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The 11th Frame: Madison Area USBC Hall of Famers Bob Ruhland, Chuck Johnston reach 50 years at USBC Open Championships

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Saturday, April 7, 2018 9:00 pm

Madison Area USBC Hall of Famers Bob Ruhland and Chuck Johnston are too of the most unassuming, quiet, quality gentleman I’ve met in my long career in bowling.

I met both as a young teenage bowler in the 1970s when they were at their best. Ruhland knew my late father LeRoy from their jobs.

But they got a chance to spend some time in the limelight the past couple of days at the 2018 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships at the Oncenter in Syracuse as they both reached the milestone of 50 years in the tournament.

Ruhland, 70, has competed in 50 consecutive tournaments since debuting in 1969 at the Dane County Coliseum in Madison, while Johnston, 82, started in 1968 in Cincinnati, missing the 1973 event, USBC reported in this news release.

Johnston was the first to make the milestone march to the lanes, accompanied by his wife, Janice. Ruhland followed with his wife, Luanne, and son, Matthew. Each bowler received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate the milestone.

Here is video of Ruhland’s walk-up done by his son Matt.

"I would be remiss if I didn't thank God for keeping me alive, so I could cherish this moment with each and every one of you," Johnston said in the USBC release.

Ruhland thanked his friends and family for supporting him for the last five decades, but he also noted how special it was to be able to share the moment with Johnston.

"Chuck and I have been bowling together for 47 of the 50 years, and although we missed a few years, we achieved this milestone together," Ruhland said in the USBC release.

USBC reported that Syracuse already had a special place in Johnston's career as the city where he rolled the highest doubles series of his career, a 633 effort in 1999. He considers the 1996 event in Salt Lake City as his most memorable because that's where he rolled career-bests in team (705), singles (681) and all-events (1,985).

"This accomplishment means so much to me," Johnston, who still bowls in three leagues at Bowl-A-Vard Lanes, said in the USBC release. "I have been able to bowl with my close friends over the years, which makes it incredibly special." 

Ruhland had similar feelings about the people he's competed with and met along the way being responsible for so many memories, friendships and the desire to continue the journey.

"I have made so many friends over the course of my 50 years at this tournament from all across the country, and I still keep in touch with some friends through Facebook," Ruhland, who also bowls at Bowl-A-Vard, said in the USBC release. "A good friend of mine I met many years back lives in Maine and reached out to me wishing me luck and congratulating me on my recent achievement." 

When I was coming up as a young bowler Ruhland was in the middle of five straight 1,800 all-events totals from 1975-79 — similar to five straight 2,000s today perhaps — and included finishing second in singles with 719 in 1975, when 756 won. That tells you all you need to know about the scoring pace back then.

"I shot the 719 back in March and thought there was no way it would hold up for the entire tournament," Ruhland said in the release. "Every couple of days, I would check the paper to see how people were bowling. There were a lot of 718s and 717s, and to my surprise, I ended up taking second." 

Ruhland totaled 1,444 all-events on 449 in team, 503 in doubles and 492 in singles and now has 82,150 pins in his career, a 182.5 average. 
Johnston totaled 1,190 (419-391-280) for 80,732 and 179.4.

USBC reported that during the 107-day run of the 2018 Open Championships, three bowlers will reach 60 years of participation, two bowlers are expected to surpass 100,000 pins and one bowler will add his name to the short list of bowlers who have competed 65 times.

After they arrived home from Syracuse I connected with Bob and Chuck and asked them to share memories of their 50 years at the Open Championships.

