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Huron legend Burt Bruha has bowled it all

Posted: Monday, Apr 15th, 2013

Huron bowling legend Burt Bruha rolls out the ceremonial first ball last week at Riverview Lanes during the S.D. State USBC Open Championships which are being held over five weekends in Huron. PHOTO BY SEAN M.X. KELLEY/PLAINSMAN

HURON — Burt Bruha probably didn’t know it but that day his brother asked him to fill in on his bowling team in 1939 probably went a long way to derterming how Burt would spend his next 60-plus years, taking him all over the country making lots of friends and even more memories.

Bruha is a legend in Huron bowling and has been around longer than almost all the alleys that he has spent bowling on over seven decades.

He was chosen to “roll” out the ceremonial first ball of the S.D. State USBC Open Championships.

More than 300 bowling teams from across the state are competing in Huron over five weekends with tournament play Fridays through Sundays with doubles and singles at Fair City Lanes and teams at Riverview Lanes. It is the 11th time Huron has hosted the state event.

Last Friday, all eyes were on Bruha. After a practice frame, the 92-year-old legend dropped all 10 pins to open the state championships.

Not bad for someone who hadn’t bowled in around 10 years.

But in between 1939 and the year he stopped, Bruha could be found just about every day knocking down pins somewhere.

He often bowled eight leagues a week when he was most active, with one league a night on Mondays and Saturdays and twice a night on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

He probably could have done more, but Tuesday night was ladies’ night.

What made it so perfect for Bruha was two-fold.

“The camaraderie we had,” said Bruha about the friends he made and would travel with during his career.

It was a career that took him to New York, Tennessee, Las Vegas and Reno multiple times for tournaments. And those were the ones that came to him right off the top of his head.

He also bowled at nearly every alley in the state during his career going from Rapid City to Sioux Falls, Watertown to Vermillion, and everywhere in between.

During one four-year stretch he and three friends each chipped in a $100 in and with their winnings they traveled the state from city to city competing in tournaments. They bowled weekend tournaments, taking turns driving, playing cards whenever they weren’t bowling and returning home each week to get back to their “day” jobs.

The other thing that made it perfect for Bruha was that he was good at it.

“I always wanted to win,” said Bruha.

And win he did.

How many league championships?

He says 20 or 30, he’s not sure, but a whole box full of trophies go along with decades-long annual trips to the state tournament that he had the honor of starting.

He has bowled on all types of surfaces including slate, done his own pin setting and oiled his own lanes with a pump-spray.

He also has used rubber, plastic and the newer urethane balls, mastering all types of alleys and all types of balls because of one reason.

“Practice. You had to keep your mind on it every day,” said Bruha of the focus and discipline that made him great.

But as advances in the game forced changes including the speed at which you rolled the ball and his advancing age Bruha eventually retired competitively.

“Now if you don’t throw 14 or 15 miles per hour, its hard to compete,” said Bruha of the change in balls, pins and alleys.

“You had to keep your mind on it and focus.”

But to open the tournament, Bruha stood on lane 5, and it was just him, the ball and 10 pins. And like most times that he did battle on the 60-foot alley it ended in a “Strike!”

For the complete article see the 04-14-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 04-14-2013 paper.

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