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Beat the Champions bowling event a source of mementos

Former Illinois Department of Natural Resources press secretary Carol Knowles found “I Beat the Champs” patches in her father’s belongings after his passing.

Such is the power of the mementos earned for beating the target scores set by pros in Beat the Champions, the charity bowling cosponsored by the Sun-Times and the Chicagoland Bowling Proprietors Association for 54 years.

Contest week for league bowlers is Dec. 7-13. The broadcast of target scores, rolled by pros Shannon Pluhowsky and Sean Rash, will air at 10:30 a.m. New Year’s Day on Comcast SportsNet, which differs from the traditional Christmas broadcast.

Those mementos were a source of intense scrutiny from the late Seymour “Sandy” Shub, who founded BTC in 1961, when he was the Sun-Times assistant sports editor.

“His biggest concern was if [a pro] bowled a horsecrap target,” said retired Sun-Timesman Dave Manthey, the scribe much decorated for his coverage of Champs and bowling.

When the pros rolled low target scores, it meant many bowlers earned the mementos. The most common mementos in the early years were patches. In recent years, mementos have included such things as key chains and bag tags.

Thousands of women bowlers earned them in 1987-88 when Carol Norman rolled a 501 three-game target. Thousands of men did the same in 1975-76 when Ed Ressler rolled a 536.

When that happened, “smoke was coming out of Mount Shub,” Manthey said. “Champs was his life.”

More mementos earned meant less money for charity. In the first 53 years, more than 5.7 million entries raised $2,793,600.36 for charity, including $34,451.32 in 2013-14.

Charity is what Champs is all about.

That and league bowling. For the first two decades, entry in BTC was only 50 cents, now it is $3, often just included league entry fees.

For those who advance during contest week, sectionals are in February. The finals are the first two Sundays in March, where both the women’s and men’s champions will win a 2015 Ford Fiesta from Local Ford Stores.