Past champion celebrates 50 years at USBC Open Championships

By Jazmin Elizalde
USBC Communications

- Fred McClain of Allen Park, Michigan, celebrated his 50th year of participation at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships on Saturday at the South Point Bowling Plaza.

As he made his march out to the lanes alongside his wife, Nancy, teammates and members of his family packed the stands and cheered loudly for his milestone welcome at the South Point Bowling Plaza. He received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate his longevity.

The 74-year-old right-hander was surprised by the presentation, since it was his first time getting to see a celebration for 50 appearances at the USBC Open Championships. The preparation for his march out was emotional and although he was nervous, he was honored and grateful to celebrate the moment with family and longtime teammates.

McClain has been the foundation of his family when it comes to bowling. During his time in the Army, he joined the team on his base and competed. The love of bowling followed him afterward, and he joined a team to participate at the Open Championships for the first time in 1971 in Detroit.

"I've always thought it would be cool to make it to 50 years," McClain said.

When he returned to the event in 1973, he joined a new team and shared the lanes with USBC and Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Buzz Fazio. McClain enjoyed the attention and applause his star teammate brought as they made their way down the event's center aisle and now is one of his favorite tournament memories.

At the 1987 event in Niagara Falls, New York, he found success and helped Murdock Machine, No. 1 capture an Eagle by knocking down 9,185 pins as a group to win Team All-Events.

"The conditions were really tough," said McClain, who proudly displays his trophy from the win at Belmar Lanes in Lincoln Park, Michigan. "You really had to be accurate. It was a challenge."

As a champion at the event, McClain gets announced and recognized each year at the Open Championships. He now shares the recognition with his grandson, Marcus McClain, who followed in his footsteps and won an Eagle in 2018 in Regular Team.

At this year's event, they bowled next to each other during doubles and singles. In their final game of singles, both started with eight consecutive strikes, as their family and friends cheered from the stands at South Point, getting louder with every strike.

Both were unable to keep the string of strikes going into the ninth, and Marcus ended with 267, while Fred had 264.

McClain had sets of 615 in team, 597 in singles and 466 in doubles in 2022 for a 1,678 all-events total. In his 50 years of participating at the Open Championships, he now has totaled 87,958 pins for a lifetime average of 198.1.

After finishing his 50th trip to the event, McClain talked about the future.

"Let's go get 51 years first," McClain said. "It's going to be tough to get to 100,000 pins. My friends, family, specifically my son and grandson, inspire me to keep participating."

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