Bahamas bowler celebrates 50 years at USBC Open Championships

LAS VEGAS – Clarence Wallace became the first bowler from the Bahamas to reach 50 years of participation at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships with his appearance Friday at the South Point Bowling Plaza.

Wallace, a 73-year-old right-hander from Freeport, celebrated his 50th consecutive trip to the tournament alongside his wife, Carla, and several close friends as he received a chevron, plaque and diamond lapel pin to commemorate his longevity.

His dedication to the sport goes beyond the tournament, as bowling still serves as Wallace’s favorite pastime despite the lack of a home center since 2010.

“There’s no bowling facility where I live,” Wallace said. “I believe the facility closed down in 2010, which is now 14 years. The only time I get to bowl is when I come over for the USBC tournament. We come a couple days early to throw a couple balls and get some practice to get some of the rust off.

“Of all the hobbies I’ve had over the years, bowling has always been No. 1. Even though I was active in softball, baseball and tennis, bowling has always been my top priority.”

Although Wallace isn’t able to get as many games in each year as he’d like, he noted that his top overall performance took place during this stretch. He had a 1,783 all-events total at the 2017 USBC Open Championships, which also was contested at the Bowling Plaza.

Wallace’s first trip to the tournament took place during the 1974 event in Indianapolis, and it quickly became something he strived to attend each year.

“I joined a league in Freeport, I believe it was 1969, and there was a team or two that would participate in the ABC tournament in the United States,” Wallace said. “In 1974, I signed up with one of the teams and ended up in Indianapolis. I was sold on the idea then that all I would do is continue to participate in this event. So, I planned, along with building other teams, to come over during the Easter weekend to bowl and that's the way it’s been planned ever since.”

The tournament has served not only as a chance to travel for Wallace and his group, but also as an annual vacation to enjoy the host city of the Open Championships.

“I’ve traveled to quite a few cities in the United States,” Wallace said. “I don’t put one city above the other. We look forward to the vacation and bowling time every year. We come specifically for bowling and relaxation.”

To celebrate his 50th consecutive appearance at the tournament, Wallace was joined on the lanes by Carla during his presentation, and his support group was strong in cheering him on, including longtime friend Earl Bowe.

“Earl Bowe said to me he would not have missed this trip for his life, because he’s very happy I reached this milestone of 50 consecutive years,” Wallace said.

A new friend was made during the experience, too.

Friday’s squad featured three bowlers reaching 50 years, and Wallace ended up sharing the same pair of lanes with Anthony Arbanas of Byron Center, Michigan. Arbanas and Chuck Lackey of Green Bay, Wisconsin, also were recognized Friday for 50 years at the Open Championships.

“We met for the first time this evening and chatted,” Wallace said. “I learned a little bit about his background and his wife’s background, and we exchanged that information. We had a very friendly competition going on between us.”

Wallace will look to continue his consecutive streak moving forward, and he has appreciated the journey along the way.

“It was the first time I was ever asked to come out on a stage, and the fanfare with my wife, the special music and celebration – this was my 50th consecutive tournament,” Wallace said. “I’ve enjoyed all 50 years of it.”

During his time on the lanes this week in Las Vegas, Wallace rolled sets of 579 in singles, 495 in doubles and 491 in team for a 1,565 all-events total. He now has knocked over 80,914 pins at the tournament for a career average of 181.

The 2024 Open Championships got underway Feb. 23 and will run through July 29 at the South Point Bowling Plaza. The tournament is scheduled to feature more than 11,000 teams and 55,000 bowlers making their way to compete in Las Vegas.

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