Rossville resident Bill Nesbitt is on his way to Reno, Nev., for a huge milestone.
He will compete Friday in his 50th national bowling tournament, and his son Scott will be joining him for the 25th year in a row.
Although the elder Nesbitt, age 76, lives just across the Georgia line, he bowls in Chattanooga centers and is only the second Tennessee bowler to participate in 50 nationals. This one will make his 50th in 51 years, as he missed the 1969 trip to Madison, Wis., when Scott was about three months old.
"I've been dragged into bowling alleys since I was 3 or 4 years old," the son said with a laugh as the duo prepared for their departure for the USBC Open Championships. "Bowling always has been one of Dad's favorite pastimes.
"He also golfs, but he didn't really take that up till he retired. But he loves anything to do with Vols sports, along with the Braves and even the Falcons. Except for family and church, everything else pretty much revolves around sports for him."
Bowling and family go together for the Nesbitts. Bill's wife of 48 years, LaDora, also stills bowls regularly, and Scott's brother Greg used to but now limits his time at the lanes to occasional subbing. Bill and Scott also serve as directors for the Chattanooga Area Bowling Association.
"We first met in 1963, and he was already bowling then," LaDora said Tuesday. "His first national bowling tournament was in 1964 in Oakland, California. I became a bowler because it was such a passion for him.
"We still bowl in a senior league on Tuesday afternoon."
Bill has had two knee replacements, broke his hip in a fall at a bowling center a few years ago and had to have rotator-cuff surgery after another fall at home. All those body parts are important in bowling, so he admittedly isn't as good as he used to be, but he always has been faithful with his physical therapy and he goes to the Sports Barn for workouts.
He used to average 180-190 a game -- "and when he was in his prime you didn't have all these 220-average bowlers like you do now, with all the developments in balls and lane surfaces," Scott noted -- and he still averaged 158 as a 75-year-old.
Like his wife, he enjoys the lifetime-activity aspect and the "fellowship with the folks" of league bowling.
LaDora and Scott's wife also are making the trip to Reno for this milestone tournament.
"It's a special time for all of us," LaDora said.
"The nationals are kind of a prestige thing, the big ordeal as far as bowling is concerned," Scott said. "It's open to anybody who's a league bowler, as long as you pay your entry fee, but after a while it becomes a tradition you don't want to miss. I never dreamed I'd be going to 25 of these when I first started."
Beginning with Scott's first one, this will be the Nesbitts' 10th nationals together at the National Bowling Stadium. Another was in Las Vegas, while others have taken them to Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, upstate New York, southern Alabama, New Mexico, Montana and Utah. They didn't have to go far in 1997 or 2003 -- to Huntsville and Knoxville, respectively.
Bill's first quarter-century of nationals spanned the country from Maryland to California and from Florida to Minnesota, with a couple of visits to Niagara Falls and a lot of the Heartland mixed in.
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.