USBC honors Vietnam veteran John Mack as he joins 50-Year Club at USBC Open Championships

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LAS VEGAS - John Mack wasn't sure he was ever going to walk again, let alone make 50 appearances at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

Friday night at the South Point Bowling Plaza, his dreams were met and celebrated with a standing ovation by his fellow bowlers.

Mack, a 74-year-old right-hander from Fort Lee, New Jersey, was honored with a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin, as he became the 16th of the 31 bowlers scheduled to celebrate 50 years of tournament participation this year in Las Vegas.

Mack's USBC Open Championships career started as a substitute bowler at the 1969 event in Madison, Wisconsin.

"I replaced a gentleman who was a butcher and got injured prior to competition," Mack said. "I was asked to join the team, and I instantly was hooked. I even remember bowling pretty well and getting an award."

Hooked might be an understatement, as Mack only has missed three tournaments since his debut.

"I missed the USBCs in 1976 because of a leg injury, and I didn't bowl in 2017 and 2021 because of some health problems," Mack said. "Otherwise, I have been to every event, from coast to coast."

Coming from Fort Lee, there have been some long cross-country flights, and Mack says his two favorite towns are far away from his New Jersey home.

"I love traveling to Las Vegas and Reno (Nevada)," Mack said. "One year, I hit a royal flush at Margaritaville inside the Flamingo Hilton. When I got home, my friends asked me how I bowled. I could not remember my scores, but I remember winning money on that royal flush."

Mack served the United States in Vietnam as a weapons specialist.

During his time in the war, he was seriously injured and received two purple hearts for his service. He also received the Bronze Star for Valor, awarded for valor or bravery during combat action against an enemy force.

"It was 1967, and I was injured everywhere from my knees to my head," Mack reflected. "My doctors did not give a good prognosis, but I came through, living a great life."

Mack owned an auto repair shop and retired 14 years ago. His years in retirement have been pretty good, and he already has plans for his 75th birthday on May 13.

"This year, my birthday is on Friday the 13th, so I'm going to lay low," Mack said with a laugh. "A perfect birthday for me will be on the lake fishing."

Mack is a member of the Hudson County (New Jersey) USBC Hall of Fame and now calls Linden Lanes in Linden, New Jersey, his home center. He embraces the technology that bowling now has, but he yearns for the earlier days of the sport, too.

"Sometimes, technology goes a bit too far, but it is needed to keep up with times," Mack said. "I remember scores being put up manually and guys running all around the alleys, but the lanes today are pretty incredible."

Mack loves the brotherhood and friendships the Open Championships brings, and he looks forward to celebrating his 51st year in Reno.

"I'll be in Reno next year, and I'm planning on many more years to come," Mack said.

On the lanes this week at the South Point Bowling Plaza, Mack rolled sets of 476 in team, 455 in singles and 452 in doubles for a 1,383 all-events total.

For his career, Mack has knocked down 79,007 pins for a career average of 175.5.

In addition to the 31 bowlers celebrating five decades of participation this year, the schedule for the 129-day event also includes three bowlers competing for the 60th time, one bowler making his 65th appearance and one participating for the 70th year.

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