Two bowlers reach 50-year milestone at 2014 WC

By Wishelle Banks
USBC Communications

RENO, Nev. - Mary Lewis of Cartersville, Ga., and Janet Burgess of Belmont, Calif., became the first competitors of the 2014 United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships to celebrate 50 years of tournament participation.

Lewis, 88, made her 50th appearance Monday, while Burgess, 69, joined her in the exclusive club Tuesday. Both received a plaque and medallion to commemorate the achievement.

LewisMary12014_250x140Lewis made her first USBC Women's Championships appearance at the 1963 tournament in Memphis, Tenn., and has attended the tournament each year since 1968. Her milestone appearance in 2014 was an emotional one.

"I'm so happy," said Lewis, who has traveled to 37 different cities in 26 states throughout her tournament career. "I just started crying, after all these years."

Inside her wallet, Lewis carries her 600 Club card from 1980, buoyed by memories of 50 tournament appearances. Her love of bowling keeps her active, as does her dog, Margo.

She was joined at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center by her sister, Shirley, and teammate of 35 years, Nancy Folden. Folden joined the 50-Year Club at the Women's Championships during the 2011 event in Syracuse, N.Y., and participated for the 53rd time this week.

Folden reflected on the countless memories they have made, on and off the lanes.

"Mary is so faithful," Folden said. "If she tells you she's going to bowl - whether it's in league or a tournament - she will be there. Mary already has given me her money for next year."

Lewis finished her 50th appearance with sets of 403 in team, 335 in singles and 313 in doubles for an all-events total of 1,051. She looks to continue her participation at the event.

"I thought I would give up, but I came back," Lewis said. "I feel happy. I'll be back next year."

BurgessJanet12014_250x140Burgess began her tournament career at the 1965 event in Portland, Ore., and has made it back to the event every year since her debut.

She was humbled about the milestone that left fellow bowlers at the RSCC in awe, saying it's something she never imagined when she began, or even 25 years into her Women's Championships career.

"No way in heck," Burgess said. "I just started bowling with friends, going to the convention and having fun. I did not envision sticking around and doing it for 50 years, let alone 50 years straight."

There were years when life presented last-minute challenges that made Burgess wonder if she would be able to make her annual visit to the tournament. In the last two years, she has had to make changes in both her delivery and equipment. A back issue forced her to lighten the load, dropping from 14 pounds to 12.

Burgess began bowling at age 12 at San Mateo's Bel Mateo Bowl, where she still bowls today. She served as president for the Peninsula USBC Association for 14 years and also earned induction into its hall of fame. Additionally, she has served as the secretary and treasurer of her local 600 Club for 15 years.

BurgessJanet2014_250x140.jpgBurgess nearly took home a Women's Championships title in 1970, finishing second in Classic Singles.

With two more milestones coming this summer, her 70th birthday and retirement from property tax collecting for San Mateo County, Burgess looks forward to having more time to spend on both the lanes and golf course.

"I just keep bowling," Burgess said. "We're working on our team, setting up the dates and plan to be here at the same time next year."

For her 50th appearance, Burgess rolled sets of 477 in singles, 469 in team and 457 in doubles for a 1,403 all-events score.

Four other competitors are scheduled to reach the 50-year mark at the 2014 event. Delphene Brands of Crete, Ill., will be the next member of the club on May 4, and she will be joined by Janet Cleugh of Nova, Ohio (May 7), Carolyn Evans of Little Rock, Ark. (June 2) and Lorraine Sandven of Tucson, Ariz. (June 13).

Mini Tvaska of St. Petersburg, Fla., is the tournament's all-time participation leader with 67 tournaments, and she is scheduled to make her 68th appearance on May 20.

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

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