LAS VEGAS – Thomas Larsen became the first bowler from Denmark to hoist the trophy at the United States Bowling Congress Masters after his win at the 2021 event, and he has been looking forward to his return as defending champion.
The 2022 edition of the event will get underway this week at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino.
The 32-year-old right-hander is part of a sold-out field of 420 athletes who will be competing at the 2022 USBC Masters, with qualifying starting Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern.
The stepladder at the 2022 event will be April 3 at 1 p.m. Eastern on FOX, with the champion taking home a spot in the tournament’s storied history, a major title on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour and the $ 100,000 top prize.
Larsen captured his first career major and third PBA Tour title with a 197-176 win over top seed Jesper Svensson of Sweden at the 2021 Masters in Reno, Nevada.
Larsen’s first two titles came overseas in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in 2013 and Kuwait in 2014, but there always was a goal to win in the United States.
“It has been a dream come true,” Larsen said. “When you’re growing up in Europe and start bowling, it’s always the dream to win a title on American TV on the PBA Tour. For it to be a major is pretty amazing. I was able to cross something off my bucket list.”
The win helped him earn a spot at the 2021 PBA Playoffs and PBA Super Slam, and the additional fanfare when he returned to Denmark helped open additional doors for him to share in his experience as a professional bowler.
“All of my friends and family were really happy, and it also got some media attention with some of the bigger news outlets in Denmark,” Larsen said. “The biggest part for me was that it led to a couple opportunities for me to do some bowling-related work. I started working together with a German company to create YouTube videos (EMAX Bowling Service), and that has been really cool.”
Larsen felt he was putting together some of the best performances of his career as the 2021 season came to a close, but the layoff from tour competition before the start of this season in January has led to some struggles in his 2022 campaign.
Things have been progressing in the right direction as he continues to compete against the best players in the world each week on the PBA Tour, but he’s still looking for everything to come together at the right time.
“I came over here and wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked,” Larsen said. “It’s kind of been a struggle, but I’ve got some physical things figured out, and my spare shooting is back to a level where I would want it to be. I feel it’s getting better and better, but then you also run into the issue of throwing the ball well but not matching up. I feel like I have not had a good solution to what the lanes were giving me so far this year, and then it becomes really difficult to perform.”
Qualifying at the 2022 Masters will feature 15 games over three days, with all competitors bowling two five-game blocks on the fresh 40-foot lane condition and one squad on the burn. The top 63 players, based on total pinfall, will join Larsen in the double-elimination bracket beginning Friday at noon Eastern.
Larsen is guaranteed a spot in the bracket as the defending champion, and he can improve his seeding through qualifying. If he happens to finish qualifying outside of the top 63, he’ll be the No. 64 seed.
He’s looking forward to getting comfortable on this year’s lane condition during qualifying and feels confident heading into match play.
The biggest thing of the week for Larsen, however, is enjoying the experience of returning to the event as the defending champion.
“No matter what, I’m thrilled and looking forward to the whole experience,” Larsen said. “Being introduced as the defending champion and getting to see my name up on the banner and everything, I’m going to enjoy this week.
“I get some free practice in qualifying and am guaranteed to be in match play, and I feel if I can have somewhat of a decent look, match play is one of my strengths.”
All bracket matches leading up to the stepladder finals will feature a three-game total-pinfall format. The top five players will advance to the stepladder finals.
All rounds of competition prior to the stepladder will be broadcast live by BowlTV and simulcast to FloBowling. Subscribe at BowlTV.com.
For more information on the USBC Masters, visit BOWL.com/Masters.