Although they had never previously met, two area bowlers -- Mac Segar of Osprey and Paul Gustke of Sarasota -- shared a piece of United States Bowling Congress Open Championships history in Reno, Nev., this week.
For Segar, the tournament marked his 50th consecutive ABC/USBC appearance, while Gustke made his 56th trip down Center Aisle at the National Bowling Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
"Actually, it's a pretty long shot that two people from the same area with that much (tournament) longevity would wind up on the exact same squad," Segar said. "We certainly didn't plan it that way."
Both players moved to the Sarasota area approximately two decades ago, with Segar relocating from Connecticut and Gustke coming from the Chicago, Ill., area, and both are righthanded bowlers in their early 80s who still relish the tournament experience.
The allure of competition and the tournament grandeur hooked Segar and Gustke in their younger years, and both plan to continue to extend their performance standards for as long as they're able to do so.
When Segar, now 81, made his first Open Championships appearance in St. Paul, Minn., in 1965, the concept of attending 50 tournaments was the farthest thing from his mind.
"As you're closing in on a milestone, and you start to get your individual recognition, it motivates you to come back," said Segar, who is the 171st bowler in history to make 50 appearances at the ABC/USBC tourney venue. "I'll tell you, it's a great feeling. When you first start out, you never imagine in your wildest dreams that you will be doing 50 consecutive tournaments."
The 82-year-old Gustke echoes the same sentiments. His first national tournament experience came in his hometown of Chicago at age 21, and during that tourney, he recalls sitting next to someone participating in his 49th, but at the time, he didn't grasp the significance of the accomplishment. Now, 61 years later, he is part of that history and tradition and understands it well.
"Over the years, I came to realize just how big a deal and how important it is to be a participant in such a wonderful endeavor for all these years," Gustke said. "I just feel blessed to be healthy enough to compete for so many years."
Even after having bowled in 50 consecutive tournaments, neither player sees himself slowing down anytime soon.
"Being at 50 is a great feeling and something you can be proud of," said Segar, who received a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate his achievement. "I look forward to another 50."
"I absolutely love the competition," Gustke said. "I love the entire setting, and I like the whole tournament concept. I'm going to keep on bowling as long as I'm able. Getting to 70 (tournaments) would be wonderful, and (an all-time record) 72 would be even better."
Segar finished his 2014 tournament with 495 in team, 491 in doubles and 451 in singles for a 1,437 all-events total. In 50 years at the Open Championships, he has knocked down 78,763 pins for a career average of 175. Gustke finished with an all-events score of 1,604 after rolling 509 in team, 535 in doubles and 560 in singles.
Their longtime on-the-lanes ventures have a number of parallels, with Segar and Gustke carrying respective averages of 184 and 183 for the 2012-13 season. And don't expect either of them to hang up their bowling shoes, or national tournament participation, any time soon.
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