Bowling a perfect game — knocking down all 10 pins for a strike 12 consecutive times — used to be a big deal. Fifty years ago, for example, it was such an elite club that the American Bowling Congress, the governing body for 10-pin bowling in the U.S., would present the person who did so with a gold ring every time it happened. Thanks to advances in bowling ball technology, though, the number of perfect games has exploded in recent decades. Now, in fact, it’s so commonplace that 23-year-old Ben Ketola started bowling seven years ago and already averages one perfect game a month. It became such a routine occurrence for him that he decided to make it more interesting by doing it as fast as he could. The result? In early April, he bowled the fastest perfect game ever — 12 strikes in 86.9 seconds, or a strike every 7.2 seconds — using all 10 lanes at the bowling alley where he works in upstate New York.
It’s not an official Guinness World Record because they claim I didn’t have enough eyewitnesses in the building — even with the video, which they won’t accept as proof.
And some claim it doesn’t count because I didn’t bowl every frame on the same lane.
Others don’t like that I bowl with two hands.
But for all intents and purposes, it’s the world’s fastest perfect game.
The inspiration came when I saw a video of a pro bowler named Tom Dougherty bowling a perfect game—who incidentally also used two hands and multiple lanes—in 1 minute and 52 seconds. It seemed like something fun to do. Luckily, I work at a bowling alley, so I occasionally had access to all the lanes and decided to give it a go.
I failed the first couple times I tried. The first was on April Fools’ Day, when I went across the whole bowling alley throwing a shot a couple of times. A day or two after that, I tried again with my own balls and got closer.
Then on April 5th, right after the women’s league finished, the manager of the alley, John Mitch, said, “I’ll record you this time, and we’ll make it a challenge online.” Ladies’ night wrapped up at 10 p.m., and it was just me and John in the building. He looked at me and said, “You ready?” I went out to my car and grabbed my balls. But I only had eight with me, so two of the ones I used — on the the third and fourth shot — were balls I grabbed off the rack.
I was kind of peeking back from shot to shot, but I only actually watched the balls hit the pins on maybe four or five of the shots. There were two that were questionable and not very good hits. I wasn’t sure if they were going to strike or not, so I actually watched them go through the pins. There also were a couple of shots off my hand when I was like, “Eh, that might be a 10 hit” — which means leaving the 10 pin, the most common pin for a good right-handed bowler to miss — and I kind of watched those out of the corner of my eye. But they were solid and fell.
When I reached the 12th frame/lane, I knew where I was and that I was throwing the last ball to make it a 300 game. I wasn’t really sure what the time was, but I knew it was going to be faster than Dougherty.
I thought about taking a little more time before the last shot, but I was like, “Nah, you’ve been running through all the other shots, just go for it.”
It worked, too: As soon as I let go of it, I knew it was going to strike.
I ended up throwing all 12 strikes the second time we recorded, my fifth time ever attempting it.
I was pretty excited when all the pins dropped. But I wasn’t really sure exactly what to think, either, because when I did this, I wasn’t thinking I was going to throw a 300. More than anything, what John and I were thinking was that it was something that would turn into a challenge, like How many strikes can you get in this amount of time? I also knew we had something special because we got it on camera.
Two days later we had it online. The first two weeks, it only got 8,000 hits or so. But then a local news station did a piece about it, and as soon as it got a bit of publicity, it went off like crazy — getting 30 million views over the course of a weekend.
I knew, though, it was just going to be a 15-minutes-of-fame kind of thing. Honestly, when my phone did stop ringing, I was relieved because I could actually work again.
Next time I may set up all spares on the lanes and see how fast I can make those drop.