Nostalgia, Coincidence Color Lifelong Friends’ First PBA Titles

by Gianmarc Manzione 0

Professional Bowlers Association

Editor’s Note: Friends since childhood, growing up together in Westerville, Ohio, PBA60 players Bill McCorkle and Bill Henson achieved their dream of winning a national PBA title by winning the same tournament in Fort Wayne, Ind., in back-to-back years.

Below, McCorkle tells the story of the pair’s friendship and oddly similar experiences.

Bill McCorkle (left) with Bill Henson

Bill Henson and I were born in 1952 and grew up together in Westerville, Ohio. We began bowling at an early age at Westerville Lanes, one of the last “dry” (no alcohol served) bowling centers in the country.

We both played all sports. We were both pitchers in Little League baseball, advancing to Pony League and eventually to high school. Around 1961 at age 9, we became good friends bowling in youth bowling leagues on Saturday mornings. Both of us admired and respected each other when we pitched on opposing teams in Little League. We still have the score sheet from the 1-0 pitcher’s duel in 1962. (Editor's note: McCorkle was the winning pitcher that day, allowing only one hit. Henson allowed two, but one of them was a home run “by the only good hitter we had,” McCorkle recalls. “I always remind him he never should have pitched to that kid.”)

Both of us also worked at Westerville Lanes as porters, cleaning the ash trays and filling the pop machines and we even did a little pin jumping in the back. While in high school, both of us practiced a lot and worked very hard on our games. We bowled in the adult All Star and Classic leagues as youngsters and dreamed of becoming professional bowlers. We earned the nicknames “Mac” and “Hac.” And we graduated from Westerville High School together in 1970.

Let’s fast forward about 52 years to 2014. Both of us are in our 60s. We are both very proud grandfathers and still live in Westerville, just north of Columbus. We bowl together in a high-powered scratch league in Columbus along with a couple of fellow PBA champions, PBA Hall of Famer Roy Buckley and Mike Henry of nearby Gahanna. We compete regularly on the PBA50 Tour, traveling the country to compete against the greatest bowlers in the world.

We’ve both had success winning PBA regional titles, but neither of us has ever given up our childhood dream to be a national PBA champion and earn a banner that is displayed over the lanes at each tournament site along with the best champions ever to throw a bowling ball.

My bowling dream came true in 2014 when I won my first national title in the inaugural PBA60 Dick Weber Super Senior Classic at Pro Bowl West in Ft. Wayne, Ind. In an odd coincidence, left-handed Mike Henry, a teammate of mine in league in Columbus, was leading the tournament going into the final position round game. A loss in the last game dropped Henry to fifth place for the stepladder finals and I qualified second behind Johnny Petraglia, one of the greatest bowlers in PBA history.

After I beat Dave Patchen, another Ohioan, 212-195, in the semifinal match, I defeated Petraglia in the title match, 244-173. Petraglia, the legendary left-hander who was the bowler of the year in 1971, is the only bowler in PBA history to win national titles in six different decades. He was trying to become the oldest bowler to win a PBA national event at age of 67.

At the end of the 2014 season, both were nominees for the PBA50 Tour’s Dick Weber Sportsmanship Award, which is voted on by our peers. It was a proud moment, even though Chris Keane of Cape Coral, Fla., was the top vote-getter.

This year, one year after my win, my good friend, “Hac”, made his bowling dream come true when he won his first national title in the second annual Dick Weber Super Senior Classic, also at Pro Bowl West in Fort Wayne.

Once again, our friend Mike Henry was leading the tournament going into position round before he lost and dropped into third place for the stepladder finals. Once again the title went through Petraglia, who this time was the tournament leader, and was now trying to become the oldest to win a PBA national event at age 68.

On the same pair of lanes (41-42) at Pro Bowl West, Henson began his climb from fourth place, defeating yet another Ohioan, Dave Csuhta of Wadsworth, 247-214; then Henry, 256-225, and, finally, Kerry Painter of Henderson, Nev., 256-225, to advance to the title match against Petraglia.

In the championship match, Henson def. Petraglia, 244-233, rolling the same winning score I had bowled in winning my first title the previous year.

When I congratulated Bill on his win, it took us both back to memories more than 50 years old. Mac said, “I know how you feel.” Hac laughed and said, “I know you do.”

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