Right up his alley

Local 84-year-old bowls perfect game

The 300. A dozen strikes in a row in a single game. Perfection on a polyeurothane finish.

Bowling one is a great accomplishment for a league bowler. Racking up five is almost unheard of.

Eight-four-year-old Columbus resident Donn Voyles rolled a 300 on Dec. 22 at Columbus Bowling Center. It was his first perfect game in 17 years.

A couple of years ago, at age 82, Donn Voyles traveled to Lakeview, Florida. He came home with a senior citizens World Series Championship. He only rolled three games with the Wisconsin team he won with, but has been spinning a bowling ball for 35 years with the Indiana Field Foxes.

Voyles retired from tool engineering when he was 60 years old, and now the 84-year-old Columbus resident has a number of different hobbies. Voyles loves to leave the house around 7:30 a.m. every morning to golf for about two hours, and he also enjoys river fishing.

“There is nothing more peaceful than floating down the river,” Voyles said. “It’s just unbelievable how it’s so comfortable out there. You see the wildlife.”

Along with fishing, Voyles also loves golfing and playing softball. But the one thing he enjoys more than all three is bowling.

And it’s become more than a hobby.

Voyles started bowling as a teenager after becoming a pin setter in Scottsburg. Now, 70 years later, Voyles hits the lanes up to four times a week sometimes. Chris Davis runs the men’s senior league at Columbus Bowling Center and has been able to witness Voyles bowl three of his five perfect games.

“Watching him is pretty incredible,” Davis said. “He’s probably throwing a heavier ball than I am right now. He’s throwing it twice as hard, and I’m like one-eighth his age.”

Arthur Ulmer of Melbourne, Florida, was 89 years, six months and 11 days old when he bowled his second perfect game, making him the oldest person to ever bowl 12 strikes in a single game. Ulmer, incidentally, died last year at age 94.

Davis thinks Voyles has a legitimate shot at breaking that record. The men’s senior league bowls three games at the Columbus Bowling Center every Thursday, and about a month ago Voyles bowled two strikes in a row in his first game before picking up a spare in the third frame. He went on to bowl 17 consecutive strikes over the course of two games. He started his second game with eight strikes in a row after striking out the remainder of his first game, missing a perfect game by one frame.

“I was really disappointed,” Voyles said. “I thought boy, there went my chance to get a 300 at my age. Then two weeks later I got one.”

Davis said Voyles is the only person to bowl a 300 in the 50-and-over league since he started working there in 1997. Voyles has traveled to more than 15 national bowling tournaments and has even won a doubles tournament alongside a professional bowler.

“I’m going back to one next year in Vegas,” he said. “The tournament runs from like the first of April to the middle of June. It’s just a tremendous tournament. Thousands of guys (compete) from all over the Unites States and foreign countries.”

Voyles said it is extremely hard to bowl a perfect game, but after bowling balls were redesigned in the early 1980s it got a little bit easier. According to Voyles, you get more revolutions with today’s balls. This allows the balls to have a greater impact on the pins when they make contact. Bowlers were forced to use a cork, rubber or plastic ball before the early ’80s came around.

“In the early ’80s is when the 300s started popping up, “Voyles said. “Just so much high tech put into these balls. I think people take it a little more seriously than they used to also.”

Voyles started out with a 16-pound ball, but now he prefers to go with the 15-pound ball. Every now and then he may bring out a 14pounder. He loves the satisfaction of being able to bowl a perfect game, but one of the main reasons why he drives over to the Columbus Bowling Center every Thursday is to fraternize with his fellow bowlers. Voyles used to share this pastime with his wife before she died five years ago. Now he just enjoys the company of the other bowlers in the men’s senior league.

“Everybody seems so nice out here,” Voyles said. “It’s just nice to be associated with a bunch of guys who do this or do that. I just like playing golf with guys or playing softball. You have that camaraderie that just sticks with people.”

The bowling league bowls 32 weeks out of the year. So they have gotten to know each other pretty well over the years. Voyles also has been able to use another hobby of his to help the neighbors around him. He enjoys working on small equipment and engines. He likes to fix things like weed eaters and chainsaws for himself and his neighbors. Davis has known Voyles for 25 years and said he is just an all-around fun guy. He also said Voyles is extremely fit for his age, which is why he believes, in five years, Voyles has a chance at becoming the oldest person to bowl a 300.

“That’s very doubtful,” Voyles said. “They come very far and few between. I’ve been very fortunate. Some people go all there life and never get a 300.”


Name: Donn Voyles

Age: 84

Number of Perfect games: 5

Most recent perfect game: December 22, 2016

Other hobbies: softball, fishing, golf, working on small equipment.