LAS VEGAS –Bowling is more than just a sport for some, and it has created families and relationships that will last a lifetime.
Is the United States Congress Open Bowling Championships, where these relationships and memories are often honored.
The world’s largest participatory sporting event had another moving introduction to the 50-Year Club this week at South Point Bowling Plaza, as Ray Hall of Valley Center, Kansas, reached the milestone, escorted to the tracks by his wife, Eleanor.
The timing was bittersweet, however, as Hall had lost two close friends and teammates who were with him on the USBC Open Championships journey and were pursuing their own milestones.
Dean Kimple and Gary Morris, both from Wichita, Kansas, last attended Hall at the 2019 event, also in South Point.
He wore photos of the two as he walked to the tracks on Tuesday, and when he received his plaque, chevron and diamond pin ahead of his team event, Hall paid tribute to those who failed could follow him.
Her moving speech was heartfelt and made everyone in the aisles hug their friends a little more.
Kimple competed in the Open Championships 25 times from 1975 to 2019, and Morris, Hall’s best friend and bowling partner for more than four decades, recorded 46 consecutive appearances from 1974 to 2019.
Besides being a compassionate teammate, Hall has a strong passion for bowling and always strives to improve himself. The 78-year-old right-hander made his Open Championships debut at the 1968 event in Cincinnati and has competed annually since 1983.
“I’m a very competitive person and I don’t really like bowling,” said Hall. “Over 50 years, I would have liked to have played better. Every time I play, I wish I had done better.”
Despite his harsh self-criticism, Hall was inducted into the Great Plains USBC Hall of Fame in 2013. Kimple joined him in 2019.
Hall added to the excitement of the day with a run to perfection in the final game of his team event on Tuesday. He opened the final game with five straight strikes, before a single pin ended the run. He immediately stacked five more catches for a 264 game.
The big game helped Hall win a 557-team streak, and he added sets of 433 doubles and 449 singles Wednesday at South Point Bowling Center for a total of 1,449 all events.
In 50 years on the tournament lanes, he knocked down 83,144 pins for a career average of 184.7.
Hall had tears in his eyes as he spoke of the Open Championships, and he expressed his gratitude for being able to see many different parts of the country.
“If I had to quit now, I would miss people the most,” Hall said. “I want to keep traveling and see all kinds of things.”
Hall was honored to be able to travel to Las Vegas and celebrate such an important milestone, while making new memories alongside his teammates. He said he would continue to participate in the tournament if his teammates followed.
Hall was the 20th of 25 bowlers scheduled to celebrate 50 years of participation in the 79-day race of the 2021 Open Championships.
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