Vernon Hills bowler reaches 100,000 pins at national bowling tournament

United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Bill Spigner became the fourth bowler to reach 100,000 pins in a record-setting year for pinfall at the 2023 USBC Open Championships, as he added another accolade to his impressive career on the lanes and as an ambassador to the sport recently at the National Bowling Stadium.

Spigner, of Vernon Hills, is the 29th bowler to achieve the milestone in the 119-year history of the tournament, and he accomplished the feat during his 55th appearance at the event.

The 73-year-old right-hander entered the 2023 USBC Open Championships having knocked over 98,885 pins, and he earned the crystal pin - awarded to those who reach the number - with an eight count in his sixth frame during his first game of singles.

He finished his appearance with an all-events total of 1,514 to bring his career total to 100,399 pins, for a lifetime average of 200.7 across 55 years.

Spigner joined fellow USBC Hall of Famer Bob Chamberlain Sr. of The Villages, Florida; Robert Brissette of Petersburg, Michigan; and Dennis Lane of Kingsport, Tennessee, in the 100,000-Pin Club at the 2023 event. It marked the first time four competitors have reached the pinfall milestone during the same tournament.

"It is hard to imagine 55 years of doing this," Spigner said. "When I started in 1967 in Miami, I fell in love with the tournament. It was never about winning, and it was never about the money; it was about participating.

"I think that's why I lasted, since I didn't bowl because I had to win or make money. I bowled because I loved the ABC, and now the USBC, national championship. Being up there forever means a lot, and hopefully I can continue to bowl. Right now, I'm going to enjoy being part of the 100,000-Pin Club."

On the lanes, Spigner captured three Professional Bowlers Association Tour titles. After he concluded his run on tour, opportune timing with a few future hall of famers helped to eventually lead to one of the most prolific performances in the history of the Open Championships.

Spigner collected his lone Eagle at the Open Championships as a member of Pollard's Bowl of Versailles, Indiana, at the 1996 event in Salt Lake City. The team, featuring USBC Hall of Famers Rick Pollard, Ron Pollard, Don Scudder and Jerry Kessler, set the tournament's Team All-Events record with a 10,425 performance that stood for 26 years.

The record was broken at the 2022 event in Las Vegas by Mento Produce of Baldwinsville, New York, with a 10,444 total. DiLaura Brothers 1 of Clinton Township, Michigan, surpassed the mark five days later with 10,585 to claim the victory and record at the end of the 2022 tournament.

"I had got off the tour and became eligible to bowl as a regular participant," said Spigner, who had sets of 775 in doubles, 691 in singles and 602 in team in 1996, for a 2,068 all-events total.

"I bowled with Jerry Edwards in Chicago and asked if he needed a guy for his group. His teams were full, but he told me he knew somebody who might need someone on their team. It was the Pollard boys: Rick, Ron and their dad, Bill. The first year I bowled with them was in Jacksonville, and I bowled with them for a lot of years. We didn't form a team to be a powerhouse team, but we became a good team that played well together.

"When we set the record in Salt Lake City, we had no idea. We were just bowling and got on such a run during singles and doubles and, all of a sudden, we were in the lead and set the record. We held on to it for 26 years, which was amazing. Records are meant to be broken, though, so I was happy for Mento Produce. They have some really solid players on their team who are good people for bowling."

When Spigner hasn't been competing, he's still spending time on the lanes as one of the most respected coaches in the sport. Along with his new spot in the 100,000-Pin Club, he's also one of 29 active USBC Gold-level coaches and part of the Team USA coaching staff.

Family support has been paramount along the way in both his bowling and coaching, and Spigner was thrilled to share his moments with them at the National Bowling Stadium, too.

During his ceremonial march down Center Aisle to recognize his 55th appearance, he was joined by his wife, Barb, sons, Robert and James, and grandsons Judah and Gabriel.

He credits Barb in helping him every step along the way.

"My wife is the reason I kept going," Spigner said. "From Day 1, she supported what I did. I wouldn't have continued on and worked in the industry the way I have and done the things I have without her."

The stroll down Center Aisle also took Spigner back to his induction to the USBC Hall of Fame in 2001, which also was conducted at the NBS.

In his opportunities to address the crowd at the event, he appreciated the chance to encourage others to continue at the tournament to reach their personal milestones and keep the traditions of the sport going for the next generation.

As he spoke to his fellow competitors just moments after reaching 100,000 pins, he also was able to acknowledge longtime friend Dennis Lane, who had earned his own crystal pin at the NBS with Spigner in attendance.

"I wouldn't have missed it for the world," Spigner said. "It was kind of emotional for me, watching him."

Being an ambassador to bowling is a full-time responsibility, but he also appreciates the road he's taken over his career to get where he's at today.

"I never put anything with more value than anything else, so, to me, this accomplishment is part of the fabric of my career," Spigner said. "It's very important, and it's the pinnacle of my career at the USBC national event. Everything I had done before led to this. I can't rank it, though, because I don't feel like I'm done coaching. I'll coach until I can't do it anymore."

The 2023 Open Championships kicked off March 4 and will conclude July 24. The 143-day tournament will feature more than 9,700 five-player teams and nearly 50,000 bowlers.

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