Sports

Perfection comes twice for South Whidbey bowler

It's striking to bowl a perfect game.

Jessica Becker knows this. She celebrated rolling her second perfect, 300-point game last November. And she was not alone. South Whidbey bowlers Larry Cooley and Richard Morris also bowled perfect or near-perfect games.

Becker, a 28-year-old Clinton resident, began bowling at an early age when her father bought a bowling center in her home town of Buffalo, N.Y. Later, while attending Erie Community College there, she bowled collegiately.

In 1999 Becker achieved her first perfect game. Less than two years later she tallied her second 300-point score. With a current average of 195, Becker is used to high-scoring games. Even so, the second time around at 300 made as big an impact as the first.

"At the 10th frame, I got really excited," Becker said of the moment the last pin fell.

Excited wasn't the only emotion she felt: There was also a building feeling of anxiety with each passing perfect frame of bowling.

"After you start a game with that first strike, it just sort of flows from there on," Becker said. "You think 'I wonder if I can actually do this.'"

Becker's second perfect game was a thrill not only for her, but for representatives of an international bowling body. Last month, the Women's International Bowling Congress gave Becker a gold ring engraved with the date of her second perfect game. She also received a gold and diamond watch from the Washington Women's Bowlers Association, only the second Whidbey Island woman to receive that award.

Overall, it's been a good year for bowling on South Whidbey, at least in terms of perfect and near-perfect games. Three bowlers, including Becker, have rolled 300s at Freeland Lanes, while another bowler, Richard Morris, came frustratingly close with a 299 this spring.

Larry Cooley of Clinton, who tallied his perfect score in March, also reaped the rewards of perfection. He earned a leather jacket for his feat from the American Bowling Congress -- and from himself. Unlike Becker's jewelry, Cooley had to pay for half the cost of his prize.

Bowling in the Thursday Quad League for a team sponsored by Paul's & Co., and having enjoyed the sport for nearly 42 years, Cooley has come close to rolling a perfect game numerous times. In his March game, that's what he thought he might be -- close.

"When you get close, you begin to get weak in the knees," he said. "The first eleven balls were perfect. The 12th ball wasn't, but all the pins decided to fall anyway."

Morris, a Coupeville resident, also played a phenomenal 299-game, just one point shy of a perfect score. He received a ring for his achievement.

Freeland Lanes, which is owned by Les and Dianne Dodge, has been the site of four perfect games during the four years they have operated it -- Becker's two, Cooley's one, and another rolled by Les Dodge himself.

Even though the past few years have been marked by a number of perfect games, Dodge said he does not know when the next one might happen. It could be a long time, he said.

"It's definitely still a fairly rare occurrence," Dodge said.

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