An Open Letter To My Father on the Occasion of Bowling My First USBC Open Championships

April 19, 2014

An Open Letter to My Father on the Occasion of 
Bowling My First USBC Open Championships

Dear Dad,

I made it. After all these years, I finally bowled in my first USBC Open Championships.

It was something I will never forget. The National Bowling Stadium, the Hall of Fame exhibit, the history of the event - I was part of it all in a very small way. I think you would have liked it. Everything was very big, modern, and meant to impress - probably not unlike the ABC (USBC) tournament in 1942 when you won the team title with Budweiser.

My Dad, Bill Hargadon, with me when he was inducted
into the Illinois Bowling Association Hall of Fame.
Leading up to my trip, I was excited about bowling, seeing if I could capture some of the magic you had all those years ago. I went so far to research your statistics for the years you bowled. I have to say I was surprised to see you only averaged 184 for 20 years. But after bowling the tournament, I was impressed.

I did not expect it to be easy. I made sure to leave my ego at home. But while I threw some excellent shots, I was only able to average 178 for my totals. So even after being gone for close to 20 years, you're still taking me to school, and giving me goals to strive for. 

You know, I met Jim Gochis at the tournament. He was bowling on our pair when he asked if I knew Bill Hargadon. I told him you were my father. He said he remembers you teaching at River Grove Bowl back in the day. "Your Dad was one of the good guys," he said. Jim owns three bowling centers and says it hasn't been easy these last few years. But he still had the competitive fire in his eyes during the tournament. Someone else you know and actually coached years ago will be celebrating 60 years bowling the tournament this year. Frank Clay is still going strong at 83 years old and remembers you well.  

Now I know you had a problem with the ABC years ago, which was the reason you stopped bowling the tournament after 18 years. Apparently you needed 20 tournaments to be considered for the national Hall of Fame. And with the urging of Joe Norris back in 1979 and 1980, you came back to bowl on the 'Hall of Fame' team as it was called and got your 20. I was just a kid then, but I still remember meeting Mr. Norris - big hands, big smile, and a bigger laugh. I was a stranger to something new that was shared with me at a young age. And as I fast-forward as an adult looking through the Hall of Fame exhibit, I kept hoping to see your face somewhere in the crowd, but instead saw the names of many people you knew. I was excited with anticipation and left wanting more.

So now its over. I sit here licking my wounds. I feel nostalgia, a sense of loss, and reflection.

I miss you Dad. I wish we could have bowled this tournament together just once back when you were still alive. We could have shared something special. I saw so many people bowling together that were friends and family. This was an annual pilgrimage for them. Some complained about lane conditions, some celebrated high scores, and many had a drink when they finished. All of them seemed like they were part of an important tradition.

You and I will never have that chance. Not anymore. And it's too bad because I would have tried to beat you like I did as a kid. It would have been fun, frustrating, and in the end, worth all the memories. But all I can do now is talk to you under my breath as I step on the approach to take another shot. Please stay with me and don't go away. And maybe next year you can actually share some of that bowling magic, so I can take home an Eagle...or at least average 185.

Love, your Pal forever,


Sean Hargadon is the son of IBA and CBA Hall of Fame bowler Bill Hargadon, who bowled competitively during the classic era of the sport in the 1930's - 1960's. Hargadon was an ABC Team Champion, Match Game Champion, Chicago Classic League Champion and All-America during that time. He also had the most 300 games in Chicago with 5 back in the 1960's. Boy, how times have changed. Sean, his youngest son, returned to bowling two years ago after a 20-year layoff. He bowls out of Bowlway Lanes in Elgin and is the coordinator of the Elgin Cross-Town Classic.

Bowlway Lanes Bracket Tournament Coming in May

Brackets. They're a big deal. Go to almost any tournament and there will be side brackets pitting 8 players against each other over three games. Some tournaments will have 5, 10 or 50 or even 150 side brackets.

Bowlers love brackets. Maybe it's the head-to-head action. Or the feeling of March Madness in basketball. Whatever the reason, brackets are part of bowling action.

Bowlway Lanes has picked up on this idea by offering its first-ever bracket tournament: the Bowlway Bracket Blast. The concept is simple: You get at least 16 bowlers. They bowl two games of qualifying. You take their total pins and rank them from the highest seed to the lowest. Then you place them in brackets based on their seed positions. Each bowler bowls single-game elimination matches. If you win, you move on to the next round. If you lose, you're out. Each player will bowl at least 3 games. The bowler that wins it all will shoot 6 games. Not bad for an evening and fast too.

This is a modest proposal. We only need 16 bowlers to make it work. With the sponsorship support of Bowlway Lanes, Carmelo's Auto Sales, madwill creative and, the payout for the tournament is quite good at $325 for first. 1 in 4 bowlers will cash and there will be side action available for the first three games. Of course, if we get 32 bowlers, everything gets better and the payouts and spots go up.

Yes, this will be a handicap tournament, but it will be capped to a certain degree at 70% of a 200 average. That's fair for everyone, especially at Bowlway Lanes, where scoring can sometimes be tricky with stubborn 10 pins, 4 pins, and the occasional 7-10 standing.

For more information, call Bowlway Lanes at 847-741-0155 or email