Pennsylvania bowler competes in 50th consecutive USBC Open Championships

By Nick Bonsanto
USBC Communications

LAS VEGAS

– When 71-year-old Fran Engro of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, took to the lanes Wednesday at the 2022 United States Bowling Congress Open Championshipshe made his 50th consecutive tournament appearance.

Engro started his journey at the USBC Open Championships in Detroit in 1971, and he was accompanied on his milestone march out to the lanes at the South Point Bowling Plaza by his son, Dan, and longtime doubles partner, Larry Baldassano.

The two watched as Engro was ushered into the 50-Year Club, receiving a plaque, chevron and diamond lapel pin to commemorate the accomplishment.

Like many who have achieved this before him, Engro did not really think about making 50 consecutive appearances at the Open Championships until deep into his run.

“It’s something I never thought about when I was younger,” Engro said. “Getting to 50 was something I wasn’t thinking about, but as I approached 40 years, I said maybe I can get to 50.”

Getting to 50 is what he did, and for 48 of those 50 years, he has bowled doubles with his lifelong friend Baldassano.

“Larry and I grew up two blocks apart in Norristown,” Engro said. “We’ve been together since we were 14 years old. I’m looking forward to his 50th appearance in two years as well.”

When Engro thinks back on his journey, one topic that brings a smile to his face is his family. Engro knows his journey was a family affair. Many of his appearances were spent with his brothers Joe, Steve and Pat, and now with his son, who made his 15th appearance this year in Las Vegas.

“Something I am very proud of is I also bowled with three of my brothers at the Open Championships,” Engro explained. “If you total me, my brothers and my son, I believe we have a combined 150 years of national tournament experience.”

While bowling with his brothers and son has been important, Engro was quick to mention another person who was very important to his 50-year run at the event.

“My wife (Sharon) is a big supporter of this,” Engro said. “Without her, none of this would have happened.”

While bowling in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1997, Engro had his best all-events score of his career with a 1,940 total. Having his dad there for that was special to him.

“My dad only made it to two events, but he was there in Huntsville when I bowled my best overall score,” Engro explained. “I always bowled well when he was there.”

When he was asked about his favorite moment during his 50 years of competition, Engro did not hesitate to respond.

“When I went to the (National Bowling) Stadium in Reno for the first time in 1995,” Engro explained. “I shot a 700 in the team event right out of the gate. It’s something I will always remember.”

Competing in this year’s Open Championships, Engro bowled sets of 573 in doubles, 542 in singles and 526 in team for an all-events total of 1,641. That brings his 50-year total in the tournament to 84,241 for a lifetime average of 187.2.

“My other goal is going to be tough, since I want to get to 100,000 pins,” said Engro, who continued with a little chuckle. “I’ll need some big games to get there.”

Does Engro look forward to a potential run at 60 consecutive years at the Open Championships?

“I would like to if my health holds up,” Engro said. “I’m planning on participating as long as I can. This is how bowling should be.”

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