On the Lanes with Larry DeLucas

In the coming months, we'll talk with some of the best-known bowlers at the USBC Open Championshipsand get their thoughts on their time at the tournament and what it takes to succeed on the championship lanes.

This week, we heard from Larry DeLucas of Birmingham, Ala., who made his fifth Open Championships appearance.

DeLucasLarryOLDSCHOOL2014OC465x262DeLucas was a member of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1992 and spent nearly 14 days in space conducting experiments relating to materials processing and fluid physics. Throughout the mission, he traveled more than 5.7 million miles, while making 221 orbits of Earth.

His love of space led DeLucas to build his own telescope in high school, but he never thought he could be an astronaut one day. He pursued degrees in chemistry, physiological optics, optometry and biochemistry, and his background in those areas eventually made him a perfect fit for the Columbia mission.

The agenda for the mission included a national effort to advance microgravity research in a broad number of disciplines. Among their successes, DeLucas and the crew completed 31 microgravity experiments in five basic areas: fluid dynamics, crystal growth, combustion science, biological science, and technology demonstration.

It was his work in growing protein crystals that actually earned his first up-close experience with a shuttle launch in 1985. Although he wasn't actually on that flight, the experience of being nearby was life-changing.

"If you have an experiment on the shuttle, you get to watch it from two and a half miles away with the spouses," DeLucas said. "It takes off and you see the fire and smoke, but the sound doesn't reach you right away. And then all of a sudden, you get hit with this shock wave into your chest. The ground was shaking. I just started crying. My wife was crying. It's such a powerful thing to see from that close."

That was the moment DeLucas decided he wanted to be ON a shuttle.

He continued his research and experiments and stayed close to the program, applying for seven years before being picked for the mission that would utilize multiple aspects of his education and training. The opportunity ended up being as humbling as it was rewarding.

"It all came together, and I was lucky enough to get selected," DeLucas said. "It is the most amazing thing looking back at Earth. When I flew, we had just finished the first war with Iraq, and we could still see some of the fires burning in Kuwait. At night, you see this beautiful ball below you, the Earth, but seeing the fire, knowing what had been going on there, was a weird feeling."

DeLucas, a 63-year-old right-hander, had a similar feeling the first time he walked down Center Aisle at the Open Championships, and that's what has kept him coming back.

"The first time I came to the Open, I could not believe it," said DeLucas, who picked up the sport about 15 years ago after his son, Robert, started bowling collegiately at Vanderbilt University. "I'm not that great of a bowler, but when we walked out and the music was playing, it was a neat feeling, and that's why I keep coming back. It's just a lot of fun."

DeLucas' goals on the lanes include rolling his first perfect game. His highest game so far is 290.

This week at the National Bowling Stadium, DeLucas rolled sets of 483 in doubles, 437 in singles and 428 in team for a 1,348 all-events total.

DeLucas answers 12 questions about bowling and the Open Championships:

HOMETOWN: Birmingham, Ala.





ONE all-time favorite host city: Reno, Nev.

TWO best Open Championships memories: 1. getting three strikes in a row; 2. watching another bowler bowl 300

THREE keys to success at the Open Championships: 1.stay away from the edge; 2. try to avoid throwing it too hard; 3. be consistent in hitting your mark

FOURgettable Open Championships moment: 1. not breaking 120

FIVE bowlers in history on your Open Championships fantasy all-star team: Larry Davenport, Chris Baker, Andy Cummings, Dave Rinaldi, Alan Dardin

SIX bowling balls currently in your Open Championships arsenal: Only have three - Columbia 300 Action Max, Roto Grip Shatter, Storm Virtual Gravity

SEVEN cities you'd like to see the Open Championships go to/return to: Reno; Foley, Ala., Baton Rouge, La.; San Diego; San Francisco; Atlanta; Orlando, Fla.

EIGHT favorite bowling balls ever: Haven't had that many! Columbia 300 Action Max, Roto Grip Shatter, Storm Virtual Gravity

NINE other current/eligible bowlers you would choose to join you on your ideal pair of companion teams at the Open Championships: Rob DeLucas, Andrew Duke, Jo Anne Bridges, Larry Davenport, Randy Bridges, Andy Cummings (plus others listed above)

TEN seconds or less, who is your favorite bowler of all-time?: Walter Ray Williams Jr.

ELEVEN strikes in a row to start a game at the Open Championships, what's going through your head?: What type of dance I will do if I get number 12!

TWELVE years from now, where do you hope to be in your bowling career?: I just hope I am still healthy enough to bowl because I will be 76 years old.