An 8-year-old boy ventured into Rocky Springs Bowling Center nearly 43 years ago and discovered a lifelong passion — one that has led to his induction into the Pennsylvania State Bowling Hall of Fame.
Saturday at the Red Lion Hotel in Harrisburg, 165 attendees applauded Rick Graham’s new membership in the elite group of bowlers.
On March 28, while bowling in his league at York’s Colonial Park, Graham was surprised by the announcement that he had earned the honor.
“I was speechless,” he said.
At his induction reception, he told the group that 107 days had gone by since that announcement, and he had thought of this night on every one of them.
“I looked forward to the great honor that it is to be in the Hall of Fame with so many great bowlers who have done so much for our great game,” he said.
With 135 perfect games, 60 800 series, a high average of 244 and a personal high series of 841, the Lancaster Township kegler has notched his share of career achievements.
He competed in 20 state and 31 ABC/USBC tourneys, and holds 13 Lancaster United States Bowling Congress Association (LUSBCA) titles. And those represent just a handful of his successes.
One of his personal highlights, however, was earning a berth on Team USA, which competed in the 1987 World Bowling championships in Helsinki, Finland.
“A couple of months after high school, I saw a flyer for a local Team USA qualifier and decided to try it,” he said.
After winning a local qualifier and a few more successes in his quest to become part of the team, he headed to Milwaukee for the national finals.
After a slow start against the other 39 bowlers in the men’s competition, Graham, who was all of 18 years old at the time, noted that he was “towards the bottom of the pack.”
But, he said, he clawed his way back through the weeklong tourney, and by the 56th and final game, it came down to the last two qualifiers — himself and a 56-year-old accomplished bowler.
“I ended up 11 pins ahead of him and a member of Team USA,” Graham said.
He added that the pride in wearing the “USA” on his back while competing was “all-encompassing.”
“It was like the Olympics, when you entered the competition carrying our flag, you represented the United States of America,” he said. “Something I’ll never forget.”
Graham, who coached his son, Ryan, in scholastic competition at Conestoga Valley (2014-18), noted that one of his special moments in the sport was with his son.
In last year’s state team tournament, Graham and his son both rolled an 800 series while members of the same team.
And it happened on Father’s Day.
Graham was also the first Lancaster junior bowler to roll a perfect game, and it happened in 1983 at the very lanes where he began his career — Rocky Springs, now called Rocky Springs Entertainment Center.
He is also a member of the Lancaster USBC Association Hall of Fame (2002).
There are many who helped him along the way, but he cited Gary Brooks (2005 state Hall of Fame inductee) and Keith Goodling as two guiding lights in his career.
With the many achievements, Graham has received one more for which he will be honored in two weeks at York.
He was named the East Region Senior (50 and over) Professional Bowling Association Player of the Year for 2018, in which he had one championship, three second places, was the high point earner and had high average.
At he end of the night, Graham, 51, reflected back on that 8-year-old boy who asked his mother, the late Bert Graham, if he could go to the bowling lanes while she played bingo in Rocky Springs Hall.
And because she said yes, and got permission for him from the Rocky Springs manager, he has gone on to reach a pinnacle in his sport.