Striking the perfect 300: A bowler's dream

  By Dianne L Stallings, Ruidoso News Published 3:24 p.m. MT Sept. 10, 2019

Bowling a perfect 300 game is a cause for celebration, but when two bowlers within a three-month period each score 12 strikes playing with local leagues, the owners of the Ruidoso Bowling Center said it is time for some bragging. Natalie and David Cecil, who consider their 10-lane operation a “little Cadillac” of a center, said the age spread between the two bowlers at the times of their games, one 19 with about three years of experience and the other 80 with 40 years of playing, brings home the point that bowling knows no age limits. Sam Potter, 20, bowled his perfect game on March 7, and is looking at a career in the sport. Joe Schaffer, 81, posted his perfect game on May 9, one of three he racked up. The other two occurred in the 1970s, but were not sanctioned, which requires they occur in league competition.

Both games were bowled with the Thursday Night Men's League, Natallie Cecil said. “They each received their choice of awards from (the United States Bowling Congress), the organization that sanctions bowling across the United States,” she said. “They also each received $100 dollars from a fund that local businesses contribute to for recognition of the accomplishments. Those business are displayed with their choice of advertising on a large TV.”

“This was my first sanctioned perfect game,” Schaffer said. “I bowled it in May while playing for a league. I was 80.” He chose a “300” ring as his award, he said. Originally from Carlsbad. Schaffer moved to Ruidoso in the 1960s and worked for Ruidoso Paving for 18 years.

“I was a 198 average when I bowled the 300,” he said. “My team members were all pretty surprised that at my age I bowled one.” He has bowled twice a week for the last 10 years, often with his wife, Schaffer said. He’s convinced bowling is staging a big comeback. “It was pretty popular in the 70s, fell off, but there are more bowlers now than ever,” he said. “It keeps me in shape. I also walk on the treadmill three times a week and lift hand weights.”

Potter sees a career

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Potter came to Ruidoso with his family about eight years ago, but he didn’t start bowling until he was 17 and now works at the bowling alley. “I’ve been playing sports my whole life and was looking for an (activity) after I got out of high school and I had nothing else to do,” he said. “I got the job at the bowling alley, because I was here so much when I first started and they offered me the job.” He bowls 50 to 60 games a week, Potter said.

“Going into that night (of the perfect game) was my 30th attempt with 11 strike lead-ins,” he said. “It was nerve-racking, but a very hard-fought and joyful moment. It’s mostly mental. Physically, once you bowl enough, it’s all the same every night. Most of what screws you up is the mental thing.” He was bowling with the Thursday Night Men’s League, which has about 50 members, he said.

“Everybody knew what was going on, because I had been so close so many times,” Potter said. “It was one of those nights where everything went my way. I didn’t get my ring, because couldn’t afford it, but we are on that board. It’s pretty cool.” He was referring to the 300-game honor board at the bowling center bearing the names of bowlers who hit the mark. In the more than two decades the Cecils owned the alley, more than 20 people bowled perfect games and several did it more than once.

For a full version of this article, please visit The Ruidoso News.