Three bowlers celebrate five decades of participation at USBC Open Championships Article Image
By Matt Cannizzaro and Ronald Kirsh
USBC Communications

The first week of the 2021 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships featured a fun balance of excitement and sentimentality, as a flurry of big scores was complemented by a handful of emotional participation milestones.

Most recently, three bowlers added their names to the list of competitors who have made 50 appearances on the championship lanes.

William Matthews of Kalispell, Montana, Jeff Baumann of Yorkville, Illinois, and Tony Maresca of Mesa, Arizona, made their milestone marches to the lanes at the South Point Bowling Plaza throughout the day Thursday, each getting to enjoy a solo moment in the spotlight.

Matthews, who only competed in the team event, was the first of the trio to be recognized for his five decades of dedication, and he was the third of 25 bowlers scheduled to reach the plateau this year in Las Vegas.

Baumann hit the lanes for his team event Thursday afternoon, and Maresca worked the night shift, as he bowled on the final team squad of the day. Both were back on the lanes at the nearby South Point Bowling Plaza on Friday for doubles and singles.

The newest members of the tournament's 50-Year Club each received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate the accomplishment.

A look at each:

BillMatthewsForWeb300x169William Matthews

Matthews is a goal-setter, and reaching 50 years at the Open Championships is something he set his sights on many years ago.

Traveling to the tournament each year has given him the chance to see parts of the United States he may not have seen otherwise, and when his career moved him across the country, the event served as the perfect reunion opportunity for him and his longtime teammates.

Matthews, 80, made his tournament debut at the 1969 event in Madison, Wisconsin. In all, he has bowled in 28 cities, but he said choosing a favorite is impossible.

The retired computer programmer was escorted to the lanes at the South Point Bowling Plaza by his wife and posted a 344 series in his team event.

In 50 years on the tournament lanes, he has knocked down 71,715 pins for a career average of 167.1.

JeffBaumannForWeb300x169Jeff Baumann
Baumann, 71, made his first Open Championships appearance at the 1970 tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee, and has only missed one tournament since.

Some recent health issues, specifically a blood clot in his lungs, threatened his participation in 2021, but he was able to persevere.

There also were a few last-minute changes to the team he was scheduled to compete with this week at South Point, but his two sons, Brandon and Jeremy, stepped up and filled in.

"I enjoyed it immensely, especially because my two sons filled in," Baumann said.

Among Baumann's career highlights at the tournament are a career-best 1,899 all-events effort in Niagara Falls, New York, in 1983, a performance that included a top-20 doubles finish.

This year at South Point, Baumann rolled sets of 493 in singles, 465 in doubles and 458 in team for a 1,416 all-events total.

In 50 years on the tournament lanes, he has knocked down 81,935 pins for a career average of 182.

TonyMarescaForWeb300x169Tony Maresca
Maresca competed in his first Open Championships in Cincinnati in 1968, and it didn't take him long to find success on the tournament lanes.

In 1971, he teamed with Bill Haley to win the Regular Doubles with a 1,330 total. Maresca led the way with a 709 series, while Haley added 621.

Maresca said he appreciates the hospitality of the host cities and noted Knoxville, Tennessee, and Billings, Montana, were among his favorites.

His own bowling community also has been a bright spot in the journey to 50 years, and the support of his fellow competitors made the milestone in Las Vegas that much more special.

"I have been overwhelmed with all the texts from local bowlers in the Phoenix area, and it has been very touching," Maresca said.

A friend of his, who worked in his pro shop as a young bowler and now is 30 years old, flew in just for the ceremony. He said all his friends from the pro shop and bowling center have been amazing.

Though the early part of Maresca's milestone campaign was a little rocky, he was able to finish with games of 235, 203 and 247 for a 685 singles series.

He had 566 in team and 524 in doubles for a 1,775 all-events total, bringing his 50-year pinfall mark to 88,754, for a career average of 197.2.

Along with the 25 bowlers who will celebrate 50 years of participation at the Open Championships this year, two more are scheduled to join the 60-Year Club.

Earlier in the event, Jamie Brooks of McKinney, Texas, became the 24th member of the 100,000-Pin Club, and USBC Hall of Famer Bob Hart of Suwanee, Georgia, became the 15th bowler in tournament history to compete 65 times.

The 2021 Open Championships kicked off May 1 and will run for 79 consecutive days through July 18. More than 7,700 five-player teams will visit the South Point Bowling Plaza and South Point Bowling Center during that time.

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