PBA Hall of Famer Johnny Guenther Dies at Age 82

by Jerry Schneider June 28, 2018 09:16

CHICAGO - Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer and 11-time PBA Tour champion Johnny Guenther of Edmonds, Wash., died Wednesday after a short illness at the age of 82.

Among his 11 titles was the 1972 PBA National Championship for his lone major, but he was probably most remembered for his 1969 San Jose Open title where he bowled only the second 300 game seen on live television.

On ABC’s Pro Bowlers Tour stepladder final telecast that featured four other PBA greats, Guenther, the No. 4 qualifier, beat Buzz Fazio, 203-195, in the first match and then went on to beat Don Johnson in the second match, where he threw the historic 300 game (300-189). He then defeated Billy Hardwick, 233-214, in the semifinal, and finally top-seeded Wayne Zahn, 268-194, for the title.

“To tell you the truth, I never thought about it until I hit the last strike,” Guenther said after bowling the historic perfect game. “I’ve had nine or 10 300 games in my career but that one was the only one on television. You never think you’re going to get them all – you just keep adding one at a time.”

To view a clip of Guenther’s 300 game in the San Jose Open click on

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftJSNPgcNJc&t=4s

The 300 game and tournament win also netted Guenther a $10,000 bonus and a new Mercury Cougar.

Guenther’s very first PBA win in the 1965 Oxnard (Calif.) Open was also memorable setting two PBA scoring records on his way to the title. He set the then eight-game pinfall record of 2,022 and 16-game record of 3,830 which eclipsed the previous marks of 1,983 and 3,793 set by Ray Bluth in 1964.

Guenther, who was voted as PBA’s 45th greatest player in 2009, was also a three-time Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award winner, earning the honor in 1966 and 1967 and then shared the award again with Dick Ritger and Dave Soutar in 1970.

Also a member of the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame, Guenther was the winner of two USBC Open Championship titles, winning the 1967 and 1974 Classic Team titles.

According to an obituary in the Seattle Times, Guenther was born in Langdon, N.D., and his family moved to Seattle in 1947. He graduated from West Seattle High School where he had met his wife, Patricia Ann, who died in 2014.

Guenther learned the game fast as a teenager, rolling an 809 league series as an 18-year-old in an elite Seattle traveling league.

The former bowling proprietor and Army veteran owned and operated Georgetown Lanes in Seattle and Robin Hood Lanes in Edmonds before finally retiring from the bowling business in 2013.

In addition to daughter Lynn Ressler of Edmonds and son Mark Guenther of Whitefish, Mont., Guenther is survived by granddaughters Blair Klumpyan of Houston and Lauren McCants of suburban Cincinnati and two great-grandsons.

A family service will be planned for the near future but the family suggests donations to the American Heart Association and National Kidney Foundation be made in his name.

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