I was never a Ben Ketola 

When I was younger, I was a fair bowler. Not great, not good, just fair at the sport of knocking pins down with a 15-pound ball. Today, I could probably not roll a ball down a lane with any power or accuracy at all. My shoulder and wrist have seen their better days.

I used to spend a good bit of time at Fort Benning’s Kelly Hill Bowling Alley. My dad was in the Army and had a part-time job running the facility. So, I got to do a good bit of free bowling – at least, I wasn’t paying. Somehow, I wound up with my own bowling ball, bag and shoes. Somebody my dad knew gave them to him and he gave them to me. I remember how much I liked wearing the shoes because they were brown suede loafers instead of the ugly red, green and white shoes that you had to rent. My bowling ball was well-used by its previous owner, but it was far better than the balls you could use at the alley. It was a Gray Ghost bowling ball. All the balls at the alley were black.

Dad even had a friend of his teach me about bowling. He taught me how to roll the ball, how to keep score and how you used the dots and arrows on the floor. Like I said, I became a fair bowler. In the first league I joined with other teenagers at Kelly Hill, I probably averaged 125 without a handicap. I think, if my memory serves me well, the team I was a part of finished second.

A few years later, my sister and brother – both much younger than I – decided to join a league at the old bowling alley on the U.S. 280 Bypass. The building was destroyed by a tornado not too many years ago. They needed an adult on the team with them, so I was volunteered. At the beginning of the season, I was depended upon to carry the weight of the trio while my siblings improved. My younger brother stepped up first to help me. We really did not expect my sister to be much help at all, but we were wrong. By the middle of the season, she had improved a great deal – and with her ridiculous handicap to add to her improved scores, she was the best bowler on the team.

I think I averaged around 160 in that league. Everybody said I could do better if I dedicated myself to the sport. I never could do that. To me, bowling was a game for recreation – just for fun. At the time, I was still into baseball and league softball. I took those sports more seriously.

When the old Peachtree Bowl opened in Columbus, I was working at The Citizen along with Tommy Hicks and we were invited to a special media night to show off the new facility. It was nice – better than any alley I had seen up until that time. As part of the event, the owners allowed us to bowl. Tommy and I teamed up against three television media personalities. One of them was Steve Beverly who worked at WTVM. It was three against two – television versus print media. Tommy and I wore them out. We were not that good, but we were way better than they were.

During the game, I kept telling everyone I could bowl better between my legs than they could bowl straight up. When we got to the final frame, Beverly insisted I put my money where my mouth was. So, I bowled between my legs. It is not really easy to do when you are trying to actually knock down a decent number of pins so you do not look silly. I swung the ball back, slid on both feet and rolled the ball between my legs. I knocked down nine pins. I left the 10-pin standing. I was going to attempt to bowl as I normally would to try to get a spare, but Beverly was not going to have that. He wanted me to bowl between my legs for the spare. I did. And, I made it.

I am not bragging here, because it was pure luck that I knocked that pin down. The lane was so new and smooth that I guess I was able to roll it straight enough.

Anyway, the whole point of this column is to let you know that I am no Ben Ketola. If you do not know the name, look him up on YouTube and watch his World Record. Ketola rolled a perfect 300 game at the 281 Bowl lanes in Courtland, N.Y., recently. That is a remarkable feat – 12 consecutive strikes. Ketola is a great bowler in my book, as he averages 225. He has bowled thousands of games without scoring a perfect 300. Most people who bowl will never score 300.

Now, the most remarkable thing about Ketola’s feat – the thing that made it a World Record – is the fact he performed this amazing feat in 86.2 seconds. It is the fastest 300 game ever rolled. He rolled 12 different balls over 10 different lanes to get the record. He had attempted the feat before, but eight was the most strikes in a row he had made. The bowling alley has 10 lanes. He started at Lane 1 and moved across the other lanes in order to Lane 10. He then ran back across the lanes to where he started and used Lane 1 and Lane 2 for his final two strikes. 

Because the sport of bowling has rules, Ketola’s feat will not go into the books as an official perfect game. You have to remain on your lane for it to be official. Once you watch the video of Ketola in action, you will without a doubt feel like the writer who wrote the story I read in The Post Standard online newspaper. It will always be a perfect game in our hearts. And we will all urge Ketola to keep on rolling between the gutters.

Mark Clark is a local sports writer for The Citizen of East Alabama.