Arizona bowler first to reach OC milestone in 2014

RENO, Nev. - When Keith Miller of Peoria, Ariz., planned to make the memorable march down Center Aisle for his 50th United States Bowling Congress Open Championships appearance, he hoped his family would be by his side.

The 84-year-old right-hander was joined by his daughter, Karen Wolf, and two grandsons, Brett and Erik Wolf, at the National Bowling Stadium on Monday as he became the 165th bowler in tournament history, and first of 2014, to reach the historic plateau. He was awarded a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate the accomplishment.

"It meant a lot for them to be here," said Miller, who is a member of the Metro Phoenix USBC Hall of Fame. "I asked them to please come and bowl because I wanted a three-generation team, and I really enjoyed it."

Miller began his USBC Open Championships career at the 1962 event in Des Moines, Iowa, and despite a rough performance on the lanes, a passion for the event was born.

"I was working as a physician in three little towns in Iowa," Miller said. "A few guys suggested that we go and bowl in the national tournament, so I went with them. I bowled so poorly they said I would have to walk home. That was about 100 miles, but finally they let me ride back with them. After that, I became more enthused to bowl each year."

Miller became more involved in the sport after his tournament debut and served as his local association's president for two years. Although his performance on the lanes over the years may not have landed him in the record books, the camaraderie he's been able to share with fellow competitors has made the experience beyond memorable.

"I really enjoy bowling," Miller said. "I know I'm not a good bowler, and I wasn't expecting to get a 300 or 800. I just wanted to go out and have a good time throwing the ball. Bowlers are great people, and I've enjoyed the chance to meet them."

In his 50th appearance, Miller rolled games of 137, 113 and 111 for a 361 series to help Doc's Pin Rollers of Phoenix to a 2,168 team total. He did not participate in doubles and singles.

For his career, Miller has knocked down 68,774 pins for a lifetime average of 160.

Nine other bowlers are scheduled to reach the 50-year mark in 2014. The dedicated group includes Richard Bliss of Portage, Ind.; Anthony Cerrato of East Hanover, N.J.; Raymond Jensen of Greenwood, Ind.; Dennis Lecher of Pewaukee, Wis.; Val Medich Sr. of South Bend, Ind.; John Molnar of Livonia, Mich.; Billy Nesbitt of Rossville, Ga.; Mac Segar of Osprey, Fla., and Michael Wiser of Grand Blanc, Mich.

Frank Clay of Crystal Lake, Ill., and Clinton Zavakos of Daytona Beach Shores, Fla., are scheduled to make their 60th Open Championships appearances in 2014, and active participation leader Syl Thiel of Lake City, Minn., will be making his 69th appearance March 19.

USBC Hall of Famers Joe Norris of San Diego and Bill Doehrman of Fort Wayne, Ind., are the lifetime participation leaders with 71 tournaments apiece.

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Presenting sponsors for the 2014 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.