By Brian Hirsch
USBC Communications

LAS VEGAS – During the 2017 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, we will have the opportunity to meet and speak with more than 50,000 bowlers from all over the world.

Some are well-known, and some are yet-to-be-known, but all of them have personal stories to tell and memories to share about their time at the USBC Open Championships.

In the past, we’ve caught up with some of the bowlers for an online feature called On The Lanes, where we asked them all the same 12 questions to see how the answers might vary based on different generations, skill levels and experience.

On The Lanes deviates from our traditional news-sharing format, but it offers different insight into the competitors at the Open Championships.

We’ve added yet another option in 2017 and introduced a question-and-answer format for some of our most interesting bowlers and guests to see how they got started, where they came from and what their Las Vegas experience was like.

In this edition, we heard from a young lady who didn’t even throw a ball at this year’s USBC Open Championships, so many might wonder how she landed in the spotlight.

The idea recently came when we welcomed a steady wave of milestone bowlers to the South Point Bowling Plaza, and most were joined by their wives, were escorted to the lanes by their wives or family members or they simply were surrounded by friends and family as they celebrated their respective participation milestones.

Each mentioned the great family support and encouragement needed to continue a journey that spans five or more decades, and many of the bowlers’ wives and children have been by their sides for the majority of their tournament appearances.

In this instance, we hope you will enjoy hearing about the supportive partner behind the man on the lanes.

Though it’s significantly outdated and far from politically correct nowadays, there’s a once-prominent adage – “Behind every great man is a great woman” – that still accurately describes this couple and their visit to the 2017 Open Championships, where Barb Spigner of Vernon Hills, Illinois, actually was behind her husband and his lanes as he celebrated 50 years of Open Championships participation May 21.

Please welcome into the #USBCOPEN Spotlight, Barb Spigner, the wife of USBC Hall of Famer and USBC Gold coach Bill Spigner.

Barb and Bill were married on Sept. 6, 1980, and they have two sons, Robert and James.

The Spigner family has been involved in the bowling industry for many years, from running their bowling center (Hawthorn Lanes) to Bill coaching the Vernon Hills High School bowling team to a continued involvement with Team USA.

SpignerBill2017OC50ForWeb465x262Currently, Robert Spigner, a former Team USA member, is on the USBC Board of Directors, and Bill recently was named as a member of the Team USA coaching staff.

Barb is the backbone of the family, which includes keeping everything in place and on-time.

Thinking back to when they owned and operated Hawthorn Lanes, the 60-hour days are not missed, but the 20 Professional Bowlers Association tournaments and numerous other top-tier events have left lasting memories and always were a great time to see friends and family.

The center also housed a top-notch youth program and attracted the area’s best competitive bowlers for league and tournament play.

Barb’s experience and career extend beyond the bowling industry, too. Early in her career, she was the team photographer for the Chicago White Sox. While in that role, two of her photos were used on a poster for Sports Illustrated.

Now, let’s hear about time at the Open Championships, along with her perspective on Bill’s career at the OC, which includes helping Pollard’s Bowl of Versailles, Indiana, to the 1996 Team All-Events title with a record score of 10,425 that still stands.

USBC – What has been your role in the success Bill has had at the USBC Open Championships?

BS – I guess you can say I am his biggest supporter. I have always encouraged him to bowl and helped him to get prepared for the next tournament.

Now that he bowls very little competitively and focuses more on the coaching side, I maintain his website, BillSpigner.com and write and send out his monthly newsletter. The June 2017 newsletter will be his 106th one.

USBC – What are some of your own bowling achievements and career highlights?

BS – I had a high average of 196, which included a high series of 725 and a high game of 279, twice, rolling the first nine strikes in both games.

At one time, I was the national promotion manager for Brunswick Recreation Centers and won a national award for the “Bowl Your Way to Europe” promotion.

USBC – When traveling to a tournament, does Bill make you check extra equipment under your name?

BS – When we fly, we fly American Airlines, and Bill has Gold status with them, so two bags fly free. We have gotten really good at getting the bowling bags to be under the 50-pound mark. It was great when in the past, everyone on his itinerary got two bags free.

USBC – What has life been like since selling the bowling center?

BS – Less hours, as we used to both average 60 or more hours a week when we owned Hawthorn Lanes in Vernon Hills, Illinois. Bill is still out there daily coaching or taking some time to practice on his own game.

We also start each day by going to our health club for yoga, Pilates, spin and other group activities, along with a few days of golf for Bill in the summer. These activities definitely helped Bill in his recovery from two major back surgeries.

USBC – Favorite bowler of all-time?

BS – Bill, of course. But, I would like to add from the men’s side, Doug Kent, Pete Weber and Mark Williams. On the women’s side, it would be Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Kim Adler and Liz Johnson.

USBC – What do you believe are the keys to success at the Open Championships?

BS – Practice and competition on Sport Bowling patterns. There is no way to rush experience at the Open Championships. On the tournament lanes, it is all about being patient and having a team game plan. Preparation for the next year’s event starts as soon as you get home from this year.

USBC – What is your most embarrassing moment at the Open Championships?

BS –Luckily, I have saved them the embarrassment of my bowling because I have only been a spectator at the Open Championships.

USBC – When Bill has a tournament that does not go his way, what does that mean for you?

BS –I am sad for him, but I know his best competitive days are behind him, so this doesn’t happen a lot.

Bill’s experiences, good or bad, have helped his coaching. If you watch his high school team, you will notice they are even-tempered – no big highs or lows. Bill has always said the only time to get emotional is after you have thrown the winning shot. You only have a certain amount of it, so don’t waste it.

Click here to see the 2017 #USBCOpen Spotlight – Volume 6 with Teata Semiz of Hopatcong, New Jersey.

Click here to see the 2017 #USBCOpen Spotlight – Volume 5 with Martina Beckel of Frankfurt, Germany.

Click here to see the 2017 #USBCOpen Spotlight – Volume 4 with Mitzi and Doug Forde, who got married on the lanes at the 2017 Open Championships.

Click here to see the 2017 #USBCOpen Spotlight – Volume 3 with Peggy Walden of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Click here to see the 2017 #USBCOpen Spotlight – Volume 2 with the OC’s Brian Hirsch.

Click here to see the 2017 #USBCOpen Spotlight – Volume 1 with Sweden’s Pontus Andersson and Markus Jansson.

Visit us on Facebook at the official USBC Open Championships Facebook page.


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About Me

Brian grew up in New York before moving to Phoenix, AZ in 1991. He has been involved in writing for his own bowling publication called “Striking Spotlight.” He has been published in the Desert Bowler Newspaper, Windy City News Newspaper and the Bowlers Journal. Hirsch is a Youth Director in the Kenosha USBC and a former Director for the Metro Phoenix USBC. As a Level 1 and RVP USBC coach, he can be found coaching his wife Amber and their son Masen each Saturday morning. Hirsch currently has (6) 300’s and (4) 800’s and is a member of the International Gay Bowling Organization where he is a five-time IGBO Champion and a six-time Arizona State Grand Canyon State Games Medalist. The Hirsch’s moved to Wisconsin to be closer to family and assist the Freedom Farm for Vets. Hirsch’s home bowling center is Sheridan Lanes, located in Kenosha, WI.


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