New Jersey bowler celebrates golden milestones at OC

By Matt Cannizzaro and Jessica Gilgor
USBC Communications

RENO, Nev. -
Five decades ago, Anthony Cerrato of East Hanover, N.J., exchanged wedding vows with his wife, Christine, and gained a travel companion for life.

Their journey through life together has included an annual trip to the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

The two made their way to the National Bowling Stadium this week for the 2014 tournament, a trip they've made many times over the years, but this time is a little bit different.

Not only are they in The Biggest Little City in the World to celebrate Cerrato's 50th walk down the tournament's famed Center Aisle, it also is the 50th anniversary of their walk down the aisle as a couple.

The two were married in Belleville, N.J. in front of approximately 125 friends and family members on May 20, 1964, and Cerrato's milestone march 50 years later came in front of his wife, hundreds of fellow competitors, guests and bowling fans. He received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate the achievement.

"It's a wonderful coincidence that they both fell on the same day," said Cerrato, the 174th bowler in history, and last of 10 this year, to reach 50 years of USBC Open Championships participation. "It made my wife very happy. As you get older, you almost live for making your wife happy. She enjoys coming to the tournament each year now."

While addressing the crowd at the NBS on Tuesday, Cerrato noted that his wife initially didn't understand what the tournament experience was all about, but once he convinced her to join him, starting in 1999, it became something she looked forward to each year.

"She was always skeptical of what we did when we came bowling, so I asked her to come along," Cerrato said. "Now, prior to the tournament, she's the first to ask for the details about when and where we are going and staying."

The annual trek to the Open Championships no longer is a one-stop trip for the couple, who use the event as an opportunity for a vacation and a chance to see more of the country.

Last year, their time on the West Coast included a visit to California's Wine Country, while a previous trip allowed them to see San Francisco. This year, they're headed to Las Vegas.

"The beauty of the tournament is the fact that you could see different parts of the country - unique parts you might not normally go to," Cerrato said. "For example, I would have never gone to the Dakotas to see the monuments under normal circumstances, but the tournament being in Billings, Mont., (2002) made that possible."

Even with all of the miles logged, the most memorable thing about Cerrato's tournament career is the camaraderie and time he's been able to spend with friends.

The 77-year-old right-hander made his tournament debut at the 1962 event in Des Moines, Iowa, and his passion for bowling and tournament play were instilled in him by his brother, Dom, who notched 35 years at the Open Championships.

This year on the championship lanes, Cerrato shot 535 in doubles, 490 in team and 436 in singles for an all-events series of 1,461. In 50 tournament appearance, he has knocked down 82,713 pins for a career average of 183.8.

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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.