Here is what Bob wrote up:
Obviously the big one was my second place finish in the Singles event in Dayton, Ohio 1975. USBC has already commented on this but I remember driving out there with Chuck Johnston and Elmer Heiser. We drove straight thru the night. We circled Indianapolis, Indiana before finding the correct Hwy to Dayton. We checked into our hotel, bowled that night, got up the next day and bowled at 8:00 a.m. in the morning. Then we went golfing. I was on cloud 9 after shooting the 719 and being in second place.
The other was my 5 consecutive 1800’s which was bowled on wood. My streak ended in 1980 when they went to Synthetic.
1979 celebrated my honeymoon in Tampa Florida. My wife, Luanne, has gone to every tournament with me since.
1982 in Baltimore. Was very sick. Had mono and didn’t even know it. It was awful.
1983 Niagara Falls. I almost missed tournament with the birth of Matthew. I was able to catch on with another team from Madison to keep the streak going.
Other memory was celebrating my uncle, Elmer Heiser’s 25th wedding anniversary in Reno, Nevada in 1984.
1993 Celebrated my 25th consecutive with an 1872 All-events total in Tulsa OK.
Salt Lake City Utah, 1996, I remember tearing my tendon in my right arm after starting with a 256 game in singles. Limped home with 180 – 146 finish. I was in so much pain.
The best memories are all the friendship that I’ve made over the years. 

Ruhland, who has five perfect games and two City Tournament team titles,  has been a member of the Madison USBC for 53 years and he shared some memories of his years here:
Obviously the big one was getting inducted into the Madison Bowling Association HOF in 1993 along with Chuck Johnston, Darold Meisel, Dick Pedracine, and Bun Duve.
Bowling with such greats as Connie Schwoegler and Mel Schwoegler in the Thursday Night Classic League.
I bowled in the classic league with Elmer Heiser, Dave Kail, Felix Kasbaum, Fred Engelke.
Prior to bowling with the above, I bowled one year with Bob and Leo Bussan, Kirby Battist, and Dave Chase.
My whole bowling career has been surrounded by HOF bowlers including the current one.
Remember first 300 game at the old Bowl-A-Vard  on October 18, 1969, Friday night 9:00 p.m. Business Men’s League  It was my first game and it was like the shot heard around Madison that night. Everyone was calling the Bowl-A-Vard.
March 13, 1989  remember bowling a 300 game at Burr Oaks Bowl in a Sunday night couples league. My 2 children were there because we had no baby sitter. I was chasing them around all night. The state tournament had bowled that day and the lanes were dry as a bone. Had to play off of the gutter.
Feb 22, 2008 Bowling a perfect game against my son’s team in the Friday 3-Man at the Bowl-A-Vard
1973 Qualified for the Bowling with the Champs in Milwaukee. Beat Bob Larson in the first match (picked up the 8-10 split). Lost my second match to Mike Stranney.
I have special pride for Madison because Chuck and I are the 3rd and 4th bowlers from Madison to get to 50 years of participation in the USBC. Wally Ziesch had 50 and the late Jim Grady has 53, neither one consecutive. It will be so neat to see our names on the 50-year board, and being from Madison.
Always feels special when you bowl the National and your team from Wisconsin is bowling with other teams from all across the United States.

Here is what Chuck wrote up:
I treasure being able to bowl with my good friends over these many years. My wife and I were able to meet so many nice people in our travels to and at the tournaments. So many bowlers from across the country came up to congratulate me on my 50th tournament.  Lennie Boresch, who was bowling on the lanes next to us during the team event, came over and told me what a great accomplishment it was to be included in the 50-year club which there are so very few bowlers over the inception of the tournament.
So far as the MAUSBC Pride is concerned, to represent it with a plaque along with Bob Ruhland, Wally Zeisch and Jim Grady is a great honor.
I remember my first 300 game. I bowled against Dave Chase in a stepladder final. He bowled 279 so I had to bowl 300 to beat him. I remember my first 800 series. It was 807 in 1969. I bowled an 810 when I was 71 years old. Another highlight of my career was bowling with Elmer Heiser, Bob Ruhland, Casey Kasbaum, Bob Bussan, David Kail and Duke McDaniel, all of whom are in the MAUSBC Hall of Fame. I was able to bowl against
Connie Schwoegler, Paul Loder, Rich Wonders, Norm Wilbur and many other greats throughout my career. Of course, the highlight of my career was being inducted in the MAUSBC Hall of Fame with Bob Ruhland, Darrel Meisel, Dick Pedracine, and Bun Duve in 1993.