by Dave Williams
It has been almost four years since the passing of Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Hall of Fame member Billy Hardwick (November 16, 2013). I remember fondly my first meeting with Mr. Hardwick as we crossed lanes together at the 1975 U.S. Open in Grand Prairie, Texas, after I had won the California State Qualifying Tournament.
It was an exciting trip that was filled with all the wisdom of Will Roger’s famous statement, “If you don’t like the weather in Texas, just wait a minute,” or something to that effect. When we landed in Dallas on Sunday it was raining, with a threat of sleet. By the next morning it was snowing, and before I left later in the week we had experienced 80 degree temperatures and a tornado warning!
When I arrived at the lanes the first day with my bowling ball (yes, only one bowling ball) and house rental shoes that I had borrowed from L & L Lanes in Sebastopol, California, the pressure was placed upon me from the first moment that I met Harry Golden, the Tournament Director.
He informed me that I would need to get a haircut before the first qualifying squad the next day (there was a requirement that hair could not go below the bottom of the collar at that time), and that I would need to purchase my own bowling shoes.
Luckily Bobby Meadows, an excellent bowler and the General Manager of Jeanie Hulsey’s Triangle Bowl in nearby Arlington, Texas, overheard my plight and set me up with a local barber and a nice pair of Lind Bowling Shoes.
Somehow I managed to shrug all of that off and showed up the next day for the first 8 game qualifying round. I was paired with Fred Conner, a fellow Californian and general nice guy; and Billy Hardwick, one of my favorite living legends and greatest bowlers of all time, originally hailing from San Mateo, California.
The pairing could not have been better and I felt completely at home in the palatial Forum Bowl, owned by Ms. Hulsey, with chandeliers above every pair of lanes in the concourse area. What I was not comfortable with was the automatic scoring! I had never before bowled in a center with the giant new Brunswick Scoring monsters.
The worst part was the cursor on each lane that had to be moved to your name, or slot, before you bowled each time. Needless to say, with all of the aforementioned Harry “Goose” Golden pressure, and trying to concentrate on my own game, and the double jump rule that was new to me… I kept forgetting to move the cursor to my slot!
In an April, 1975 article in the Press Democrat newspaper, sports writer Ralph Leef commented that the pro’s were ignoring my “double jump” courtesies, which allows one bowler from each adjoining pair of lanes to bowl before you can step upon the approach.
Leef recounts: “I guess it was really bothering me and Billy could see it,” said Williams.
Hardwick quickly put Dave to ease. “If anyone gives you a dirty look, give it right back,” Hardwick told Williams.
“Don’t worry about these guys,” the master pro said.
Messrs, Hardwick and Conner must have been upset every time that I forgot to move the cursor, but they never said a word and instead blamed the machines. They even invited me to have a beer with them after the squad was done (I had a Coke).
We all bowled well for the week, with Fred finishing in the top 24. As for me, I was in 32nd with eight games to go and didn’t even cash (80 places). I guess the “Golden Goose” pressure finally got to me.
Years later when I was with Nationwide Bowling in the New York City area, I had three young college interns working for me and they were talking one day about Billy’s son Chris Hardwick of Comedy Central fame. I mentioned to them that I knew his father, and they begged me to get them autographed pictures of Chris.
I called Billy at his “Billy Hardwick’s All Star Lanes” in Memphis, Tennessee, and after reminiscing about the automatic scoring debacle in Texas, he said that his son Chris was in town and he would see what he could do about the photos.
Within a week I had three 8 x 10 glossies autographed by Chris Hardwick. I only wish now that I had asked Billy for a photo with his autograph, because he probably never knew how much I respected him and what he did for me at my very first national tournament.