Two bowlers eclipse 50-year mark at 2019 USBC Open Championships

BOWL.com Article Image
By Daniel Farish and David McCord
USBC Communications

LAS VEGAS -
Dwight Henry of Wichita, Kansas, and Jay Joyner of Minneapolis both made their United States Bowling Congress Open Championships debuts at the 1968 event in Cincinnati, but they didn't meet for the first time until more than five decades later.

The two bowlers became regulars on the USBC Open Championships stage, and their paths finally crossed this week at the South Point Bowling Plaza, where, on the same day, they each marched to the lanes for the 50th time.

Henry and Joyner are two of 23 bowlers scheduled to celebrate 50 years of participation at the 2019 event in Las Vegas. To commemorate the achievement, each bowler received a chevron, plaque and diamond lapel pin prior to the start of their respective team events Tuesday.

Henry reached the mark first, competing on the 11 a.m. team squad, and Joyner made his way into the record book Tuesday night. They met for the first time when they were brought together for a photo Wednesday before their doubles and singles squad.

Henry's path in bowling got started much later than most, as he didn't start until after he already was out of high school.HenryDwight2019OCForWeb637x359

"I was pretty athletic in high school and played multiple sports, but I wasn't big enough to compete at the college level," said Henry, a retired accountant. "Some friends invited me to go bowling one night. After that, I was hooked. After a couple of years, I was averaging 190 and just kept getting better."

Henry was so hooked, he got a job at the local bowling center and continued to progress, both on the lanes and off. Some of the people he met at that job would be the influences that led him to bowl in the Open Championships for the first time.

Once Henry hit the national scene, he noticed a lot of bowlers that were winning Eagles and setting records weren't too far from his age, so he went home to Wichita and put together a group of guys he felt would have some success.

"We came back in 1975 with a strong group, and when we got done with team event, we were fourth," Henry said. "We ended up finishing 13th. Then, in 1985, we left in ninth place and ended up 13th again. I knew then we could compete."

Most bowlers at the Open Championships don't see the same level of competition on a weekly basis, but things are different in Wichita, where the top-ranked bowling program at Wichita State University has been attracting top talent to the Midwest for decades.

"I've bowled in a scratch league back home for 41 years now, and one of the teams from that league won the team title out here back in 1989," said Henry, a 73-year-old left-hander. "And one of those guys, Mark Jensen, bowled on our Open Championships team until the late 70s."

That team, Chilton Vending, won with a then-record 3,481 total.

Henry also made sure to thank his current team, which has "put up with a lefty" for more than 30 years. Troy Bush (12 years) is the newest team member, while the other three, Rick Schroer (45 years), Randy Giggy (32 years) and Terry Clark (31 years), have been by Henry's side for their entire Open Championships careers, and most of his.

The group is admittedly set in its ways when it comes to the Open Championships routine. The focus primarily is on the bowling now, though it hasn't always been that way.

"Early on, we would try and get out and explore the area," Henry said. "I remember, one of our favorite trips was Jacksonville (Florida) in 1988. We took the kids and drove down to Disney World. We always found something to do. But, we are a little more set in our ways now."

Even after having a day to digest everything that went on prior to his 2019 team event, Henry still was blown away at the reaction from his teammates and fellow competitors when his accomplishment was announced.

"Yesterday, when they announced it and everyone stood up, it just won my heart," Henry said. "It was a great experience, and the same thing out on the approach. I told my teammates it was the first time I've ever gotten a standing ovation from them."

JoynerJay2019OCForWeb637x359For Joyner, bowling always has been a way of life.

His parents ran a bowling center, and when he was 8 years old, he would get off the school bus, help his parents get the bowling center ready for the leagues coming in and then head home for the night.

"I always looked forward to when the Classic league bowled during the week", said Joyner, a 69-year-old lawyer. "Those were the best bowlers in the area, and I got to watch them bowl and learn from them."

One of the things Joyner learned working at the bowling center was the sense of community and social interaction in league play.

"During that time, getting to go and bowl in league was the highlight of the week for most people," Joyner said. "It was a place people went to make new friends, celebrate accomplishments and have a good time. It was like they were family."

Joyner's first trip to the Open Championships was a successful one. Just 18 at the time, he and his doubles partner netted a top-20 finish. It was the performance that inspired Joyner to return to the tournament year after year.

Even after more than five decades, Joyner still feels the nerves when he steps onto the grandest stage in bowling. In his milestone appearance this week, he was able to put those nerves behind him and bowl well in his team event.

"After all these years, I still get nervous coming out to bowl the team event," said the right-hander, who put up scores of 188, 197 and 213 for a 598 series and helped his team to a 2,786 total Tuesday night. "As a team, we had a good, careful start, and I was able stay clean the first two games. Then, in the last game, I made a good adjustment and was able to put a few strikes together."

As Joyner looks at the future, he is quite optimistic he can reach the goals that would put him in some lofty company.

"My next goal is reaching the 100,000-Pin Club," Joyner said. "As long as my health holds up, I expect to be able to reach that goal in seven or eight years. My friend, Mike Schmid, reached that goal during singles this year, in his 58th tournament, so I'm hopeful I can get there if I remain healthy."

Joyner finished his 2019 campaign with sets of 559 in singles and 508 in doubles for a 1,665 all-events total. In 50 years on the championship lanes, he has knocked down 89,079 pins for a 197.9 career average.

This year at the South Point Bowling Plaza, Henry rolled sets of 525 in doubles, 428 in team and 387 in singles for a 1,340 all-events total. In 50 years, he has toppled 80,531 pins for a career average of 180.1.

Visit us on Facebook at the official USBC Open Championships Facebook page.