BATON ROUGE, La. - United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Les Zikes of Palatine, Ill., has a rich legacy at the USBC Open Championships, and he added to it Monday night when he became the 16th bowler in history to reach 60 years of tournament participation.
The 77-year-old right-hander was joined at the Baton Rouge River Center by his family and friends as he added another line to his extensive resume. His entourage included his wife, Mary Cay, and son, Lyle. Zikes received a plaque, chevron and gold money clip to commemorate the milestone.
"The day was great," said Zikes, who bowls league at Beverly Lanes in Arlington Heights, Ill. "I was looking forward to it. I had no idea the presentation was going to be that much of a presentation. I really enjoyed that. Plus, it was nice to have my family here. It was fun, too. The standing ovation I received tonight was indescribable. I've had some occasions like that in international competition, but these bowlers appreciate it, and they were sincere about it. People came up to congratulate me, and that's a good feeling. I appreciate others who appreciate that I got to this point."
Zikes made his first USBC Open Championships appearance at the 1950 event in Columbus, Ohio. In 1962, he won win the first of his six titles (Regular Team). He followed that with another team win in 1963 and all-events and Team All-Events titles in 1964 to become the only bowler in tournament history with victories in three consecutive years.
He added a Classic Singles title in 1974 and a Classic Team title in 1977 and is one of 13 bowlers with six or more championships, but that hasn't stopped him from aiming for more milestones. In 2010, he became the 13th member of the elite 100,000-Pin Club, and he now sits ninth on the all-time pinfall list with 104,525, which includes this year's 1,480 all-events total. Late USBC Hall of Famer Joe Norris tops the list with 123,770.
With such a fulfilling career that also includes two Professional Bowlers Association Tour titles and three PBA Senior Tour titles, Zikes still gets excited when it's time to lace up his shoes at the Open Championships.
"I've had so many great moments, but just coming to this tournament is magical," Zikes said. "Back in the day, when I bowled with some good teams, this was the highlight of the year. Our bowlers have been looking forward to it for months. They've been practicing, and I'm sure all these other bowlers have, too. Some of them don't expect to win, but they're here to have a good time, and if they bowl well, great. In our case, we think we can bowl well. Tonight, we struggled, but I learned a long time ago you can't win every time."
The next milestone for Zikes is the 65-year plateau, which only has been reached by five bowlers. USBC Hall of Famer Bill Lillard of Houston recently joined the 65-Year Club, while fellow hall of famer Jimmy Schroeder of Tonawanda, N.Y., and Judd Hall of Carrollton, Ohio, are scheduled to make the milestone march next year at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev. Norris and Bill Doehrman top the participation list with 71 years each.
Zikes understands that five years is a long time, and he must be realistic in his pursuit of the next milestone.
"I haven't looked that far ahead," Zikes said. "I've learned in life that you just look one day ahead. Fortunately, I'm feeling good. I want to bowl, but I just don't enjoy bowling badly. I have to be realistic about it. I have to look ahead one day at a time. I've been really lucky, and I'm thankful."
This year, Zikes shot 518 in team, 515 in doubles and 447 in singles.
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.