Jason Belmonte is the best bowler in the world, the native of Australia sitting atop the Professional Bowlers Association’s point standings by a large margin. And he can barely contain his enthusiasm for returning to Portland this week.

“The fan base in Portland is a very different crowd then what we are generally used to and I hope it is contagious to the rest of the bowling world,” he said. “They’re loud, playful, enthusiastic and supportive. They get behind every bowler.

“They truly enjoy the game of bowling and they create an atmosphere that we are not used to, but love. We feed off it.”

Belmonte headlines a group of 24 PBA bowlers coming to Bayside Bowl this week for the inaugural PBA playoffs, which begin Monday with eight single-elimination matches; four will be televised live on FS1 at 7 p.m. The bowlers are playing for a $100,000 first-place prize.

This will be the first of three PBA stops at Bayside Bowl this year. The final four bowlers will return June 1 and 2 for the semifinals and final, both to be shown live on FOX Sports. Then the Elias Cup, the PBA’s team playoff, returns for the fifth year, this time in July. Teams will fill out their rosters for the Elias Cup during a draft Monday.

When PBA officials began planning the new playoff format, they immediately knew they wanted it to be held at Bayside Bowl, featuring Portland’s passionate, sometimes raucous fans.

“We want this first PBA playoffs to have an electric atmosphere,” said Tom Clark, the CEO and commissioner of the PBA. “Doing this many shows, and running down a bracket like we are, in three days is a challenge for any location to maintain an electricity in the crowd. We’re looking at six hours a day of TV and matches. We felt the place that could do it best was Portland.”

Clark said Portland’s fans are dynamic but also knowledgeable and respectful.

“The attitude of those bowlers (in the Bowl Portland league) is the future of bowling and is what the PBA wants to reflect,” said Clark. “There is a certain mindset of pro bowling being a quiet golf-clap type of sport. We believe that is not what bowling is. We think bowling is fun and loud, and we love the passion of the fans there and we want people to know they can come to a PBA event and have a good time.”

Seeding for the playoffs is based on PBA point standings. Belmonte is No. 1 with 29,300 points – nearly 5,000 more than Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Arizona, in second and more than 11,000 more than Norm Duke of Clermont, Florida, in third. But Belmonte isn’t taking anything for granted.

“Bowling can be a very fortuitous game,” he said. “Sometimes you can feel the pins are a little more stubborn to you and because the format here is so short, every single pin that doesn’t fall can have an effect. I’m not expecting it to be easy.”

The top eight in the standings received a first-round bye. Monday’s eight matches will be single-elimination, with the loser receiving $3,000. The Round of 16 will be held Tuesday. Bowlers have to earn two points (win two games) to advance. If the bowlers split the first two games, they enter a roll-off that will consist of bowling the ninth and 10th frames. Losers earn $5,000. Bowlers also will have to earn two points to win Wednesday’s Round of 8. Losers earn $8,000.

Charlie Mitchell, co-owner of Bayside Bowl, said the playoffs will be held on the original side of the bowling alley.

“There’s a different energy and vibe there,” said Mitchell. “The echoes of the crowd in there create a different level of intensity. It’s going to be interesting.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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