Ohio bowler joins 50-Year Club at 2019 USBC Open Championships

By Daniel Farish
USBC Communications

When Pat Cifelli of Conneaut, Ohio, emigrated to the United States from Italy, he was 15 years old. He was all alone and looking for a new future. Little did he know at that point in life, that most of his future would be spent in a bowling center.

He knew little about bowling but was attracted to the game of tenpins because of its similarities to the Italian game of bocce, or lawn bowling, which has a history dating back thousands of years.

"I really knew nothing about the game of bowling," Cifelli said. "I got started in it, probably because of the bocce game (laughing), and I ended up going to work for a guy at the bowling center. When he passed away, his wife sold me the bowling center."

Cifelli now has been a bowling proprietor for 49 years, and his dedication to the sport also includes a five-decade career at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

The 81-year-old right-hander celebrated his 50th USBC Open Championships appearance this week at the South Point Bowling Plaza, where he was awarded with a chevron, plaque and diamond lapel pin to commemorate the milestone.

A moment like that means something different to everyone, Cifelli included.

"I never thought I would get to this point, and it means a lot to me," said Cifelli, who made his Open Championships debut at the 1966 event in Rochester, New York. "I could hardly wait to come this year. I was looking forward to all of this. I would tell people, 'Just don't quit. Keep going.' I may bowl one more next year, who knows."

Throughout his career on the lanes as a league and tournament bowler, Cifelli has rolled a handful of USBC-certified 300 games and one 800 series.

In his Open Championships career, he has knocked down 78,419 pins for a 174.3 career average. That includes sets of 478 in singles, 467 in team and 457 in doubles for a 1,402 all-events total this year at the South Point Bowling Plaza.

His best performance overall performance came at the 1985 event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he posted a 1,784 all-events score.

In his 50 years at the Open Championships, Cifelli has competed in 27 different cities across the country. His favorite is the one he's been to the most, Reno, Nevada.

"The one I really enjoy is Reno," Cifelli said. "It's easy to get around, and we can make day trips up to Lake Tahoe. We're able to relax more. And then you have the Stadium, which is unlike anything else we see."

Competing on the lanes isn't the only reason Cifelli makes the annual trip to the Open Championships, however. He uses it as a tool to promote his 18-lane bowling center, El Camp Lanes, as well as promote and support the sport itself.

A lot of the competitors Cifelli travels with to the Open Championships bowl league in his center, and some have been a part of the group for more than 40 years. Although the group is smaller than it once was, Cifelli says they still enjoy their time together, both on and off the lanes.

"I keep promoting bowling because of the bowling center," Cifelli said. "I make sure they join USBC and become members. I mean, that's what it's all about. That's the future. We all still have fun. We enjoy being around each other, at the tournament and back home during league."

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