Andrew Anderson preparing to defend 2019 USBC Masters title Aaron Smith March 25, 2019 ARLINGTON, Texas - Entering the 2018 United States Bowling Congress Masters, Andrew Anderson of Holly, Michigan, was a 22-year-old still looking for his breakthrough moment.Now, he enters the 2019 event as the defending champion, the reigning Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year and a world champion as a member of Team USA.Anderson begins his title defense this week at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and will be joined by 450 of the best bowlers in the world looking to work through the tournament's double-elimination bracket and earn a spot on the live televised finals April 1 at 9 p.m. Eastern on FS1.The 2019 USBC Masters, a major championship on the PBA Tour schedule, begins Tuesday with the tournament's official practice session. The first of three rounds of qualifying start Wednesday at 11 a.m. Eastern and all rounds leading up to the stepladder finals will be broadcast on FloBowling.At the 2018 Masters in Syracuse, New York, Anderson went undefeated in match play to earn the top seed for the stepladder finals, and he defeated Alex Hoskins of Brigham City, Utah, 213-199, for his first career title.Anderson would add another PBA Tour title to his collection in 2018, and his overall body of work for the season helped him earn the Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year award.His 2018 campaign came to a close as a representative of Team USA at the World Bowling Men's Championships in Hong Kong, where he claimed a gold medal in trios with EJ Tackett and Kyle Troup and added three silver medals and a bronze medal.Despite his quick ascension to becoming one of the top players in the world, the now 23-year-old still is humble and gracious in reflecting on his first major championship."I'm really looking forward to making it to Las Vegas," Anderson said. "Being able to hear my name announced as a Masters champion and knowing going forward that I'll always be a part of that great history is really special for me."Anderson also returns to the Masters in search of his first breakthrough performance of the 2019 season. A torn tendon in his middle finger late in 2018 has slowed down the right-hander in the first stretch of this year's PBA Tour schedule, but he's been adapting to the changes he's had to make to his grip."I'm still nowhere near 100 percent, but the last month and a half or so I've been pain free, so that's good," said Anderson, a two-time Team USA member. "It took away a lot of my confidence just because I was bowling so well. I was really happy with what I had going on, and having to change that in the middle of one of my best stretches of bowling, mentally was really tough. It's become a little more comfortable - you could say it's growing on me - but getting back into it mentally has been the hardest part."Anderson recently put together his best performance of the season last week at the PBA Scorpion Championship, recording a 12th-place finish.He hopes the advantage of having a guaranteed spot in the 64-player bracket will let him continue to improve and get familiar with the venue. Anderson is guaranteed the No. 64 spot in the bracket but can improve his seeding through qualifying."I've had some good stretches over the last few weeks," Anderson said. "I'm hoping that it all kind of comes together sooner than later, and I think not having to worry about making match play will allow me to get comfortable. It's going to give me the chance to try some extra bowling balls and look at different options, even if I sacrifice a little bit of score to get prepared for match play."Regardless of his spot in the bracket, Anderson knows there's no easy path to return to the stepladder finals. However, he hopes the experience gained from his win in 2018 will serve him well."I have to get back to the idea that this tournament is a grind," Anderson said. "You have to get in the mindset that you have to grind out matches and that every pin and game matters. I know it's going to be a tough road, but knowing that I've done it before is a huge boost to my confidence."All players will bowl 15 games of qualifying over three days to determine the 63 players joining Anderson in the double-elimination bracket. All bracket matches leading up to the stepladder finals will be three-game total-pinfall contests to determine the advancer.The 2019 USBC Masters will award $30,000 to the champion and has a total prize fund of $315,000.