ARLINGTON, Texas – Don Ellis Sr. of Sugar Land, Texas, a member of the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame, died Wednesday. He was 92.
Ellis, elected to the USBC Hall of Fame in 1981 in the Veterans category, was a fixture at the USBC Open Championships. He made his debut at the 1947 tournament in Los Angeles, and though he missed four events early in his career while serving in the U.S. Army, he competed every year from 1955 until 2016.
In 2015, he became the eighth bowler in the event’s history to reach 65 years of participation. He also is one of 23 members of the tournament’s 100,000-Pin Club.
In 66 years on the championship lanes, he knocked down 115,122 pins, and he’s fifth on the career pinfall list through 2020. Ellis was able to maintain a career average at the Open Championships of 190.9.
With the 2021 tournament on the horizon, Ellis still is just one of 14 bowlers to reach 65 years of participation at the Open Championships. Late USBC Hall of Famers Bill Doehrman of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Joe Norris of San Diego, along with the late Sylvester Thiel of Lake City, Minnesota, top the participation list with 71 years.
Ellis’ lone Open Championships title came in Classic Doubles at the 1961 event with fellow USBC Hall of Famer Joseph Kristof. Ellis’ bowling resume also includes a win at the 1955 Peterson Classic and a runner-up finish at the 1965 USBC Masters.
The right-handed Ellis returned to the spotlight in the 1970s through the Great and the Greatest competition. He teamed with Mark Roth to win the 1979 championship and made the TV finals again in 1980.
A longtime bowling proprietor in the Houston area, Ellis always made sure there was time to compete, too. He won several association titles in Texas and Illinois, including three Greater Houston USBC titles, two Texas State USBC Association wins and two Illinois State USBC victories.
He was inducted into the Greater Houston USBC Hall of Fame in 1974 and Texas State USBC Hall of Fame in 1985.
Ellis passed on his passion for the sport to his family, and one of his favorite Open Championships moments was the time he was able to bowl with his daughter Denise in her first Open Championships, while his son, Don Ellis Jr., has logged 31 years of his own on the tournament lanes.
Ellis and his wife, Jean, who died in February 2020, had four children, 15 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Information about funeral services for Don Ellis Sr. is not yet available.