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Hardwick joined the PBA Tour in 1961, and amassed a total of 18 PBA titles during his career. He was the first player to capture the PBA career "Triple Crown"—which is achieved by winning the three primary PBA major tournaments: U.S. Open, PBA National Championship, and Tournament of Champions. Hardwick captured all three between 1963 and 1969. There have been only five other Triple Crown winners since: Johnny Petraglia, Mike Aulby, Pete Weber, Norm Duke and Chris Barnes. He was named PBA Player of the Year in both the 1963 and 1969 seasons. In 1969, he matched Dick Weber's 1961 PBA record by winning seven titles in one season. The record would stand until 1978, when it was broken by Mark Roth's eight titles.
Billy was ranked #12 on the PBA's 2008 list of "50 Greatest Players of the Last 50 Years". He retired relatively early from the PBA Tour after developing arthritis. Billy's final PBA title came in April, 1976 at the Monro-Matic Open in Toledo, Ohio when he was still just 34 years old. He was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1977, and was the proprietor of Billy Hardwick's All-Star Lanes in Memphis.
According to his son, Chris, speaking on the Opie & Anthony Show on August 12, 2010, Hardwick was the last athlete to film a beer commercial profiling athletes. Chris added that his father originally had lines in the commercial but, "got a little intoxicated after so many takes that they cut out his lines for the commercial." A decision was made after that commercial that it would make a bad impression on the youth to give the message that if you want to become a champion, you should drink.
Hardwick had been married 5 times and had four children. He is the father of comedian and television personality Chris Hardwick.
Billy Hardwick died on November 16, 2013. He was preparing to return from Sarasota, Florida to Memphis, Tennessee, with his wife Rebecca, when he suffered an apparent heart attack and died shortly afterwards. He was 72 years old.
- "PBA History" at www.pba.com
- U.S. Bowler, Spring 2009 issue, p. 7.
- "Hardwick, professional bowler and owner of East Memphis bowling alley, dies at 72", commercialappeal.com; November 16, 2013; accessed May 9, 2014.
- Professional Bowlers Association and Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour website; accessed May 9, 2014.