Western Pa. man, 81, bowls first perfect game

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INDIANA, Pa. (AP) - Dick Wetzel knew he was bowling a good game on Feb. 25, but it wasn’t until after the ninth frame that he realized just how good of a game he was having.

The 81-year-old wasn’t just good - he was perfect. Wetzel, of Indiana, went on to record a 300 game that evening while bowling in the Wendy’s Classic League at Mohawk Lanes. He was just as surprised by the score as anyone else, not only because the feat is rare, but because he had never even come close before. The most consecutive strikes that Wetzel had previously thrown was seven.

“I really wasn’t aware of it until after that ninth frame,” he said. “And then, I was sure I was going to blow it somehow. Then, in the 10th, I went to sit down because I thought I had missed, and then they told me I had to go back and bowl two more.

“You’d think I would’ve been excited or nervous or something, but I wasn’t tense at all. It was funny, really, because my scores usually aren’t that high at all. That night, I bowled around a 150, then a 300, then around 150 again.”

The oldest person known to bowl a 300 game that was sanctioned by the United States Bowling Congress was a 90-year-old.

Wetzel, who went to the Army out of high school and later retired from animal damage management in 1996, has been bowling in the league since 2003. He first picked up a bowling ball in 1944 at an Indiana Gazette Christmas party, and almost 70 years later, he scored that perfect game.

“I was a paper boy for the Gazette, and every year, we would go bowling for the Christmas party,” he said. “It was fun, and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t bowl again for years. But then I started again about 10 years ago after I moved back to Indiana in 2000. I was working out West for a long time.”

“We were happy for him,” said Ron Dalesandro, the manager of Mohawk Lanes. “We’ve seen a lot of neat things here. He did a really nice job.”

The 300 game wasn’t Wetzel’s first time recording a perfect score. On March 20, 2006, he aced a hole-in-one at Meadow Lane Golf Course. He admitted that one is much more difficult than the other.

“Don’t get me wrong, a hole-in-one is great, but it’s no 300,” he said. “A hole-in-one is easier because you only have to make one perfect shot, but in bowling, you have to do it 12 times. It’s tough.”

Wetzel has two families - one with his wife Wilda, who he married in 1956, and one at the bowling alley.

“I love getting together with those people,” Wetzel said of his league. “It is fun, but I love the camaraderie down there.”

Bowling might not be as easy for Wetzel as it was 10 years ago, but he doesn’t enjoy it any less.

“I have to use a 14-pound ball now since I’m getting older,” Wetzel said with a laugh. “I can’t throw the 16-pounder anymore. It’s not easy, that’s for certain, but let’s see if I can do it again.”

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