By Kevin Albarez
BATON ROUGE, La. - When Robert Scott of Springfield, Mo., closed out his 30th United States Bowling Congress Open Championships appearance last year at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev., he told his teammates it would be his last unless he was ever given the opportunity to bowl with his son.
When his son, Thomas Scott of Normal, Ill., found out this information, he told his team captain that if a spot was to come open, he would like his father to be able fill the position, never expecting anyone to drop out.
Everything fell into place for the father and son, and it looked like their wish would come true, until an injury to the elder Scott turned the trip bittersweet.
In February, Thomas got word that one of the bowlers couldn't make it, and the spot was open for his father. He immediately sent his father an email informing him of an opportunity to bowl one more time.
"I sent him an email with four words - come bowl with me," said Thomas Scott, who made his fourth consecutive USBC Open Championships appearance. "My wife and I have a 2-year-old and two older sons, and my parents are normally the babysitters when we go to Nationals. He started coming up with reasons why he couldn't go, and I told him his excuses were not holding water very well, and in fact, were leaking fast."
Thomas made the trip to the tournament with his parents a couple of times before heading to college, and while in school, he made every effort to see his father bowl on the biggest stage but wondered what it would be like to bowl with him.
"I grew up watching him bowl, and he was my teacher," said Thomas, a 47-year-old right-hander who bowls at Pheasant Lanes in Bloomington, Ill. "I was able to see him bowl in the Open Championships a couple times, but when he started coming regularly I was already in college. Once they put cameras in, I would have two screens up - one on his lanes and the other up on the scoreboard to see how he was doing. I have always thought it would be neat to be able to bowl with him."
Somewhere between Robert's 400-mile trip from Springfield to Normal, and then 800 more miles to Baton Rouge, La., he injured himself.
The 80-year-old right-hander tried to overcome the pain so he could make the memorable walk down Center Aisle with his son, but during an attempt to bowl the nearby Forty Frame Game, he found out it was too difficult to get everything working the way he wanted.
"It is his fourth appearance, and he always heard me talking about how easy it is to mess things up as you go along," Robert said. "It would be a neat opportunity to do that with him. I was excited until I pulled a muscle, and when I couldn't get to the foul line during the Forty Frame Game, I knew I wouldn't be able to try it out here."
Both bowlers had memorable moments in past tournaments, but to see their names next to each other on the scoreboard would've been the biggest memory of all.
The two plan to try again next year when the tournament returns to Reno, which may be Robert's final trip to the prestigious tournament.
"I know for next year, I will have to bowl in at least one league to stay in shape," Robert said. "Eventually, you get to the place you finally have to make a decision. The left foot and right hand don't work together when you get older. After next year, I will have to see how I am feeling and see if I could make another trip."
When Robert is ready, he'll pass the family torch to his son, who hopes to pass his father in tournament appearances.
"It would have been better if he was able to bowl, but there was so much more to it than bowling," Thomas said. "Part of the reason I do this is to continue his legacy. It is something he has done and something I can carry on."
With his father in the stands cheering him on, Thomas shot 574 in singles, 501 in team and 499 in doubles for a 1,574 all-events total.
Sponsors for the 2012 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno. Other sponsors include the Belle of Baton Rouge, official brackets sponsor; Kegel, official lane maintenance provider; Humana, official registration sponsor; Bud Light and Budweiser, official beer sponsors; The Advocate, official publication sponsor; Brunswick, official lane provider; Steltronic, official scoring system; Storm Bowling Products and Nationwide Insurance.