Man becomes first Alabama bowler to reach 50-year mark at USBC Open Championships

By Daniel Farish
USBC Communications

For some people, bowling is an activity they participate in. For others, it is a part of their lives. For Richard Broadstreet of Guntersville, Alabama, bowling simply is a way of life.

The 2019 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships marks Broadstreet's 50th appearance at the world's largest participatory sporting event. Unlike a lot of bowlers, the milestone didn't sneak up on him. It's something he's had on the calendar for a while.

"This is a plateau, or goal, I've been shooting for over the last 15-20 years," Broadstreet said. "I never thought about it until I hit the 30-year mark. That's when I started realizing, 'OK, maybe I can do this.'"

His five decades at the USBC Open Championships haven't come without any bumps in the road, however. At least once during the journey, the 77-year-old right-hander has put bowling, and his goal, ahead of his health.

"Back in 2011, about a week before the tournament in Reno, I started having some heart problems, and my wife told me I needed to go to the doctor," said Broadstreet, who competed in his 42nd Open Championships that year. "Anyway, I told her I would go see the doctor when I got back from Reno. She asked, 'Is that more important than your life?' I told her it absolutely was, and I had no plans to mess up my streak."

While Broadstreet doesn't suggest anyone else do that, he said he didn't think twice about it. Those heart problems resulted in a triple bypass surgery, with the surgeon suggesting he may have been just a few months away from a massive heart attack.

Born in Indianapolis, Broadstreet grew up in bowling centers. His parents were avid bowlers. He remembers sleeping on wooden benches inside the centers as his parents bowled. He also used his time at the lanes as an opportunity to learn.

"I learned a lot of my math while watching my parents bowl, because I would keep score," Broadstreet said. "I started bowling at 9 years old, and once I hit 13, I joined a youth travel league in the Indianapolis area."

A two-sport athlete, Broadstreet also was a pitcher on his high school baseball team. At 16 years old, one of his neighbors invited him to bowl in a men's scratch league. As he would prove almost 60 years later, Broadstreet wasn't afraid to take risks when it came to the sport he loved.

"The bowling center the league was in was behind a bar," said Broadstreet, who made his Open Championships debut at the 1967 event in Miami and only has missed three events since. "Well, I was 16. I couldn't go in alone, so I'd have to wait until someone walked in, and they would escort me back to the lanes. I continued bowling in the league and pitching baseball in high school. I'm really glad no one found out, because that was highly illegal."

Laughing as he told the story, that's just one example of the great memories Broadstreet has from the sport of bowling. When asked about his Open Championship memories, two come to mind.

"My most memorable one was in 1977 in Reno, where I finished 82nd in all-events," Broadstreet said. "I didn't shoot that well - I had 1,846 - but those conditions were brutal. The other year that comes to mind is 1974 in Indianapolis because I worked the tournament. I was on the local board of directors, so I was there for the entire 92 days of competition."

Broadstreet's best Open Championships performance came at the 1993 event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he rolled a career-high 740 series in singles, 644 in team and 527 in doubles for a career-best 1,911 all-events total. He remembers it quite vividly.

"I didn't change balls soon enough, and it cost me in doubles," said Broadstreet, who still bowls league at Frank's Thunder Alley in Boaz, Alabama. "I changed in the first game of singles, and the last two games, I had the first eight strikes. I just wish I had made that ball change sooner."

As tournament No. 50 wraps up, Broadstreet already is looking forward to the 2020 tournament at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada.

"Obviously, it's all going to come down to my health," Broadstreet said. "But, as it stands, I can't wait for next year. The Stadium is like no other, and I love bowling there."

In his Open Championships career, he has knocked down 80,140 pins for a career average of 178. That includes sets of 503 in singles, 455 in doubles and 443 in team for a 1,401 all-events total this year at the South Point Bowling Plaza.

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