PBA Mourns the Losses of Hall of Famer Mike McGrath, Founding Member Bill Lillard

by jschneider  |  Monday, July 31, 3:50 PM

PBA Mourns the Losses of Hall of Famer Mike McGrath, Founding Member Bill Lillard

PETALUMA, Calif. – Mike McGrath, who stunned the Professional Bowlers Association when he won the 1965 Portland Open, the first PBA tournament he entered at age 19, died late Sunday in California. His death, at age 71, was confirmed by his daughter Jennifer. Details were not immediately available.

McGrath, a lanky left-hander, was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1988 and the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame in 1993 after a career that included back-to-back PBA National Championships in 1969 and 1970, when he was the tour’s leading money winner. He recorded another major victory when he defeated fellow Hall of Famer Earl Anthony, 234-222, to become the first left-hander to win the U.S. Open in 1973 in Madison Square Garden in New York.

McGrath finished his career with 10 Tour titles and $238,305 in career earnings. During the PBA’s 50th anniversary gala in 2009, he was ranked 39th on list of the PBA’s 50 greatest players.

In the 1970 ABC Tournament (now USBC Open Championships) McGrath helped his Merchant Enterprises team win the Classic Division team title. He would go on to win two more ABC titles during his career.

“Anyone who won 10 titles in that era had some ability,” said PBA Hall of Famer Dick Ritger about McGrath’s selection to the all-time top 50 list. “He was one of the top three or four left-handers alongside Bill Allen, Dave Davis and Earl Anthony.”

“Today I lost one of my best friends,” said close friend and fellow hall of famer Barry Asher. “Mike McGrath has passed.

“For those of you who didn't really know and understand him, you really missed something special. He was a Hall of Fame bowler as we all know. But in life he was a Hall of Fame person, friend and especially a father. I will miss him as long as I draw breath.”

Details regarding memorial services will be published when they are available.

LillardForWeb637x359[1]The PBA also has learned of the death over the weekend of PBA pioneer and USBC Hall of Famer Bill Lillard, one of the 33 founding members of the organization in 1958. A former member of the famous Budweisers of St. Louis, among other noted “beer teams” of the 1950s, Lillard won his only PBA Tour title in the 1966 Miller High Life Open. The Houston native would have celebrated his 90th birthday in October.

Lillard had his most visible success in the USBC Open Championships where he won eight titles and set the all-time pinfall record with 124,087 total pins in 68 consecutive years of participation. Lillard also was owner of Palace Bowl , the center that hosted the PBA-PWBA Xtra Frame Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles event for several years before he sold the center last year.

Lillard is one of 11 bowlers in 114 years of tournament history to reach 65 years of participation at the Open Championships. Norris, fellow hall of famer Bill Doehrman of Fort Wayne, Ind. and Sylvester Thiel of Lake City, Minnesota, top the list with 71 years.

Lillard was voted the Bowling Writers Association of America's Bowler of the Year in 1956, and he earned Bowling Magazine's recognition for first-team All-American in 1956 and 1957.  In December 1999, Bowlers Journal International had Lillard No. 15 on the list of the 100 greatest bowlers of the 20th century.

A visitation will be held from 5-8 p.m. on Aug. 3 in the library and grand foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston. A memorial service is to be conducted at 11 a.m. Friday Aug. 4 in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church, 5300 Main Street in Houston.