Idaho bowler headlines milestone day at 2016 USBC Open

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RENO, Nev. - Bud Howell of Idaho Falls, Idaho, estimates he's traveled more than 137,000 miles during his career at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, and while he hasn't been paid the government rate for that mileage, he has banked priceless memories and made countless friends.

More than 40 friends, family and teammates, many dressed in "Bud's 50th" T-shirts, joined Howell as his journey reached a special milestone Monday at the National Bowling Stadium, while his longtime friends Jerry Beltz and Burt Kellermann were on-hand to escort him down Center Aisle for his 50th time.

The group of supporters included four teams on Howell's squad, two more scheduled to bowl later in the week and all of their guests.

Howell, an 85-year-old USBC Life Member who will celebrate his birthday Wednesday, got an early gift from USBC Open Championships Tournament Director Duane Hagen in the form of a plaque, chevron and special lapel pin to commemorate his 50th appearance on the championship lanes.

Howell is one of 19 bowlers scheduled to reach five decades of participation at this year's event, but he's the first in 113 years of tournament history from the state of Idaho to join the 50-Year Club.

"I was just overwhelmed by the bowlers and everyone who came down for this, and I was very surprised when I saw them all wearing the special T-shirts," said Howell, a former American Bowling Congress (now USBC) Board member. "So much of this whole tournament experience has been about the people from ABC, people I've bowled with from my hometown and friends I've made and bowled with from as far away as Alaska. The camaraderie has played a big part in me wanting to keep it going."

Another motivating factor for Howell was the chance to see so many parts of the United States.

In 50 consecutive trips to the tournament, he has visited 31 cities in 21 states, with his favorite still being his debut in Miami in 1967, also the farthest from his home in Idaho. The shortest trip for Howell was a little more than 200 miles to Salt Lake City in 1996.

"Going to the tournament always gave me a chance to have a small vacation, too, and that first year was the only time the whole family went with me," said Howell, an Idaho State and Idaho Falls USBC Association Hall of Famer. "We made it a two-week family vacation. It's also still the farthest I've had to travel to bowl in this. Overall, it has been a barrel of fun."

Halfway through his tournament career, Howell made reaching 50 years a bucket-list item, and good health allowed him to make the milestone without interruption.

In 50 appearances, he has knocked down 77,253 pins, which includes sets of 505 in singles, 493 in team and 432 in doubles for a 1,430 all-events total this year in Reno. His career average is 173.9.

Each year, the Open Championships recognizes bowlers for their loyalty to the event with special awards, chevrons and plaques.

Bowlers with 20 or more years receive chevrons, while those reaching 25 years (and every fifth year after) receive plaques to commemorate their long-standing association with the tournament.

Howell's appearance Monday was part of full day of milestone appearances at the Open Championships, in which 89 chevrons and 18 plaques were given out to dedicated competitors.

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