Long road pays off for Maryland bowler in 50th USBC Women's Championships

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By Donovan Grubaugh
USBC Communications

ADDISON, Ill.
- Phyllis Bourque of La Plata, Maryland, became the latest bowler to reach her 50th consecutive year at the United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships, receiving a plaque, chevron and necklace for her dedication.

She has no shortage of achievements in her career, either.

Bourque was inducted into the North County USBC Hall of Fame in 1991 for meritorious service, and she was the assistant sergeant at arms for the Women's International Bowling Congress for 25 years.

On the lanes at the USBC Women's Championships, she posted a top-10 finish in Division II Singles at the 2002 event, her highest finish in her 50 years of bowling the event.

"I've had a lot of great times bowling, coaching and knowing so many great people through the sport," Bourque said. "One of the ladies I'm bowling with, I coached her and her grandson."

Beginning her career in Kansas City, Missouri, at the 1971 event, Bourque now has been to 32 cities in 23 states, with her favorite city being Bismarck, North Dakota, in 1989.

"I enjoyed that tournament more than any other, because they wanted us there," Bourque said. "I would have never gone there otherwise, and it's absolutely beautiful."

One of her favorite tournament memories came from the 1987 event in Hartford, Connecticut, where Bourque and her friends closed down a Denny's.

"They never close, and the bowlers ran them out of food," she said.

Bourque did not think she was going to make it 50 consecutive years, as 2020 was a difficult personal year for her, but the cancellation of that year's tournament was a silver lining in keeping her streak intact.

"There was no way I would have been able to bowl, because I had leukemia and was getting blood transfusions every other week - 28 in total," she said. "I said I wanted to reach 50 years of bowling the Women's Championships. The doctors said, 'OK, you're going to do it, too.' And now, here I am."

Bourque also had knee replacement surgery in February, but she continued to push herself to her milestone appearance.

"I still can't walk a great distance, but I can function and bowl," she said.

In her 50th appearance, Bourque only competed in the team event, rolling games of 144, 126 and 162 for a 432 series.

She has plans to continue bowling at the Women's Championships, hoping to see some of her friends also reach milestone appearances.

"I plan on making it 51 next year in Vegas, and 52 in Cincinnati," Bourque said. "One of my friends will be going for 30 years in 2024, and I want to see her get that award."