Indiana bowler makes 50th consecutive appearance at USBC Open Championships

By Matt Cannizzaro and Fran Piraino
USBC Communications

Determination and perseverance are two things Tom Ruddick of Muncie, Indiana, has demonstrated on the way to his 50th consecutive appearance at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

The 78-year-old right-hander celebrated his milestone Monday at the Oncenter Convention Center, despite a recent injury to his left leg.

"I just wanted to get here and make the mark," said Ruddick, who received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate the achievement. "I almost didn't make it this year because I messed up my leg. I'm getting too old."

Ruddick was the center of attention at the 48-lane facility as he made the ceremonial march to the center of the venue with two of his longtime teammates, Joe Greer and Brian Maxwell, while his wife of 15 years, Jonelle, and his son, Scott, looked on.

"He's very excited," said Jonelle Ruddick, who has traveled to every tournament with her husband for the last 15 years. "He's wanted to make it to 50."

Scott Ruddick took vacation time from his truck driving job to make sure his father got to Syracuse for his milestone.

"He didn't know if he was going to make it, but he did," Scott Ruddick said. "He was very determined to get here."

A few weeks ago, while getting out of his car, Ruddick suffered a hard fall when his left leg gave out. He used a cane while walking around the Oncenter Convention Center prior to his team event. But, he marched out to receive his 50-year plaque without the assistance of his cane and did not use it during competition.

In addition to his fall, Ruddick endured a personal loss last month with the death of his brother, Larry Ruddick, who died May 17.

Ruddick made his first Open Championships appearance at the 1969 event in Madison, Wisconsin, and has not missed a tournament since.

He became the 10th bowler this year to reach 50 years of participation and is one of 14 scheduled to do so in 2018.

"I've gotten to know lots of different people and have made many friends," Ruddick said.

While Ruddick is a man of few words, his family members said bowling has been a big part of his life.

A former pin boy, Ruddick owned and managed several bowling centers in the Muncie area. He also ran a pro shop at Tower Lanes for more than a decade.

"He was always around bowling," Scott Ruddick said.

"He's always loved to bowl," Jonelle Ruddick said.

In his youth, Ruddick finished fifth at the 1955 American Junior Bowling Tournament in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He also was inducted into the Delaware County Athletic Hall of Fame for bowling.

"You have to put something into it if you want to get something out of it," Ruddick said.

Ruddick only bowled in the team event this year, rolling games of 124, 112 and 120 for a 356 total. In 50 appearances at the Open Championships, he has knocked down 69,509 pins for a career average of 178.2.

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