By Aaron Smith, USBC Communication
LAS VEGAS – Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Arizona, will be bowling in the title match of a major championship for the third time since October after staying undefeated in match play at the 2019 USBC Masters.
The 24-year-old left-hander won six consecutive matches over Saturday and Sunday at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino to claim the top seed for Monday’s stepladder finals, including a 673-665 victory over fellow southpaw Mykel Holliman of Collierville, Tennessee, in the final of the winners bracket. Holliman, 26, will be the No. 2 seed Monday.
Butturff and Holliman will be joined on FS1 by Jake Peters of Henderson, Nevada, Canada’s Mitch Hupé and Ireland’s Christopher Sloan, who advanced from a four-player elimination match to earn the final spots in the stepladder finals.
The finals of the 2019 USBC Masters will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. Eastern on FS1. The champion will claim the $30,000 top prize and coveted major title on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour schedule.
Butturff still is looking for his first victory at a major championship after runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open (2017 and 2018) and PBA World Championship (2019). He also was the top seed at the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2018.
His run to the top seed proved to be challenging as he struggled with a back injury, but he was able to keep his focus through his nine games Sunday, averaging better than 225 in his three wins.
“I had a lot of pain in my upper back, near my left shoulder,” said Butturff, a five-time PBA Tour titlist. “This morning, it was bad enough to where I had to get up and just kind of move around my muscles. I had a lot of pain when I went up to bowl, but I’ve learned to put pain aside. I just tried to focus on the bowling, not the pain.”
Butturff admitted he began to notice some discomfort in the same area during qualifying earlier this week, but he did not experience the same type of pain he felt Sunday and plans to visit a chiropractor prior to Monday’s finals.
Despite the pain, Butturff was able to get comfortable this week in a familiar part of the lane on the 39-foot lane condition being used at Gold Coast.
He’s also comfortable at the 70-lane venue, having regularly competed at Gold Coast throughout the years. Butturff now hopes to add one more memory to his collection at the center.
“My A game definitely is getting out near the gutter, and I was able to do that all week,” said Butturff, a three-time Team USA member. “Gold Coast was one of the centers I grew up in as well, since I used to live in Las Vegas, so I’m comfortable here. Tomorrow, I need to just go out there and bowl my own game. With Mykel on the show, I’ll have another left-hander to watch, so I’ll keep an eye on his game prior to mine, but I’m going to go out there and give it all I got.”
Holliman, who made his debut this week at the Masters, posted the biggest scores throughout match play, averaging more than 230 in his six matches. He’s making his first championship-round appearance after just missing the show at the PBA Cheetah Championship earlier this month, finishing in fifth place.
Peters is the only other PBA Tour champion in the finals. He claimed his title at the 2013 PBA Badger Open.
Hupé and Sloan will be making the first championship-round appearances of their careers.
Peters, Hupé and Sloan advanced to Monday’s stepladder finals after making it through the shootout match that included the final four players in the elimination bracket.
Peters jumped into the top spot in the final game after rolling 226 to secure the No. 3 seed with a 668 series. Hupé followed with 648 to claim the No. 4 seed and will face Sloan (603) in Monday’s opening match. Kenny Ryan of Farmingdale, New Jersey, finished with 576 and was eliminated in sixth place.
The 2019 Masters consisted of three five-game qualifying blocks for the 450-player field to determine the 63 bowlers joining defending champion Andrew Anderson of Holly, Michigan, in the tournament’s double-elimination bracket. Anderson finished tied for 17th place.
For complete Masters bracket results click on http://scores.bowl.com/2019masters/bracket.pdf