Don Johnson (bowler)

Don Johnson (May 19, 1940 – May 3, 2003) was an American ten-pin bowler who spent many years on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tour. He won 26 PBA titles (ninth most all-time), including two major championships, and is a member of the PBA and USBC Halls of Fame.

Don Johnson
Born(1940-05-19)May 19, 1940
Kokomo, Indiana, U.S.
DiedMay 3, 2003(2003-05-03) (aged 62)
Years active1964–1981
Bowling Information
Rookie year1964
Dominant handRight (stroker delivery)
Wins26 PBA Tour (2 majors)

PBA careerEdit

Don Johnson, a right-handed bowler, joined the PBA Tour in 1964. He captured at least one PBA title every season from 1966–1977, on his way to 26 PBA titles in all. That total places him ninth on the all-time titles list.

Johnson was voted PBA Player of the Year in 1971 and 1972. But perhaps his shining moment came in 1970, when he won the prestigious Firestone Tournament of Champions and nearly achieved perfection in the process. In the televised final, he left a single 10-pin on the final ball for a 299 game. Leaving the 10-pin wasn't as famous as Johnson's reaction to it; he dropped on the floor and left his face down for several seconds before getting up to a thunderous ovation (Johnson's wife Mary Anne was shown in the audience, crying). In his post-tournament interview with Chris Schenkel, Johnson downplayed the bad break, stating, "I'm just thankful that I finally won this dadgum thing." (He had finished second in two previous Tournament of Champions events.)[1]

Johnson was runner-up in the Tournament of Champions for a third time in 1971. He won a second major title at the 1972 U.S. Open.

In the 1980s, Johnson made a successful transition from pro bowler to bowling instructor. He taught bowlers from over 20 countries and produced an acclaimed book/video instructional package on the sport. Among his students was 13-time PBA titlist, Hall of Famer and current bowling broadcaster Randy Pedersen.[2]

Johnson was born in Kokomo, Indiana, but spent most of his adult life in Akron, Ohio and Las Vegas, Nevada. On March 2, 2008, a PBA Tour stop in Columbus, Ohio was named in Johnson's honor: the Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic. In 2009, the tournament was renamed the Don Johnson Eliminator Championship.

Don's son, Jimmy Johnson, won a PBA Tour title in 1990, making them the second father-and-son combination to each win a title on the standard Tour (following Dick and Pete Weber). Friend and bowling writer Rich Carrubba, who watched the telecast of Jimmy's victory with Don, quoted Don as saying, "This means more to me than anything I have ever done myself."[3]

Don Johnson was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1977, and the USBC Hall of Fame in 1982.[4]

Awards and recognitionEdit

  • PBA Player of the Year (1971, 1972)
  • Inducted into PBA Hall of Fame (1977)
  • Inducted into USBC Hall of Fame (1982)
  • Placed #8 in Bowling Magazine's 2000 list of the "20 Best Bowlers of the 20th Century"
  • Also placed #8 on the PBA's 2008 list of "50 Greatest Players of the Last 50 Years"


Don Johnson died of a heart attack in 2003 at age 62 in North Las Vegas, Nevada.[5]


  1. ^ "YouTube video of Don Johnson's 299 Game at 1970 TOC". Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  2. ^ Transcript of Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator Championship on ESPN, March 7, 2010.
  3. ^ Carrubba, Rich. "Bowling Great Don Johnson". Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  4. ^ "Don Johnson USBC Hall of Fame profile". Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  5. ^ Article: "The lost legend left us too soon", Bowling Digest, August, 2003.
  • Hall of Fame bios at, official site of the Professional Bowlers Association and Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour

External linksEdit