Michigan bowler joins 50-Year Club at 2014 USBC Open

RENO, Nev. - If not for a lucky opportunity in 1988, John Molnar of Livonia, Mich., might have seen his United States Bowling Congress Open Championships come to a close more than two decades ago.

Instead, he got the push he needed to continue his annual trips to the tournament, and his dedication was rewarded this week at the National Bowling Stadium when he made his 50th march down the famed Center Aisle.

Molnar, 80, is the 170th bowler in history, and sixth of 10 this year, to reach the milestone.

"When I was walking down Center Aisle, what really surprised me was the bright light shining on me from above and everyone looking on," said Molnar, who made his first USBC Open Championships appearance at the 1960 event in Toledo, Ohio. "It really was a nice ceremony, and I appreciate it."

Molnar thought about calling it quits after 24 appearances on the championship lanes, but he happened to be in Tampa, Fla., on business, while the 1988 tournament was going on across the state in Jacksonville. A few of his friends talked him into to flying over to bowl and celebrate his 25-year plateau.

"After I got to 25, I just kept going and eventually got to 50," said Molnar, who received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate his 50th tournament. "It has been good to me. I met my wife, Dorothy, through bowling. I worked in a bowling center when I didn't have job. Bowling has been a big part of my life."

With his wife looking on, Molnar hit the lanes at the NBS this week with his son, John Jr., and his brother James, who just returned to bowling after three years away.

Molnar finished his 50th appearance with 549 in singles, 540 in doubles and 537 for a 1,626 all-events total. In 50 tournaments, he has knocked down 81,145 pins for a career average of 181.5.

"I really enjoy this tournament, and it allowed me to go to places in the country I never would've seen otherwise," Molnar said. "That was never my motivation for going, but it has been nice. Overall, I've met a lot of great people and made some great memories."

Visit us on Facebook at the official USBC Open/Women's Championships page.

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