BATON ROUGE, La. - Dick Jones of Brigantine, N.J., rolled a 300 game at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships in 1993, and he found his way back into the spotlight nearly two decades later by making his 50th appearance on the tournament lanes.
The 70-year-old right-hander began his USBC Open Championships journey in 1961 when the tournament was held at the legendary Cobo Hall in Detroit, and he has been a dedicated competitor ever since. The only tournaments he missed since his debut were the 1964 event in Oakland, Calif., and the 1965 tournament in St. Paul, Minn., because of his military service.
Jones made his milestone march down Center Aisle at the Baton Rouge River Center on Tuesday and became the 146th bowler in tournament history to reach the 50-year plateau. He was joined in Baton Rouge by his wife, Rosemary, his sister, Betty Ann and his best friend Johnny, who also competed this year.
"It was definitely a thrill," said Jones, who owned Gehris Lanes in Upper Darby, Pa., for 30 years. "It couldn't have been a better day. I've been looking forward to it for quite a while. My wife and sister really enjoyed the ceremony as well. It was great for them to come and watch. And my best friend, Johnny, came down to bowl with me."
Jones has developed many friendships during his time at the Open Championships, and he has been to 34 cities and 21 states to compete against the best bowlers in the world. It is those moments that have made the event special for him.
"I've bowled with so many different teams," said Jones, who is a city, state and county hall of famer. "The friendships and traveling are things I will always remember about this tournament. Nationals is just special. As long as I am able to bowl, I'll be here. Even if I just bowl the team event, I'll do my best to make it happen. The game has meant so much to me, and I am very appreciative. I'm blessed."
Although Jones experienced the ultimate excitement at the Open Championships first-hand when he rolled his 300 game in Tulsa, Okla., in 1993, that moment doesn't compare to what he experienced at the River Center this week.
"This means more to me," Jones said. "Before today, there were only 145 people to reach 50 tournaments, so this really means a lot to me. I've been waiting to get here for a long time. People I've never met have come up and congratulated me all day. They congratulated my wife, too. This is the thrill of a lifetime - the achievement of a lifetime- and I can't put it into words."
Jones only competed in the team event this year and rolled games of 174, 180 and 150 for a 504 series. In 50 tournament appearances, he has knocked down 78,953 pins for a career average of 192.
Sponsors for the 2012 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno. Other sponsors include the Belle of Baton Rouge, official brackets sponsor; Kegel, official lane maintenance provider; Humana, official registration sponsor; Bud Light and Budweiser, official beer sponsors; The Advocate, official publication sponsor; Brunswick, official lane provider; Steltronic, official scoring system; Storm Bowling Products and Nationwide Insurance.