2020 OC Bracket Challenge concludes with exciting final match

We finally made it, though it technically took nearly 120 years to get here.

It's time for the final match of the 2020 OC Bracket Challenge.

Over the last month and a half, we've gotten to revisit and discuss some of the most memorable moments, milestones, people and accomplishments from the USBC Open Championships.

With help from the OC and bowling fans and their votes on social media, we whittled down the 32-contender bracket to 16 then eight then four and now just TWO final choices!

The initial bracket was split into four quadrants - Record Moments, Participation/Milestones, Tournament Firsts and Head-to-Head Matches - each with comparable contenders.

Each quadrant had a winner, and the four victors certainly should be celebrated as the best in their classes. Those winners were:

Record Moments - Matt McNiel's 2,326 all-events total in 2010
Participation/Milestones - Center Aisle (introduced in 1954)
Tournament Firsts - First bowler with three 800s (also Matt McNiel 2010-2012)
Head-to-Head Matches - Bill Lillard Sr.

The four winners then advanced to the overall semifinals, where voters were asked to help determine the most significant/noteworthy person, accomplishment or innovation in tournament history. Easy, right?

In the first semifinal, McNiel's 2,326 all-events record was determined to have a bigger impact on the Open Championships than Center Aisle, which was a staple of the event since its introduction in 1954 but has been missing as part of the tournament since 2016.

In the other semifinal, the comparison of the two opponents was a little less black and white.

Bill Lillard Sr., arguably the most accomplished bowler in OC history, went up against a single accomplishment/record (first to three 800s at the OC), rather than an actual person. It's wacky because of the format of the OC Bracket Challenge, but it's fun, too.

Some saw it for how it was intended. Some saw it as Lillard versus McNiel, who is on pace to be among the greatest bowlers in OC history, but still is 55 years and four Eagles away from matching Lillard's success.

Some love Lillard. Some love McNiel. We love the passion everyone has for the Open Championships, and we appreciate all the votes!

In the end, the amazing career and character of Lillard edged the three-800 record set by McNiel from 2010-2012.

The Final Showdown

All of that said, it's time for the overall championship match, which again will feature the two tournament titans listed above.

Lillard, with his 68 consecutive years of OC participation, eight Eagles and the all-time pinfall record of 124,087, will meet the amazing, head-turning, mind-boggling all-events record of 2,326, set by McNiel in 2010.

Again, we're decades from being able to compare the careers of these two standouts, so the thought process here must be clear and fair.

When you think of the Open Championships and hear about its history, which person or story resonates more for you?

Is it Lillard, the incredible ambassador, trailblazer and record setter in his own right, or is it the 2,326 score of a decade ago that has been recognized on a 20-foot banner over the lanes each year since?

Longevity and continued success vs. performance?

Voting will take place on the USBC and OC Facebook pages, and the overall champion will be revealed live on the Inside the OC podcast on Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Since this is the end, special thanks to all who have accompanied us on this journey.

Remember to visit the official USBC Open Championships Facebook page each day to cast your votes for each match!

Matt McNiel's 2,326 vs. Bill Lillard Sr.


Matt Cannizzaro (OC PR Manager since 2005): Lillard
Why: Again, while Matt McNiel has been the most successful competitor at the Open Championships since 2010, this match isn't about who has been better recently, or even overall, for that matter.

In looking at the match for what it is, it's Lillard's amazing career and accomplishments against an incredible record score.

Yes, it probably is unfair to put these two things against each other, but I didn't design the bracket. Oh, wait, I did. =)

It's all in good fun. Someday, I'd be happy to discuss the long, successful careers of Lillard and McNiel, once Matt is all done.

For now, there's no contest here. Bill Lillard Sr. and the things he accomplished are more "Open Championships" than McNiel's record, no matter how impressive it was to watch.


Duane Hagen (OC Tournament Director since 2008):

Fran Piraino (longtime bowling writer and historian in Syracuse area): Lillard

Bob Johnson (Bowlers Journal International): Lillard
Why: For his lifetime of high-level bowling that spanned multiple transformations of the sport's playing environment, from lane surfaces to lane dressings, and from bowling pins to bowling balls. You don't become the lifetime pinfall leader at the Open Championships without being adaptable, and that trumps a single nine-game effort, as monumental as that was.

Bob Hart (USBC Hall of Famer/reaching 65 years of OC participation in 2020): Lillard
Why: I believe Bill's lifetime performance, compiled over 68 years, includes every facet of what the OC stands for - talent, dedication and class. His 68 years of participation, eight titles and the highest total pinfall total (124,087) all were accomplished with utmost humility and integrity!

Matt's performance has been tremendous to date, and I feel certain he will accomplish much more in the future.

Doug Shellum (Open Championships and Minnesota bowling historian, 31-time OC participant): Lillard
Why: Bill Lillard Sr. has 68 Open Championships, which proves longevity (one of 14 individuals with 65 or more appearances), his eight Eagles proves consistency and 124,087 career pinfall (most all-time) proves adaptability. Lillard has made the bigger statement in the Open Championships!

Certainly, my good friend Matt McNiel, will have another great 40 or 50 years at the Open Championships, and we can celebrate and visit Matt's growing stable of Eagles just a little later. Matt's record score of 2,326 is one set of nine games of phenominalness....

For more information about the Open Championships or to register for 2021 (March 6-July 18), click