MORGANTOWN - Thomas Hart of Morgantown, who has been bowling competitively since 1963, is still going strong and enjoying it immensely.
The Buckhannon native, who turns 71 on March 10, is believed to be the most successful and most decorated in West Virginia bowling history.
A 1962 graduate of W. Va. Wesleyan College in his hometown, he started participating in his favorite sport when Buckhannon lanes open a year later. He continues to bowl weekly at Suburban Lanes in Morgantown and Compton Lanes in Clarksburg.
As if that's not enough for the retired educator, he also is subbing in Friday's Senior League at Suburban.
Tom Hart, who has been married nearly 26 years to wife Marie, also has a son, Jeff, who excels as a bowler at the age of 40. He's an excellent player who even has shared in his father's success on the bowling lanes.
"I am proud of the fact that Jeff rolled a 300 game about three years ago in a tournament at Reno, Nev.," Tom said. "And that was in a national tournament."
What's more, the two of them finished a phenomenal third in the National Doubles Tournament about 10 years ago. "And there were about 80,000 bowlers in that event," Tom Hart stated.
He has bowled seven perfect 300 games in national and state competitions along with a few others in different venues.
Hart joined the Professional Bowlers Association several years ago and he spent about seven years traveling on the Professional Seniors Tour.
That was one of the reasons he retired early after serving as assistant principal and the full-time principal of Morgantown High School a total of 25 years as an administrator.
Hart said being on the pro tour was a great experience. He got to meet and become friends with some of his idols and others.
He is in the West Virginia Bowlers Hall of Fame and a longtime member of that association. It awards $1,000 scholarships to four young student bowlers each year.
Hart has won five state championships four individuals and one four-man team. He also captured back-to-back titles in tournaments sponsored by WTAE TV in Pittsburgh.
The latter involved bowlers from that channel's four-state, 150-mile viewing area.
"I've enjoyed meeting and competing against some of the best bowlers in the world," Hart said.
He obviously has come a long way since averaging 175 or 176 during his first year of bowling in Buckhannon. He just kept getting better steadily and enjoyed it.
Hart is grateful for having had the opportunity to travel from coast to coast bowling and, in the process, making new friends.
He wouldn't have traded that for anything else.
"One highlight was the opportunity of competing against Earl Anthony," Hart recalled. "He was voted the Player of the Half Century. He just died about two years ago
"I not only competed against him, but actually beat him once. If I had played him 100 times, I'd probably beat him one time."
Anthony also was a great golfer as wall as a great bowler. The two men also played golf together once, and Anthony was a bit unhappy because he only shot par.
Hart was on the pro bowling tour for about six years full-time, but he admittedly did not make much money.
He has resided in Morgantown since 1966, and he's happy that he lived out his dream for a bowling career. But he also enjoyed his 25 years in administrative work at Morgantown High.
He also joined Chester Brooks in starting a baseball program at the school and coaching the team for its first two seasons.
Naturally, Hart still is a member of the United States Bowling Congress.
He and son Jeff will be competing in the National Tournament in May at Baton Rouge, La.
This will be Tom's 43rd. He'd like to reach his 50th. "If I do, it'd be Jeff's 25th," he said. "And I'd like to have a photo taken of us with the attractive plaques they give participants."