Columbus bowler to be inducted into Hall of Fame
When John Eckholt first started bowling at the age of 9, or started working at Columbus Bowl at 16, he probably never imagined he would still be working at a bowling alley and about to be inducted into the United States Bowling Congress’ Nebraska Bowling Hall of Fame.
But it’s happening. Eckholt is set to be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday for more than 30 years at Westbrook Lanes, 3156 51st Ave., as a bowling proprietor.
He’s also no slouch on the lanes himself. He said he’s bowled several 300 (perfect) games and 800 series, the latter of which is when a person averages a 267 or better over the course of three games. He’s also served on the Nebraska Bowling Proprietors Association and has found plenty of success in state and national competitions.
Nebraska Hall of Fame Committee Chairwoman Vicky Spuhler commented on the accomplishments of Eckholt.
“He’s been a member of the USBC for 39 years, he’s participated in 37 state tournaments and 332 national tournaments. He’s mainly being honored for his bowling performance ... He’s bowled 81 ’300s’ and 20 ‘800s’,” she said. “His averaged he’s held is 242 which is amazing. He’s had several top finishes at the state tournament. He’s a member of the Columbus local Hall of Fame.”
Spuhler put Eckholt’s accomplishments in perspective.
“Not a lot of them have that big of a number (of 300s and 800s), usually someone of them will have a few 300 or 800, but not in the totals John has,” she said.
Eckholt wasn’t always a phenomenal bowler, though.
“It took a lot of years of practice. At first, when I was 9 years old, I wasn’t very good at all,” Eckholt said. “When I started working at Columbus Bowl, I got to practice a lot for free. It started clicking, and I started doing a lot better.”
Once he started playing, Eckholt said he enjoyed the game right away.
“I’ve always liked bowling, once I started I was hooked,” Eckholt said. “As a kid, it probably kept me out of a little bit of trouble. It kept my busy working, plus playing in a lot of tournaments.”
Almost 40 years after his first job at a bowling alley, Eckholt said he feels honored that he was selected to join the Hall of Fame.
“It’s great,” Eckholt said. “Other people voted me in, and they thought I was worthy enough to become a Hall-of-Fame member. I’ve loved bowling, I’ve dedicated a lot of my time. I’ve coached bowling for about 25-30 years.”
Eckholt’s first worked at Westbrook as a part-time employee. Eventually, the manager at the time left and they asked Eckholt if he was interested in the position. He ended up taking the job in the 1980s and the rest was history.
Eckholt seemed proud of the role that Westbrook has played in the community.
“Westbrook has been around now for 39 years,” Eckholt said. “I think we’re a good part of the community. We host a lot of state tournaments here. We’ve hosted the women’s state tournament three times, and we’re putting a bid in for the men’s for 2020 with Boulevard lanes and we’re hoping we can get that.”
Even after Eckholt enters the Hall of Fame, his passion for bowling will still exist.
“I’ve always loved bowling, I think it’s a great sport. It’s something you can do from the ages of 5 years old to … we have a guy that’s 93-years old in the bowling league. As long as you’re physically healthy, you can do it. You’re not going to see too many 93-year-olds out playing basketball.”
The Hall of Fame ceremony will take place at the Holiday Inn in Kearney. Eckholt will be inducted alongside fellow adult inductees Dave Williams Jr. (of Omaha), Neil Oleson (of Norfolk) and Youth Coach of the Year Kevin Capron of Fremont. Nebraska USBC, which hosts the ceremony, is a nonprofit organization.
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org