Flash Back Friday Weekly Series – Open Championships

We could look back at some of the best bowlers of all-time, we could look back at yesteryear’s equipment, or, even, the inception of the PBA; there are so many things we could look at and discuss.

But, given the time of year, given the magnitude of the event, we decided to talk about the Open Championships (OC). Each and every year, bowlers from around the country make their way to the OC and give it their all for nine games to see where they stack up amongst some of the best bowlers in the country. Some also make the trip a vacation, bringing along their loved ones with them for a few days.

Nevertheless, regardless of whether the trip is business or pleasure, not enough of us really take into consideration the historical context of the OC. Nor do we think about all of the names that have come and gone through those doors throughout the years.

It truly is, in my opinion, the most remarkable bowling event in the world.

2018 marks the 115th Open Championships. 115 YEARS! Just thinking about that gives me chills, honestly. This is our sport’s grandest stage. Outside of the PBA, this is the highest level of play in our country, and, arguably, one of the most prestigious events in the world.

I remember last year at Bowl Expo, I was talking with USBC Hall of Famer, John Gaines, and PBA Tour legend, Chris Barnes, and both of them admitted to me that, despite all of their personal and individual success outside of the OC (for Barnes, that includes multiple Major Championship and a Player of the Year award/ for Gaines, that includes multiple Regional titles and appearances on Team USA), what they both accomplished in this event rank at or near the top of their list of achievements.

Think about that for a second. These are two players with innumerable amounts of success within our sport. They’ve both competed at the highest level of our sport and have found success there, and, yet, still, this event, the Open Championships, is arguably what they cherish most. I personally think that says a lot about the event.

And they don’t cherish it for all of the money they’ve made in the event over the years. They don’t rank it so high because of the recognition they got from winning. They both understand the historical magnitude of the event. Both Gaines and Barnes are great bowlers, to be sure, but, deep down, they’re both bowling historians, for lack of a better term. They are very aware of that tournament’s history, more so than possibly anyone I know, and, because of that, they both hold that event near and dear to their hearts.

And I think it would benefit all of us to learn more about it. To understand the magnitude of the event when we walk through the doors.

And I think most, at least, have a general sense of the magnitude and the importance; they know it is a big tournament. But do they know why it is a big tournament? Do they truly take the time to get to know all of the names that have come through those doors? That, I am not so sure of.

And that isn’t on the bowlers, honestly. We have to do better as a whole. The USBC and other platforms, such as this one, need to do a better job of educating our bowlers on the past. I know I have said it before, but our past has such a rich history. And we seem to, more often than not, ignore it.

The OC has been going on for 115 years. Can you imagine the history? Can you imagine some of the stories? Admittedly, there are tons I, myself, am unaware of. But I have been asking questions. Lots of them. And I am talking to people far more educated on the tournament than myself. And I can tell you this, personally, I have a whole new mindset when it comes to that event. I always had a significant respect level for the tournament, but it has since risen.

Even before I started asking questions and educating myself on it, I definitely had a general sense of things. Even from a historical standpoint. But I would say I only had a sense of its modern historical content.

So I thought it would be cool if — in the comments below — everyone wrote their favorite OC memory. It can be a personal one, or one that you heard about from someone else. The best way to educate is to talk. And this is a great opportunity to do so. I’ll start.

My favorite memory/story from the OC is the one of Bill Rhodman and his team — the first all African-American — to ever compete in the OC (formerly the ABC Tournament) in the early 50s. Hearing stories about the buzz surrounding that squad and the overall historical importance of that team really intrigues me. Could you imagine being on that squad with Rhodman and his team? Could you imagine being in the building? That must have been something incredible. I just hope that, at least some of them, had an understanding of the magnitude of that moment.

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