On the lanes, age doesn’t limit excellence

Zach Scott of Marquette and Ken Maki of Ishpeming showed it’s never too late – or too early – to reach the pinnacle of bowling.

Each of these bowlers missed their first sanctioned perfect 300 game by a wobbly final pin for a pair of 299s during a 24-hour period at Country Lanes in Ishpeming last week.

The completely different stages of their bowling careers show how much of a lifelong sport bowling is.

Scott, 19, left an 8-pin that wouldn’t tip over during the Country Trio League on Wednesday. This four-year member of the Marquette Senior High School bowling team – where he just graduated seven months ago – said he was quite nervous for the whole 10th frame.

That was even though he did bowl an unsanctioned 300 game during a New Year’s Eve fundraiser event for the MSHS team about a year earlier at Superior Lanes in Marquette.

Scott has been on a roll lately, throwing the first nine strikes in a 277 game a week earlier in the same league.

“I’m hoping maybe it’ll come soon,” he said. “I think I’ll be less nervous next time if it happens.”

Maki, who I could only coax out that he’s in his early 70s, is a nearly lifelong Ishpeming resident who has bowled pretty regularly at Country Lanes and its forerunner – the Miracle Bowl – since the mid-1960s after getting out of the U.S. Army. His military service from what I understand is the only significant time he hasn’t lived in his hometown.

I’ve bowled in leagues off and on with Ken ever since I moved here not quite 20 years ago, and to say he’s a smooth-stroking easy thrower would be a big understatement.

He’s made it work for him since the days of black rubber balls and a full-roller throwing style up to now, when like everyone else, he throws more hook with today’s reactive resin balls than anybody could’ve imagined was possible 40 or 50 years ago.

His final shot in the first game of the Miller Genuine Draft Major League last Tuesday left a 7-pin that rocked but wouldn’t fall over, according to Country Lanes manager and teammate Clay Sandberg.

“I was kind of surprised I made the run, though I’ve been bowling half-decent lately,” Maki told me in his understated way.

He explained that he started the season bowling just once a week, but since deer hunting finished, has added a Friday seniors afternoon session to his schedule. And yes, that makes a difference, he feels, in his timing and consistency.

His previous best run at 300 was the first 10 in a row, but bowling isn’t his biggest claim to sports fame.

How about three holes-in-one on the golf course? No, that isn’t it either.

Maki has been one of the area’s best horseshoe pitchers for just about as long as he’s bowled.

With a few hints dropped by Sandberg, I was able to get Ken to tell me about a time when he was regularly throwing ringers 80 percent of the time, including state tournaments in Wisconsin where he got as high as 43 out of 50 pitches for ringers, an 86 percent success rate.

Makes you think of Walter Ray Williams, Jr., the all-time pro bowling champion who in his heyday on the lanes was also a world champion horseshoe pitcher.

“I never met Walter Ray, but I’ve talked to a couple of the guys in Wisconsin who said they’d thrown against him,” Maki said.

With a busy week in our sports department where I missed both my bowling nights, I’m going to save the Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week and combine two weeks again next time.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.