COLUMBUS, Ohio - Australian two-hander Jason Belmonte made light work of the challenging lane condition at the 2013 Lipton Bowling's U.S. Open on Monday as he averaged more than 246 to lead the men's division after the first day of qualifying.
The seven-time Professional Bowlers Association titlist had a high game of 299 on the way to a 1,969 eight-game total, almost 100 pins ahead of the field. In the women's division, defending champion Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., leads with 1,753.
"Today was one of those days where everything that was close seemed to go the right way for me," Belmonte said. "I made a lot of good shots, and when you do that, it gives you a lot of confidence."
Belmonte finished third at last year's U.S. Open and has been in the top 10 each of the last three seasons. This year, he has enjoyed continued success in major events, including a win at the 2013 United States Bowling Congress Masters and runner-up finishes at the PBA World Championship and Barbasol Tournament of Champions.
"I pride myself on having the kind of character where I never give up, and I have a lot of faith in my ability," said Belmonte, who also won the Lucas Oil PBA Bear Open during the recent GEICO PBA Summer Swing. "Sometimes, you need a lot of games to get there, and sometimes, you use those games to build a lead and build your confidence. I really enjoy the longer formats and tougher patterns because I feel like I bowl my best when I'm forced to throw my best shots."
Brett Wolfe of Tempe, Ariz., who won the 2002 USBC Masters, is second with 1,873, and Brian LeClair of Albany, N.Y., is third with 1,774. Defending champion Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., finished the day in a tie for 12th place with 1,717.
The 2013 Lipton Bowling's U.S. Open includes nearly 400 of the best men and women bowlers in the world, competing side by side (in separate events) at three Columbus-area bowling centers - Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, Columbus Western Bowl and Holiday Lanes.
The combined events have a prize fund of more than $400,000 and will culminate with the live two-hour ESPN finals on Saturday.
On the women's side, Kulick took a big step toward a fourth U.S. Women's Open title and finds herself in familiar territory atop the leaderboard, though she knows there's a long way to go.
The 36-year-old right-hander averaged 219.13 and finished just ahead of two-time U.S. Women's Open titlist Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., who is second with 1,728. Their Team USA teammate Stefanie Nation of Grand Prairie, Texas, is third with 1,726.
"It's a very challenging shot, and you really have to match up with the right angles through the front part of the lane to score well," said Kulick, who also won the U.S. Women's Open in 2003 and 2010. "I was able to play my A game, which is to play a little deeper, so I was comfortable. I also had a lot of great help behind me."
Competition will resume Tuesday with another eight games. Half of the field will bowl at 9 a.m. EDT, and the rest will hit the lanes at 4 p.m.
"Only eight of the 24 games of qualifying are done, and then there's match play, so anything can happen, but I feel good about today," Kulick said. "With the three different bowling centers, it's like starting over each day, so you can't get too comfortable. I feel like having a lot of options is important, and I have a good progression of bowling balls, which should allow me to stay where I'm comfortable playing."
After 24 games of qualifying over three days, the field will be cut to the top 25 percent in each division. A final six-game cashers qualifying round will determine the top 24 men and top 24 women, who advance to 24 games of round-robin match play. The final four in each division will advance to the TV finals.
The men's and women's champions will face off in a special Battle of the Sexes match to crown the ultimate U.S. Open winner. The special match will be broadcast live on ESPN immediately following the men's and women's finals.For more information on the U.S. Open, visit BowlingsUSOpen.com. Live streaming of qualifying and match play will be provided by the PBA's Xtra Frame service.