Until recently, perfection always eluded Les Shirkey.
For years, Shirkey, 65, has tried to achieve a bowler’s dream — ten throws, ten strikes — only to come up short.
On Dec. 10, Shirkey hit every pin and joined bowling’s most exclusive club.
Bowling in the first game of the mixed doubles league at Thunder Rolls Bowling Center, Shirkey bowled a 300 — a perfect game.
Shirkey joined only four other bowlers to match the same feat.
“It’s something you always hope for,” he said. “This has been a dream of mine for a lot of years.”
That dream began in the 1970s when Shirkey bowled on a regular basis.
After a long hiatus, he began bowling again when he moved to Craig four years ago.
“I took about 20 years off,” he said. “I didn’t start again until I moved here.”
Shirkey’s previous attempts were halted in the latter frames.
“It’s always in the ninth,” he said. “You’ll get eight in a row, then you relax too much or try too hard.”
Like a pitcher throwing a perfect game, Shirkey said he tried not to think of the significance of each moment.
“By the sixth or seventh frame, the adrenaline starts pumping,” he said. “You’re tying not to think about it too much.”
Shirkey said when he is bowling, he tries to keep his emotions balanced.
“It will mess you up if you relax too much,” he said. “And, if you try too hard, you’ll mess up.”
His previous best was 269.
With his perfect game on the books, Shirkey’s name now will grace Thunder Rolls’ wall of fame.
His name also will be added above lane nine, where his perfect game was thrown.
“I wanted to break 280 so I could make it up on the wall,” he said. “With a 269, I just missed it.”
When the last pin was knocked down, however, Shirkey hardly could have been called a picture of cool nerves.
“It was an adrenaline shock,” he said. “I started shaking like a leaf.”
When the game was over, Shirkey said he celebrated by doing the first thing that came to his mind.
“The first thing I did was call my wife,” he said. “She couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Guess what I just did,’ and she said ‘No way.’ Then, I called my son in Hawaii, who loves to bowl.”
When he started the game, Shirkey said he just thought he was off to a good start — he wasn’t aware that perfection was waiting for him at the end of the lane.
“I didn’t really think,” he said. “I just relaxed and bowled.”
His team, appropriately named Hit and Miss, would go on to win the first league game.
“It was one night when we hit,” he said. “We definitely won that one.”
For his game, Shirkey will receive a $300 check and a ring with 300 inscribed in it.
The ring won’t gather dust, Shirkey said.
“I plan on wearing it,” he said. “Every day.”