Indiana bowler 166th to reach 50 years at USBC Open

RENO, Nev. - Raymond Jensen of Greenwood, Ind., briefly put his United States Bowling Congress Open Championships career on hold to help raise his family, but his dedication since his return a decade later helped him become the 166th bowler to reach 50 years on the championship lanes.

The 83-year-old right-hander was joined at the National Bowling Stadium on Monday by his teammates and his wife, Phyllis. He received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to celebrate the milestone.

On Sunday night, the members of Ray's 50th Team of Indianapolis presented Jensen with a special bowling shirt to wear for his memorable march down Center Aisle and surprised him once again before hitting the lanes at the NBS by having matching shirts in his honor.

"I was a little teary eyed when they presented me the shirts at dinner last night," said Jensen, who bowls regularly at Greenwood's Southern Bowl. "I was shocked, and I appreciated everything they did for me. I was very humbled by everything."

Jensen began his USBC Open Championships career at the 1955 event in Fort Wayne, Ind., because of its close proximity to home, but he didn't return to the tournament until the 1965 event in St. Paul, Minn. Since 1965, he has made all but one tournament appearance.

"Being from Indianapolis, my first tournament was in Fort Wayne, so it was close to home," Jensen said. "In 1965, a gentleman asked if I would like to go to the ABC with his group, and I said I would be honored. One thing led to another after that, and the only one I missed since then was in Billings, Mont. (2002)."

One of Jensen's favorite tournament memories was rolling his highest Open Championships all-events total of 1,780 at the 2000 event in Albuquerque, N.M.

Although the scores have come and gone throughout the years, the camaraderie shared between Jensen, his teammates, and especially his wife, has helped him come back each year.

"Bowling comes second, because it's about the camaraderie shared with everyone I'm with," Jensen said. "My wife is my inspiration, she really is. She's behind me all of the time. People ask her if she has ever bowled, and she tells them she's never thrown a ball. When they ask why not, she tells them she might be better than me, and then I would quit. She's my little sweetheart. We'll be married 59 years this August."

Jensen recently rolled his fourth perfect game and continues to work as a coach to help children learn the sport. While he helps usher in the next generation of bowlers, he also looks forward to competing on the lanes and still has some big games saved up for down the road.

"I'm still a youngster," Jensen said. "I'm only going to be 84 later this year, but I really enjoy it. I'll keep bowling to the best of my ability as long as I'm enjoying it."

In his 50th appearance, Jensen put together sets of 490 in team, 466 in doubles and 456 in singles for a 1,412 all-events total. For his tournament career, he has knocked down 77,550 pins for a lifetime average of 172.3.

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Presenting sponsors for the 2014 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.