Bob Saffle didn't start bowling tenpins until he was a young man.
"We really didn't have the money to bowl," Saffle said. "And if we had the money it was hard to get to town, there's always a lot of work to do on a farm."
That farm is near Robinson, Texas, near Waco.
"We grew cotton, corn, that sort of thing," he said. "My brother still farms there and I still get back to the old homestead once in a while."
Saffle, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, lives in Columbia.
"I'm only bowling in a single league, the Wednesday night Men's Handicap at [Brunswick Columbia] but I try to practice a little," he said.
Currently, he's averaging 182 with a 15-pound AMF Cobra.
"That's it, just one ball," he said. "I just get confused if I try to switch back and forth with different balls."
That ball was fitted and drilled by Walt Cervenka.
"If there's one person I can give credit to for my game getting better, it's Walt," Saffle said. "But I have made adjustments in how I throw the ball."
Feeling comfortable with his hand grip after Cervenka worked with him, Saffle started turning the ball over as he released it.
"I'm basically a down-and-in type [tenpin bowler]," Saffle said, "but now I'm turning my hand over as I release the ball. That seems to work best."
It worked well enough on March 1 for Saffle to have a good news/bad news night of bowling at Columbia.
The bad news? He missed a 700 set by just one pin.
The good news?
"I only had one bad hit in the first game," Saffle said. "That ball went Brooklyn but all the rest were right in the pocket."
One Brooklyn hit, 11 solid pocket hits and Saffle had his first
"After that I was so high that I don't really remember the last two games [214 and 185] all that well," Saffle chuckled. "It wasn't until I was finished that I realized I missed the 700 set by a single pin."
Almost back to back
Monty Smith came close to throwing back-to-back perfect games last week at Brunswick Normandy.
A 12-year veteran of the Baltimore County Police Department, he began his tenpin career over 20 years ago in his hometown of Horse Heads, N.Y.
"It was funny when I moved to Maryland," Smith laughed, "But I walked into a bowling center with my tenpin ball and saw all those little pins."
It was Smith's first sight of duckpins.
"I had to try them," Smith said, "and I did bowl duckpins for a while but I returned to tenpins and I bowl in three leagues right now."
One of those leagues, Monday Doubles, is at Fair Lanes King Point, the other two, Tuesday doubles and the Wednesday Funtime/Anytime, are at Brunswick Normandy.
Throwing a 16-pound Scarlet Quantum bowling ball, Smith is averaging 221.
Until last week Smith's high game had been 290, and his high series (775) had been thrown in the Greater Baltimore Bowling Association city tournament last year. Both of those marks fell on March 22.
Smith started out his Wednesday league night with a 278 then accelerated to a 300 game and finished with a 213.
Just one strike short of two perfect games and the elusive 800 series.