He could have called it quits, but now he’s the area’s top bowler

Don Erickson is he current leader at the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships

Renton’s Don Erickson has endured some physical challenges in recent years that have made his bowling future questionable.

Now he’s shocked to find himself as the current leader at the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships in Las Vegas.

The 61-year-old right-hander entered this year’s championships focused on having a good time with his friends and teammates and continuing his march toward 30 years of tournament participation, according to a press release from the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). Erickson is a field manager for the Union Hill Water Association, and does league bowling at Kent Bowl.

At the championship, which runs from now to July 8, Erickson earned a career-best series of 680, which landed him at the top of the Standard Singles standings.

He didn’t look at the leaderboards prior to taking the lanes, so he was surprised to find out his set, which included games of 269, 232 and 179, was enough to sneak past Andrew Leppen of Amherst Junction, Wisconsin, who held the lead since March 28 with 679.

“I wasn’t keeping track, and I had no idea I had taken the lead,” Erickson stated. “After such a good start, I just wanted to finish it out. My goal at that point was to shoot 700. ”

After his hot start, Erickson kept with his game plan to stay slow and focused on each shot and just enjoy the experience of his 28th USBC Open Championships, according to the release.

On his final frame, Erickson needed to fill 19 pins to secure the top spot. He left a nine-pin on his first offering, spared it and got nine on his fill ball, leaving just the four-pin standing.

“This definitely makes me a little emotional, especially since I didn’t expect it,” Erickson stated in the press release. “I get to bowl with a good group of guys, and we’re all here to support each other, which is nice. I didn’t look at the scores beforehand. I just came to bowl and have a good time. I honestly thought the scores were higher.”

About four weeks ago, Erickson pulled a ligament in his hip. The weeks that followed were spent resting or visiting doctors for a formal diagnosis.

He did squeeze in a few games to make sure he would be able to compete this week in Las Vegas, according to the release. He has 30 tournament appearances to go.

His Open Championships career began when he was invited to the 1984 event in Reno, Nevada. He left and then came back and bowled from 1990 until 2004, before missing another four years.

Erickson re-emerged in 2009 and started another participation streak.

He missed the 2014 edition, also in Reno, after dropping a tree across his leg and breaking it in multiple places.

There’s a pin in his leg now, and he stated in the press release the ongoing physical troubles definitely have affected his scores.

“It would be so neat to see my name on one of the championship banners next year,” Erickson stated in the release. “My ultimate goal has been to reach 30 years at this tournament, which has been challenging at times. I honestly never could’ve expected this.”

In his previous 27 years, Erickson was consistent across the three events – team, doubles and singles – averaging 190.3, 191.2 and 192.5, respectively. According to the press release, his best performance since returning from his broken leg was a 1,734 effort in 2015.

This year, his 1,865 nine-game total left him just short of the lead in Standard All-Events, which is owned by Vicente Ada of Bellmawr, New Jersey at 1,873.

Bowling is something that started as a fluke for Erickson, whose brother wanted to find something he finally could beat him at.

Regardless of how that turned out, it sparked a passion in Erickson. He has been a competitive bowler ever since.

“Around the house, we played a lot of other sports, and even though my brother was (taller than me,) I still was able to beat him at basketball. That’s why he wanted to do something else,” Erickson stated in the release. “I ended up really enjoying the game of bowling, and I haven’t stopped since we started in 1970.”

The 2019 Open Championships recently reached the halfway point of its 122-day run, and Erickson must wait until July 8 to see if his performance was enough to bring a coveted Eagle trophy back to the Evergreen State. The tournament began March 9.

By the time the event concludes, nearly 10,500 five-player teams (more than 52,000 competitors) will have competed.

Erickson is still relaxed about the whole thing. According to the press release, he’s happy the way he played and knows all he can do is wait to see how the other players in his division do.

“I did the best I could, and if someone beats it, they did their best that day, too, and that’s what it is. I had a good tournament, and I am happy about that. It has been a long time since that has happened,” Erickson stated in the press release.

For more information on the Open Championships, visit BOWL.com/OpenChamp.