Splits, spares and strikes: Uitto nearly becomes first 80-year-old bowler in area with 300

In the nearly 20 years at The Mining Journal that I’ve written about bowling achievements, I’ve told a few people about a goal I’ve coveted – reporting a story about an 80-year-old who bowls a perfect 300.

Now for the third time in a decade, I’ve come oh-so-close.

This time, it was Stan Uitto of Ishpeming, who at age 82 bowled a 298 game during a Monday Seniors session at Red Rock Lanes in Ishpeming on March 31.

The previous two close encounters came about a decade ago, when a pair of 79-year-olds – Paul Lucas in 2005 and the late Bob Tapio in 2004 – each rolled 300s.

These accomplishments are all quite impressive, considering the U.S. Bowling Congress on its website, www.bowl.com, lists the oldest U.S. bowler to ever shoot 300 was 90 years old.

Uitto still bowls three days a week, in the Monday and Friday afternoon seniors along with one night league, the Wednesday SIR Federal Credit Union.

On that recent Monday, he opened the session with 11 straight strikes using a ball he’d only had about two weeks, a 15-pound Track MX10 reactive resin that Red Rock manager Steve DeBakker drilled for him. He tacked on games of 225 and 157 for a 680 series.

“The alleys really changed,” Uitto said about why his scores dropped off as the oil conditioner dissipated, making his ball hook more and earlier. “I just don’t have the strength to throw it harder like I used to.”

But don’t let him fool you. He’s always been a pretty strong guy, forget about his age – I know I wouldn’t tangle with him in an arm wrestling match.

Ten years ago, he said he carried an average of close to 210. Now he’s still pretty elite among seniors even decades younger with an average in the high 180s.

In fact, he’s bowled four 300s in leagues, though several have been with the seniors who aren’t USBC sanctioned. But they’re still bowling under the same basic conditions as those of us in evening leagues, so I count them on anybody’s personal resume.

And incredibly, his first 300 didn’t come until he was 73 years old, while the most recent was in 2008 at age 77. He was also 73 when he bowled his two highest series, 803 and 799.

In the recent 298, Uitto said he rolled one “Brooklyn” crossover strike in the middle of the game, but every other shot was pretty solid in his righthander’s 1-3 strike pocket – until the final one.

“I got out of my timing and the ball went Brooklyn,” he said about the 12th ball, though it still caught the head pin on its way by. He couldn’t pinpoint the two pins he left, though.

A survey I did with some other bowlers from that day didn’t arrive at a consensus either, other than to say it was two pins next to each other, possibly the 3-6, 5-9 or 6-10 on the right side of the lane.

There were a few other interesting accomplishments on the lanes recently.

Last Wednesday, 18-year-old Andrew Virch also popped a 298 in the Industrial League at Superior Lanes in Marquette.

A few weeks back, Kirk Guckenberg, who recently finished his senior season with the Ishpeming High School bowling team, rolled 300 as a pacer and extra bowler during the Friday 800 Mixed League at Red Rock. He was actually the fifth bowler bowling on a four-person team.

And last Monday, Glenn Ayotte mentioned to me the 700 he shot that night in the Northern Electric Automotive Industrial League was his 100th league series of 700 or better at Red Rock and its previous name, Country Lanes, since he switched to bowling two-handed in January 2010, a bit over four years ago.

Just for comparison purposes, I also broke 700 with a 708 that night – my only such series this season at either the Ishpeming or Marquette centers.

Now onto The Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week for March 28-April 3:

Make it two straight weeks that the Tuesday Major League at Red Rock swept the men’s race. At least it was three different bowlers this time.

Steve Gohl shot 148 pins over his 199 average with 745 on games of 219, 290 and 236. In second was David Lancour with a 197 average, 724 series and 257 high game; while coming in third was Guckenberg when it counted, using a 189 average, shooting 699 and a top game of 267.

Superior Lanes swept the women’s race. Linde Marquess was at the top with 96 pins over her 140 average with 516 on games of 124, 215 and 177.

Next was leaguemate Nicole Quart at 91 over her 122 average with a 457 set and 160 best game, while in third was Nancy Gaines of the Tuesday Night Mixed at 82 over her 99 average with 379 and high game of 158.