By Matt Cannizzaro and Brian Hirsch
LAS VEGAS – The 2017 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships soon will come to a close at the South Point Bowling Plaza, but before the pin decks go dark, there was time to welcome one more bowler into the event’s 50-Year Club.
Jim Gochis of Ivanhoe, Illinois, became the newest member of the elite club Monday as he made his way to the championship lanes with his wife, Betty, and their grandchildren, James and Jordyn, by his side. He was the 21st and final competitor to reach five decades of participation this year.
The 79-year-old received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate his milestone appearance at the USBC Open Championships. His tournament career began at the 1967 event in Miami.
“I got choked up, and it was very hard to hold back the emotions and tears.” said Gochis, a bowling proprietor. “The book on me is all about persistence, and once I start something, I just keep on going until it’s done.”
Gochis and his family are the owners of Sunset Bowl in Waukegan, Illinois, and Fair Haven Lanes in Mundelein, Illinois, both 24-lane centers. He can be found at almost any time, either checking payroll or cleaning a table for the next family to enjoy its time bowling.
“My wife is the one that deserves the credit for putting up with things over the last 50 years like joining me at (Professional Bowlers Association) stops and the Open Championships.” Gochis said. “I have been an athlete all my life. Bowling was, for me, something that still was there when I couldn’t do the other sports. I was fortunate when I turned 50 and was able to join the PBA Tour. I didn’t win anything out there, but I met a lot of guys who still are great friends of mine today.”
Gochis’ dedication to bowling has earned him spots in the Lake County USBC, Chicagoland USBC and Illinois State USBC Halls of Fame.
This year at the South Point Bowling Plaza, Gochis rolled sets of 459 in doubles, 446 in team and 410 in singles for a 1,315 all-events total. In 50 years on the tournament lanes, he has knocked down 84,616 pins for a career average of 188.
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