Zavakos reaches 65 years of participation at 2019 USBC Open Championships

LAS VEGAS - Clinton Zavakos is the epitome of a United States Bowling Congress Open Championships journeyman, and his longevity was celebrated this week at the South Point Bowling Plaza as he participated in the tournament for the 65th consecutive time.

The 82-year-old right-hander inherited his passion for the sport and the USBC Open Championships from his father, Tom, a team champion at the 1932 event in Detroit.

"My father was a great bowler, and it means a lot to keep our family tradition here going," Zavakos said. "I never thought 65 years would happen to me, but today was very special."

Zavakos made his tournament debut at the 1955 event in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and it immediately became part of his annual routine. Even being stationed overseas while in the military in the early 1960s couldn't keep Zavakos from the Open Championships.

With his march to the lanes Thursday, Zavakos became the second bowler this year, and 14th in tournament history, to celebrate 65 years of participation. He received a chevron, plaque and custom ring to commemorate the milestone.

Frank Clay of Crystal Lake, Illinois, reached the 65-year mark last week. Both competitors also are part of the tournament's elite 100,000-Pin Club, which includes just 23 members.

Though the younger Zavakos never earned his own Eagle trophy, he still looks back fondly on the last 65 years and the memories he's made on the biggest stage in bowling.

"I've had 700 and 1,800 in this tournament before, but I've never set the world on fire," Zavakos said. "I come because I love bowling, and bowling has been very good to me. I look across the board, and I'm grateful for getting to bowl with some terrific bowlers and on some great teams, and we've had some high finishes."

Previously from Florida, Zavakos bought a house and moved to Henderson, Nevada, about four years ago, and he now lives just 20 minutes from the South Point Bowling Plaza.

Being so close has allowed him to stop by often to watch some bowling, and when it was his turn to lace up his bowling shoes, he was surrounded by longtime friends and teammates from the Sunshine State, as well as friends and acquaintances from the Las Vegas area.

This year on the tournament lanes, Zavakos rolled sets of 464 in singles, 452 in doubles and 378 in team for a 1,294 all-events total.

In 65 years at the Open Championships, he has knocked down 106,010 pins for a career average of 183.

Three bowlers share the tournament's participation record of 71 years - late USBC Hall of Famers Bill Doehrman of Fort Wayne, and Joe Norris of San Diego, along with Minnesota standout Sylvester Thiel.

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