Simonsen earns top seed for championship round at 2020 U.S. Open


Anthony Simonsen of Little Elm, Texas, is one win away from becoming the youngest bowler in the history of the Professional Bowlers Association Tour to win three major titles.

The 23-year-old two-hander, known for his amazing versatility, outlasted a field of 108 of the sport's most talented bowlers to earn the top seed for the championship round of the 2020 U.S. Open, which will air live on FOX on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

The stepladder will include a trio of PBA Tour champions who have combined for 36 titles, including 13 major victories, a young player looking for a breakout performance in his first television appearance on American soil and the first amateur to make a U.S. Open show since 2004.

Simonsen will be joined under the TV lights by No. 2 seed and reigning PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte of Australia, No. 3 Dick Allen of Columbia, South Carolina, No. 4 Chris Via of Springfield, Ohio, and No. 5 Perry Crowell IV of Chesterfield, Michigan.

The winner of the 2020 U.S. Open will take home the coveted green jacket and a $30,000 top prize.

"It's kind of surreal to be back in this center for the second time and have success again, at least in getting to the show, but the job obviously isn't done," said Simonsen, who first visited Sun Valley Lanes for the 2016 World Bowling Youth Championships. "It's pretty crazy to be 23 and have a chance to win my third major. It doesn't even sound possible, to be honest. But, if I was able to pull it off, it would be pretty incredible."

On the way to the TV show, Simonsen and his fellow competitors had to navigate four challenging oil patterns, ranging from 37 to 44 feet, over five days and 56 games.

The seven-time PBA Tour champion took the lead Friday during the eight-game Cashers' Round and was able to extend the margin to more than 150 pins going into the final round of match play Saturday night.

He started the last block with a 289 game and carried that momentum through seven wins and a tie in his final eight matches. He finished with a 19-4-1 overall record and a 56-game pinfall total of 13,186, which included 30 bonus pins for each victory in match play.

Belmonte is a 22-time PBA Tour champion and the record holder for the most major titles with 11, but the U.S. Open has eluded him. The 36-year-old two-hander finished this week's marathon event with a 12,824 total.

Simonsen and Belmonte both made the U.S. Open television show in 2019, finishing third and fourth, respectively. It was Simonsen's best finish at the event, while Belmonte collected a runner-up finish to Wes Malott in 2013.

Allen, a 41-year-old right-hander, is a seven-time PBA Tour champion looking for his first major title. He has wins in each of the last three seasons and earned the No. 3 spot this week with a 12,682 total.

Via is a former collegiate standout and veteran of the Team USA program with a lot of international experience. He joined the PBA in 2017 and has competed on television overseas, but will be bowling on TV stateside for the first time in PBA competition.

The 27-year-old two-hander secured his spot on the show with a 234-203 position-round win over Allen and finished with a 12,515 total.

Crowell, a former Team USA member and a past standout at nearby Midland University, is the first amateur to make the U.S. Open stepladder since Finland's Osku Palermaa accomplished the feat in 2004.

If the 28-year-old right-hander can win four matches and claim the title, he'd be the first amateur since the creation of the PBA in the late 1950s to wear the green jacket.

The storybook week for Crowell included one of the event's eight perfect games and a roll-off win against United States Bowling Congress and PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Oxford, Florida, to earn the final spot in the 36-player Cashers' Round, before making his memorable ascent up the standings.

Crowell entered the final round of match play in 14th place and more than 200 pins out of the show, but he averaged nearly 233 on the way to a 6-1-1 mark. He locked up the final spot on the show with a 256-224 win over red-hot Kristopher Prather of Plainfield, Illinois, who won the 2020 PBA Tournament of Champions earlier this month.

"Coming into this week, I was just trying to make the Cashers' Round, especially against these guys, who are so talented and so sharp," said Crowell, a member of Team USA in 2019. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd make a run like I did in the last eight games and end up making the TV show.

"Just bowling on TV is a childhood dream. It's something I've always wanted to experience. It hasn't quite set in, and I don't know what to feel, but I definitely feel some kind of way."

Crowell and Via will meet in the opening match Sunday on FOX, with the winner advancing to face Allen. The winner of the second match will advance to the semifinal against Belmonte, with a chance to meet Simonsen on the line.

Four years ago, Simonsen was the No. 1 seed for the 2016 USBC Masters, where he defeated Canada's Dan MacLelland to become the youngest bowler in PBA Tour history to win a major (19 years, 39 days).

In 2019, he added a win at the PBA Players Championship, becoming the youngest in history to win two majors.

Only 29 bowlers own three or more major titles, with the youngest to date being 18-time PBA Tour champion Dave Davis, who won the third of his four majors at 25 years and 43 days old.

The 2020 U.S. Open marks Simonsen's seventh appearance at the prestigious event. He made the TV show on two previous occasions, and his best finish came at the 2019 tournament in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Each round of the 2020 U.S. Open, leading up to the championship round, was broadcast live at and simulcast on FloBowling.

All 108 competitors bowled 24 games of qualifying over three days (eight games each day), before the field was cut to the top 36 for the eight-game Cashers' Round. Each day of qualifying featured a different oil pattern, and a fourth condition was introduced for the Cashers' Round, match play and the TV show.

Total pinfall for 32 games determined the 24 players for the round-robin portion of the event, and their 56-game totals, including bonus pins, decided the five players for the championship stepladder.

Canada's Francois Lavoie was the defending champion at the U.S. Open, an event he also won in 2016 for his first PBA Tour title. He is one of 12 bowlers in history to win the U.S. Open on multiple occasions.

Only four bowlers - Andy Varipapa, Don Carter, Dick Weber and Dave Husted have successfully defended their U.S. Open titles. Husted was the last to accomplish the feat, doing so in 1996.

Lavoie finished 10th this week, falling 204 pins short of the stepladder.