3 NC bowlers throw perfect game on same day, lanes
Bowling a 300 is far from routine, but it can be done.
Just ask the Jacksonville trio of Henderson Collins, Mitch Gibson and Bill Vannoy, who between them have reached perfection more than two dozen times over the years.
Heck, the 45-year-old Vannoy once rolled two 300s on the same day at a tournament in which he finished second.
But what the threesome did in a Southeast Bowling Association Inc. tournament at the Gold Cup Lanes at Russell Parkway in Warner Robins, Ga., may be a first.
The trio each rolled a 300 on the same day on the same two lanes.
Perfection times three.
That is a lot of X's — 36 combined, if you're counting. And you can certainly bet Collins, Gibson and Vannoy were June 8.
"Really," Collins said, "it was amazing."
Vannoy, 45, was the first to polish off his 300, which he counts as the 11th of a career that began when he started taking part in sanctioned leagues at 4 years old.
Next to reach perfection was Gibson, 56, who was Vannoy's doubles partner in the tournament. It was the ninth 300 for the left-hander.
"Mitch and I have been close several times to having 300s together," Vannoy said. "But we had just never done it."
Until that Saturday in Georgia in a 50-alley facility none of the three had ever seen until the tournament.
With Vannoy and Gibson having secured their 300s, the 76-year-old Gibson readied himself at the lane to try to make it a perfect threesome.
As he sought his 12th sanctioned 300 — he's rolled any number of others that aren't "official" — was Collins nervous?
"I was so excited about how they were doing I wasn't really thinking about myself," said Collins, who celebrated with both Vannoy and Gibson after their 300s. "I had to wait until they settled down and I got up there and I think after the last shot I got on my knees.
"But really believe me for me to try to explain how I was feeling and what it was all about and put it in words, I would have a problem doing that. But really since you're talking to me now, it's more exciting than what I was doing."
Has this ever been done before? The threesome said the Southeast Bowling Association was trying to get an answer to that question, although it seems highly unlikely. All three bowlers said they'd never heard of such a thing.
"We couldn't believe it," Gibson said. "We were all three striking like crazy., and once we finally all three of us bowled 300, we were like, 'This has to be history.' . I've never heard of anybody doing it.
"Even one of the directors of the tournament who said he'd been running tournaments for over 25 years said he has never had doubles partners bowl 300, much less three bowlers. . They said they were going to do some research, but I doubt they find anything."
After Vannoy rolled his 300, a crowd began to gather around the threesome. The crowd grew after Gibson turned in his perfecto. Vannoy said the tournament basically stopped as the rest of the bowlers crowed around to watch.
"When Mitch rolled his, it was total pandemonium in the bowling alley," Vannoy said. "I bowl professionally., but I've never seen anything like the way the crowd was after Mitch threw his 12th (strike). Everybody went absolutely nuts.
"Mr. Collins is getting ready to bowl. I'm actually jumping up and down going, 'Hey, we've got one more. Hey, calm down. Everybody quiet down.' I'm trying to do crowd control, get everybody quiet so Henderson can have his minute.
"It was awesome. He is a hall of famer and he showed why he's a hall of famer that day."
And as if a threesome of 300s wasn't big enough, Vannoy and Gibson had extra reasons to be happy — and perhaps nervous. Vannoy's parents, "Smokey" and Peggy, who met at a bowling alley, were on hand and had never seen their son throw a 300.
So, too, was Gibson's wife, Alma, and oldest daughter, Lorena Clark, who had also never seen him roll a 300.
"It was perfect timing," said Gibson, who celebrates his 22nd wedding anniversary next month. "To have them there to see that, it's just spectacular. When I finally got back to go hug and kiss my wife, she was just standing there shaking in a ball. She was so nervous. I think she was more nervous than I was throwing the ball."
Perfection is elusive in life or sports, and in bowling so many factors come into play to prevent perfection. Each bowler was asked if there was a ball he rolled that he worried might not end up being a strike.
"I felt good every time I released the ball," said Collins, who at 16 moved to Jacksonville from Engelhard and recalled when integration came to his new hometown in 1966 and allowed him to hit the local bowling alley. "I tell people every time I go to bowl I get the feeling I can roll a 300. But you know when it comes down to getting a strike, there's so many things that can go against you."
Gibson said his last two rolls "were suspect."
"On my last ball there was a pin still standing but it was leaning and all of sudden it just rolled over," he said. "That's when I fell on the floor. I was like, 'Wow!'"
Vannoy, who like Gibson is a retired Marine gunnery sergeant and now works for the Marine Special Operations Command, said he wasn't sure of the first ball he rolled.
"It really wasn't a good shot," he said, adding when he changed lanes on his next roll he "over adjusted."
But from there he felt good.
"After those first two, I threw all (the rest) where I wanted to throw it," Vannoy said, "but you don't always get what you want when it gets to 60 feet."
In this case, however, he did. So, too, did Collins and Gibson.
Perfection times three. How, Gibson was asked, do you top this? Or can you?
"It's hard to top," he replied. "Everybody actually stopped bowling and came down to watch all three of us bowl a 300. It was spectacular. I really felt like a professional at the time. We had a big audience watching us.
"It was so quiet when I got on the lane to throw those last three balls. When I got the strike on the first one and the people just cheered I turned around and I was like, 'Oh, my God, everybody's over here watching us.'
"It was great. It was spectacular for us."
Information from: The Daily News, http://www.jdnews.com
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.