PBA titles, including one Tournament of Champions. "I might have thrown a pretty powerful ball in (my) time, but it would hit real weak compared to some of these young guys like Jason.
"There are no set rules in bowling other than you have to stay behind the foul line. If that's the best way he has to knock over 10 pins, then that's the way he should do it."
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247.