LAS VEGAS – The United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame officially added seven members Wednesday night when it held its induction ceremony of the 2019 class at The Orleans.
Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, Finland native Mika Koivuniemi, and Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, were inducted for Superior Performance, the late Jim St. John was added in the Veterans category, Larry Lichstein of Fort Myers, Florida, was inducted in the Pioneer division and, for Meritorious Service, the late John Davis and veteran bowling writer Bob Johnson of Las Vegas joined the USBC Hall of Fame.
Barnes, 49, owns 19 Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour titles, including three majors – the 2005 U.S. Open, 2006 PBA Tournament of Champions and 2011 PBA World Championship. He earned PBA Rookie of the Year honors is 1998 and was the 2007-2008 PBA Player of the Year, making him one of five bowlers to have won both awards. He was elected to the PBA Hall of Fame in 2018.
He captured 22 gold medals as a 16-time member of Team USA, the most appearances on the team by any male bowler. He announced his retirement from Team USA earlier this year and was honored by USBC, along with longtime teammate Tommy Jones, during the USBC Convention on Wednesday afternoon.
“As I look around, I’m simply in awe of the accomplishments and the legendary pioneers in this room that inspired me and so many other people to achieve things greater than they ever thought they could,” Barnes said. “While the PBA Tour allowed me to provide for my family and made me bowling famous, it is the bowling I did within the USBC that shaped my life.
“Following in the footsteps before me, of many of you, it has long been a goal of mine to make the USBC Hall of Fame through USBC accomplishments. And I like to think I’m not done yet.”
Koivuniemi, 52, currently lives in the United Arab Emirates and has coached the UAE national team since 2015. He joined the PBA Tour at age 32, earning the first two of his 14 career PBA titles in major events – the 2000 USBC Masters and the 2001 U.S. Open – to earn the nickname Major Mika.
He captured a third major at the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions and was a two-time PBA Player of the Year (2003-2004, 2010-2011). He was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“What a year 2019 has been for me, making two big hall of fames in the same year,” Koivuniemi said. “There are so many people throughout the world who have helped me. I still remember my first (USBC) Open Championships in Reno in 1995 at the new stadium. It was something to see how it ran so smoothly with so many bowlers. I remember my first Masters and U.S. Open in 1996 – great memories and experiences – and then being lucky enough to win both of them as my first two titles.”
Kulick, 42, made history in 2010 when she captured the PBA Tournament of Champions title, becoming the first woman to win a PBA Tour event. She captured Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and won the first of her six major titles at the 2003 U.S. Women's Open.
She is a 15-time Team USA member and her international resume includes a then-record performance in winning gold in singles at the 1999 World Bowling World Championships, the first of her 22 career gold medals.
“To witness the people walking through that door earlier, the hall of famers and everyone here … I just thankful for this moment,” Kulick said. “I learned a lot from my elders, but since commentating on the youth and collegiate events, it’s the youth who inspire me to pave the way for future generations.”
She also referenced a former Team USA teammate about what reaching the hall of fame means to her future on the lanes.
“Liz Johnson sat up here a few years ago and said just because she’s in the hall of fame doesn’t mean she’s done,” Kulick said. “Me, too. I am not done.”
St. John, who served in the Navy for nine years before turning to bowling full time, won six titles on the PBA Tour from 1963-1969 and captured a USBC Open Championships Classic Team title in 1964. He died on Jan. 11, 1987.
His most dominating performance came at the 1963 World Invitational, one of the most prestigious tournaments in bowling, that took place in Chicago. St. John set 12 tournament records, tied two others, and posted the only 300 game over the course of the 11-day tournament. He successfully defended his title at the 1964 event.
Members of St. John’s family were unable to attend the induction ceremony, but his daughter, Karen Hayward, relayed a message from the family, including her mom, Delores, and her brother, Ron.
“My family and I would like to thank the USBC Hall of Fame committee for recognizing my father in the Veterans category,” Hayward said in her letter. “When my brother and I were very small, we would travel around the U.S. with our parents to all of the bowling tournaments. … I also enjoyed watching my dad and the other bowlers on the Falstaff bowling team. They did a lot of trick bowling. I haven’t seen anything like it since. My family and I have a lot of wonderful memories of our bowling family. Thank you again to the USBC and everyone involved.”
Lichstein, 69, who was elected to the PBA Hall of Fame in 1996 in the Meritorious Service Category, made his mark as the long-time director of player services for the PBA. He started his PBA career as a bowler in 1969, becoming the youngest PBA Rookie of the Year at the time of his selection, and won his lone PBA title at the San Jose Open in 1970.
In May 1974, Lichstein changed career paths, and for more than 22 years, would serve as the PBA Director of Player Services, where he equipped, fit, maintained and served up to 300 PBA Tour bowlers each week. He also owns two Open Championships titles, winning Classic All-Events in 1969 and Classic Team in 1970.
“When I got the call, Nov. 2 (from USBC President Karl Kielich), that was my son’s 50th birthday,” Lichstein said. “It was a tough day, I cried a lot, because I love the sport and I couldn’t believe it was happening. I really thought it wasn’t true, but he finally convinced me it was. This is really such a special day for me.”
Davis, who passed away on Jan. 25, 2013, at age 64, started Kegel in 1981 on the heels of developing The Key™ Lane Cleaning Tool, which provided bowling centers a better and more economical way to clean lanes. With a goal of making “two lanes play the same,” he became a leading innovator and expert in the field of lane maintenance throughout a career that had a major impact in the sport.
In addition to the lane machines, conditioners, cleaners and other items he developed, he opened the Kegel Training Center in 1997, moving it to its current location in Lake Wales, Florida, in 2003, to give bowlers and coaches the latest technological advances to take their knowledge to the next level. His last invention was the Kegel LaneMapper, which measures lane topography.
“My father was a very humble man,” said Davis’ son, Chris. “He didn’t care about the rewards, the awards, he just wanted to fix bowling. He accomplished so much over the years. He was truly a family man and loved the sport of bowling. … What a life, what a life. What a great honor this is.”
His brother, Mark Davis added, “John had a passion for servicing the bowling industry. He spent much of his time on the phone with people all over the world, discussing the game and all aspects of it. He would call people out of the blue and talk to them for hours about nothing but bowling. I don’t doubt that some of those people are in the room now.”
Johnson, 61, of Las Vegas, has been at the forefront of telling bowling’s stories for nearly five decades. He has been honored with 75 national writing awards for his work covering the sport and industry, and has served on the USBC Hall of Fame committee since its formation.
In 2009, Johnson was selected as the Bowling Writers Association of America (now International Bowling Media Association) Luby Hall of Fame Award winner, and was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“Looking back, I’m grateful for those tough days because they forced me to be a better researcher, a better interviewer and a better writer,” Johnson said about his start as a journalist. “I had to become a better writer to get more assignments and, over time, that is what happened.”
The USBC Hall of Fame was created in 2005 by merging the former American Bowling Congress and Women’s International Bowling Congress Halls of Fame.
With the induction of the seven-member class of 2019, there are 432 members of the USBC Hall of Fame – 223 in Superior Performance, 120 in Meritorious Service, 51 in Veterans, 22 in Pioneers and 16 in Outstanding USBC Performance.
Visit BOWL.com/HallOfFame to learn more about the USBC Hall of Fame.