Watch presentation video here: https://fb.watch/5DtEiLnG2l/
By Hope Parsons
LAS VEGAS - The road to the 2021 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships may be a long one for some, but for most competitors, there are rewards at the end of the journey, including recognition, awards, high scores, camaraderie, a vacation, prize money and more.
Earlier this week, two more bowlers proudly added their names to the list of competitors who have participated in 50 editions of the USBC Open Championships.
Bill Fillman from Muskogee, Oklahoma, and Pat Cornell from Beach Park, Illinois, both had their moment in the spotlight, where they were recognized for their dedication to the event.
Each new member of the 50-Year Club received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate the achievement.
A look at each:
Fillman is a dedicated player, and despite dealing with double vison over the past couple of weeks, he still made the trip to Las Vegas and bowled his best at the 2021 Open Championships.
The 74-year-old right-hander had two personal goals - to make it to 50 years of participation at the event and to eventually become a member of the elite 100,000-Pin Club - so missing a year on the lanes just wasn't an option.
He was happy to be in good enough health to make the trip, motivated by his goals, and the fact that he'd be bowling doubles with his daughter, Tobi, for the first time, as she made her return to the tournament for the first time since 2010.
Being a 50-time participant at Open Championships made Fillman feel nostalgic.
"I was in awe during my very first tournament," said Fillman, who made his tournament debut at the 1970 event in Knoxville, Tennessee. "I was bowling on a team with Carl Richard, who was an ABC champion, so I was lucky to be on a team with him."
Richard, a 1958 Regular Team and Team All-Events champion, recently died at the age of 97. He also was a three-time Missouri state champion in team, singles and doubles and has his name in the Joplin City Bowling Association Hall of Fame.
Fillman said Richard still is in the back of his mind when he bowls in tournaments.
On the championship lanes this year at the South Point Bowling Plaza and South Point Bowling Center, Fillman tossed sets of 541 in team, 525 in doubles and 494 in singles for a 1,560 all-events total.
He and Tobi (Thompson) combined for a 1,019 doubles total.
In 50 years of competition, Fillman has knocked down 86,529 pins, leaving him 13,471 pins from his next goal. If he were to maintain his 192.3 career average, he'd need just eight more years to reach the 100,000-pin mark.
Cornell, a 70-year-old left-hander, felt relief and joy at finally being able to have his name among the 50-Year Club.
Cornell has suffered from both prostate cancer and kidney cancer but managed to make it through both to meet his goal of participating in the Open Championships 50 times.
"Sticking it out to 50 is a long grind, and you've got to have good health, which is the most important thing," Cornell said.
In 1979, in Tampa, Florida, Cornell led singles up until the last week of the tournament. He had finished with a 746 series, which at the time was believed to be the highest score shot by a left-hander, and his personal best. He went on to finish third.
He got into bowling when he was 18 years old. Originally, he was a baseball player, but after being heckled by friends when bowling, he decided to practice and get better at the sport.
"Its funny, I'm still friends with the guys who told me I was no good at bowling, but then I got so good they stopped competing against me," said Cornell, who made his first Open Championships appearance at the 1971 tournament in Detroit. "I wouldn't be bowling if it weren't for them."
In his 50 appearances, Cornell has knocked down 86,986 pins, which includes sets of 573 in singles, 563 in doubles and 557 in team, for a 1,693 all-events total at South Point in 2021. His career average is 193.3.
Fillman and Cornell are two of 25 bowlers scheduled to reach 50 years of Open Championships participation this year at South Point.
Bookmark this website to stay up to date with the Greater Lake County USBC Bowling Association