Today, the bowling world, in its entirety, mourns.
On Sunday, July 30th, USBC Hall of Famer, and true bowling legend, Bill Lillard Sr. passed away after a battle with Leukemia.
Calling Lillard a legend almost doesn’t do him justice. Lillard was a pioneer. Truly. Lillard was one of the most decorated amateur bowlers of his era and he also went on to have a fair share of PBA success, as well. Culminating with his title at the 1966 PBA Miller High Life Open.
In his amateur years, Lillard was voted the 1956 Bowler of the Year by the Bowling Writers of America, as well as being named to back-to-back All-American teams in 1956-57. And thanks to his amateur career, Lillard was listed as the 15th greatest bowler of the 20th century.
But where Lillard garnered most of his fame and notoriety was, of course, at the Open Championships, where, after his 68th consecutive appearance, he became the all-time leader in total pinfall.
In addition to his all-time total pinfall lead, Lillard also won a total of eight Eagles at the Open Championships, including four titles in 1956, one of just three bowlers ever to have accomplished this feat.
But more impressive than all of his bowling accomplishments, to a man, Lillard is widely regarded as one of the best human beings the sport has ever seen; for as good of a bowler as he was, he was, by all accounts, a better person.
From those that knew him, Lillard never met a stranger.
Willing to talk to any and all bowlers, Lillard was a true ambassador, in every sense of the word. Always there to help out a fellow bowler, Lillard had a wealth of knowledge and was always willing to share his stories and insight to any and all open ears.
I know this will probably sound cliché, and I hate that it does, but there will never be another Bill Lillard Sr. Not the person or the bowler. I unfortunately never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Lillard, but after I heard of his passing I reached out to several that did and every single one of them told me that their life was better for having known him. And that, to me, is the ultimate compliment.