Artis Booker Sr., quiet-spoken as always, could only express his joy, not his discontent, for his 299 game.
"The last ball wasn't that bad," the right-handed tenpin bowler said, "But somehow the four-pin stood."
That was Booker's first 299 game and the closest he's been to a perfect game in 15 years of bowling.
After pounding out the 299 game, his first of the Friday Weekenders league at Normandy lanes, he came back with games of 193 and 191. That 683 set was far short of his career-high 732 series.
"After the 299 I was so happy, so excited, that I didn't really pay much attention to the other two games," he said. "I've been looking for that 300 game for a long time and to be able to come so close was just great."
Bowling in four leagues -- the Thursday Get Togethers and the Monday Mixers, also at Normandy, and the Sunday Mixer at Country Club lanes -- Booker, who lives in Catonsville, hopes to see his 202 average increase.
"Wayne Stepp [a local pro shop operator] actually gave me the Nitro [ball] that I've been using for the past few weeks," Booker said. "That's the ball I used for the 299 game.
"And I did it on lanes 31 and 32. Most bowlers don't like the end lane. Bowlers don't generally like either the first or last set of lanes in a center because of the proximity of the building's walls, but thank goodness it doesn't seem to bother me."
Practice doesn't make perfect
You won't see Tom Leahy practicing.
"I just don't practice," he said. "I bowl in one league each week and that's it."
That seems to be enough. The Catonsville resident was bowling in the Friday Jet Set, at Normandy on Sept. 17, when he fired his career high single game (290) and career high series (692).
Bowling for 14 years and using an old plastic ball, a 15 1/2 -pound Brunswick Lazer, Leahy opened the series with a 187, added the 290 and finished with 215. That's pretty good scoring for a 190-average tenpin bowler.
"Yeah, but I could have had the 700 set," he said. "It hurt to come that close and not get it."
He claims that he wasn't doing anything different that night.
"I usually play about the five-board and that's where I was playing that night. The only thing that I did was polish the ball," he said.
That could have been a big plus. The 290 game started with an open frame, then he took the game off the sheet and started the third game with four more strikes. That's 13 strikes in a row. That's great bowling for anyone; for a one-night-a-week bowler, that's awesome.
Confidence can be everything
Mike Doub's dad drilled holes in a duckpin ball when Mike was 6. Mike traded that duckpin ball for a tenpin ball and never returned to ducks.
"I'm bowling in two leagues, Wednesday Any time Funtime at Normandy and a Monday night league at Kings Point," said Doub of Woodlawn.
It was in the Anytime Funtime league on Sept. 22 that he put together games of 279, 224 and 236 for a powerful 739 series.
His career high game and set remain 290 and 753, respectively, but the 739 series is a great start for the new season.
"I don't think I'm doing anything different," Doub said, "Except I feel more confident now."
Practicing what he preaches
Percy Mack, Catonsville Community College's bowling coach, continues his assault upon the pins at Normandy.
On Sept. 22 he fired outstanding games of 289, 252 and 230 for a 771 series.
"He should have had the 800 set," said Jason Feser, assistant manager of the center. "In the last game in the ninth frame he buried the ball in the pocket and had a weird thing happen, both the 7- and the 10-pin stood. Without that bad break he was a lock for the 800 series."