BOWLING MOURNS LOSS OF BILL LILLARD, MIKE McGRATH

Two Hall of Fame bowlers who were deeply involved in the bowling business once their competitive days were over, Mike McGrath and Bill Lillard, passed away on Sunday.

McGrath, who stunned the Professional Bowlers Association when he won the 1965 Portland Open, the first PBA tournament he entered at age 19, died in California. His death, at age 71, was confirmed by his daughter Jennifer. McGrath had suffered from a form of Parkinson’s disease, he told Bowlers Journal two years ago.

 A lanky left-hander, McGrath was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1988 and the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame in 1993 after a career that included back-to-back PBA National Championships in 1969 and 1970, when he was the tour’s leading money winner. He recorded another major victory when he defeated fellow hall of famer Earl Anthony, 234-222, to become the first left-hander to win the U.S. Open. That took place in 1973 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

McGrath finished his career with 10 Tour titles and $238,305 in career earnings. During the PBA’s 50th anniversary gala in 2009, he was ranked 39th on list of the PBA’s 50 greatest players.

After that, he worked in bowling sales, and later managed a center in northern California.

“Anyone who won 10 titles in that era had some ability,” said PBA Hall of Famer Dick Ritger about McGrath’s selection to the all-time top-50 list. “He was one of the top three or four left-handers alongside Bill Allen, Dave Davis and Earl Anthony.”

In a Facebook post, fellow hall of famer Barry Asher wrote: “Today, I lost one of my best friends. For those of you who didn’t really know and understand him, you really missed something special. He was a Hall of Fame bowler, as we all know. But in life he was a Hall of Fame person, friend and especially a father. I will miss him as long as I draw breath.”

PBA pioneer Bill Lillard, one of the 33 founding members of the organization in 1958, also passed away on Sunday after battling leukemia. A former member of the famous Budweisers of St. Louis, among other noted “beer teams” of the 1950s, Lillard won his only PBA Tour title in the 1966 Miller High Life Open. The Houston native would have celebrated his 90th birthday in October.

Lillard had his most visible success in the American Bowling Congress Tournament, now known as the USBC Open Championships, in which he won eight titles and set the all-time pinfall record with 124,087 total pins throughout his career.

Lillard also was owner of the center that hosted the PBA-PWBA Xtra Frame Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles event for several years. He sold the center last year.

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