RENO, Nev. - Wayne Hutchinson of Franklin Park, Ill., added another highlight to his bowling resume as he became the 156th bowler in history to reach 50 years of participation at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.
Hutchinson, who began his USBC Open Championships career at the 1959 event in St. Louis, became the first of nine bowlers who will make the ceremonial march down Center Aisle this year at the National Bowling Stadium.
The 74-year-old right-hander first etched his name in the record books as a 1971 Team All-Events champion with Hilton Shirts of Chicago. Hutchinson had to earn his spot on the team through one of Chicago's classic leagues, which brought together the best teams from the area.
"In those days, we used to have classic leagues in Chicago, and I was invited to bowl on the Hilton Shirts team," said Hutchinson, who contributed a 1,823 all-events score to the winning-effort in 1971. "The team was very successful locally. At the 1971 event, we all contributed. In those days, 1,800 was a real good score, and I think our low man was right around there. What I really liked about it was that with the check I received that year, I was able to get a down payment for my first house."
Hutchinson has been looking forward to his milestone appearance for some time and was enthusiastic as he received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to recognize his achievement.
"This is one of the things that if you've been bowling for a long time, you really look forward to," said Hutchinson, who bowls regularly at Oak Forest Bowl in Oak Forest, Ill. "Longevity has its rewards. I really enjoyed it, and they did a nice job here."
With 50 Open Championships under his belt, Hutchinson has no plans of hanging up his bowling shoes anytime soon. He still feels he has a few big sets left in him, and he looks forward to meeting new people and developing friendships at each tournament.
"As long as I can do it, I'm just going to keep on keeping on," Hutchinson said. "I still feel like I have a few 1900s left in me somewhere along the line, although it wasn't quite evident today. The game has been good to me over the years. A friend of mine said the best people he ever met in his life were through bowling, and he's certainly right. I have developed many lifelong friends through this sport."
In his 50th appearance, Hutchinson posted sets of 560 in team, 517 in doubles and 487 in singles for a 1,564 all-events total. For his career, he has knocked down 83,837 pins for a career average of 190.1.
Robert Shelightner of Port Ewen, N.Y., will be the next to reach the 50-year milestone when he hits the championship lanes March 9 at 6 p.m. EST.
The late Bill Doehrman and late USBC Hall of Famer Joe Norris share the Open Championships participation record with 71 years. The active leader is Syl Thiel of Lake City, Minn., who will make his 68th appearance this year in Reno.
Presenting sponsors for the 2013 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.