Nothing like having the last laugh.
Steve Phillips was bowling with all his friends from the Thursday afternoon Men’s Seniors at Columbus Bowling Center when he opened the 10th frame with a chance to bowl a 300 game.
With the strikes piling up, so did the spectators as his fellow bowlers gathered around to see what Phillips would do.
Unfortunately, Phillips’ first shot in the 10th frame never had a chance. It was an increased-speed rocket that missed the pocket completely, leaving three pins.
Phillips, 59, turned to receive some much-needed sympathy. Not on this day.
“They were clutching their throats,” Phillips said with a laugh as he recalled the scene.
Yes, he might have choked a little.
“I got nervous,” Phillips said. “I rushed the line, and I threw my ball so hard that I didn’t give it time to work in there and get back to the pocket. My dad (Vernon Phillips) said, ‘You don’t have to throw it 200 miles per hour.’”
The crowd dispersed after Phillips finished off his 277. But his fellow bowlers didn’t understand the Phillips, the day-time manager at Columbus Bowling Center, was about to accomplish something very special.
With a 268 in the opening game (seven strikes in a row before leaving a 9 pin, then leaving a 10 pin on his second ball of the 10th frame), Phillips was on the verge of an 824 series.
At the age of 59, Phillips grew up in a “bowling” family and has bowled thousands of games over the years. He never had an 800 series, until Jan. 30.
Phillips started the final game with six strikes in a bow, left a 10 pin, then struck out. He finished with an 824.
Although he said a lot of Columbus Bowling Center bowlers are a lot better than him, and that they do put together 800 series at times, the feat was special to him.
The United States Bowling Congress estimates that 800-plus series are about four times as hard to bowl as a 300 game.
After his big series, Phillips realized that he only missed four shots in the three games.
Did he think he was close to bowling’s Holy Grail, the 900 series?
“No,” he said. “Not really. You have to realize how hard that is. Not only do you have to throw the ball in there 36 times in a row, but the pins have to fall down. It is just a matter of carrying pins and luck.”
Twenty-three United States Bowling Congress sanctioned 900 series have been bowled out of the millions of games bowled each year.
In comparison, the USBC estimates about 26,000 300 games are bowled each year.
Years ago, Phillips set a goal to bowl a 300 game and an 800 series. He bowled a 300 game at 54, and now five years later has taken care of the 800 series.
He averages 215 in league play and is bowling as well as ever now approaching his 60s.
“You see these guys in their 70s averaging 200 now,” he said. “My dad is 79 and he averages 200.
“It’s probably the lane conditions and better equipment. These new bowling balls are massive when it comes to scores. People like high scores.”
Reaching his goals now leaves Phillips in a bit of a fix.
“I hope if I bowl a 700, I’m not disappointed,” he said. “I don’t want to get unrealistic.”