LAS VEGAS –World-renowned bowling historian Jake “J.R.” Schmidt of Park Ridge, Illinois, better known as Dr. Jake to the readers of Bowlers Journal International, made a little history of his own Saturday as he celebrated 50 years of participation at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.
The 69-year-old right-hander was escorted to the lanes by his good friend Don Witt, who will be making his own milestone march next year in Syracuse, New York, while his friends, family and teammates were laneside at the South Point Bowling Plaza for his entrance into the tournament’s 50-Year Club.
Schmidt received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate the achievement. He is one of 23 bowlers scheduled to reach this milestone this year in Las Vegas.
“It was a lot less scary going down there with someone to lean on, as I have been leaning on him for years as far as bowling is concerned,” said Schmidt, whose USBC Open Championships career began at the 1967 event in Miami. “I first met Don in 1971 when he came in to sub in the North End Travel League. Over the years, we have become great friends, and our wives are great friends, too. That’s the best thing about bowling – it builds this camaraderie.”
When Schmidt made his tournament debut in Miami, he was a college student celebrating Spring Break, and nearby Fort Lauderdale was a prime hotspot, so why not have the trip serve a dual purpose.
He missed the tournament the following year and immediately regretted it, vowing not to miss another. And, he hasn’t. He has been to every event since 1969.
In 50 years of traveling around the United States to bowl in the Open Championships, Schmidt lists Syracuse as his favorite city to have bowled in. He’s looking forward to reliving some great memories when the tournament returns to Syracuse in 2018 for the first time since 1999.
“Upstate New York is beautiful, and I can drive to there, not to mention that Don will be joining the 50-Year Club there next year,” Schmidt said. “I love Syracuse. In 1973, I bowled as a young guy. In 1999, I bowled as a middle-aged guy. Now, in 2018, I’ll be there as an older guy.”
On the lanes this year, Schmidt finished his 2017 tournament campaign with 541 in singles, 444 in doubles and 426 in team for a 1,411 all-events total. In 50 tournaments, he has knocked down 76,331 pins for a career average of 175.
Off the lanes, Schmidt continues to be a regular contributor to Bowlers Journal, as his time with the magazine nears three decades.
He also is known for his work, “The Bowling Chronicles: Collected Writings of Dr. Jake,” and “Dr. Jake’s Bowling History Blog,” which is separate from his responsibilities at Bowlers Journal.
On the site, Schmidt has team photos from all 49 of his tournament appearances, with No. 50 soon to be added.
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