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GUEST COMMENTARY: Bowler with Parkinson’s disease finishes night three pins shy of a perfect game

April 19, 2019
By STEVE LESTER , Lake Placid News

Taking up bowling in your 60s after a 10-year hiatus presents a variety of difficulties such as all the aches and pains for the first month you never used to get, especially in the hip you drive into that's opposite your throwing arm.

Then toss in a 4-year-old diagnosis of Parkinson's disease and things can be very interesting.

I drive my teammates crazy because I can pick up a difficult spare in one frame and open the next frame with a gutter ball. When that happens, one of the staff members draws everybody's attention to you as they all make a lot of noise on your second ball. I've become rather notorious for this. So rather than show up with a lofty goal of a 300 game or a 600 series, I go up thinking, "No gutter balls tonight."

On a recent Monday, after starting out with an above-average game of 184 at Romano's Saranac Lanes, everybody stopped bowling during the second game to watch me bowl my 10th frame. For once it wasn't because I'd thrown yet another first-ball gutter ball. Instead, I'd bowled nine strikes in a row. They wanted to see if I could "strike out" in the 10th for a perfect 300 game.

Talk about a surreal experience!

First ball: strike. (Everybody cheers.) Second ball: strike. (Everybody cheers even louder.) Now just one more strike for the bowling equivalent of pitching a perfect game. And stay out of the gutter! The staff member who always announces every time I throw a gutter ball is now standing behind me in the gallery making a video with his phone. He seems more excited for me than I am.

Trying to remain calm and focused, I rolled the third ball a little too hard and to the right to where it just nicked the head pin and left three pins standing for a final score of 297. Everybody still cheered and offered high fives. Being new to the league this year, and being bad with remembering names, I hardly know the names of any of these guys, and yet It felt like I was surrounded by 40 of my best friends. I've never mentioned to any of them that I have Parkinson's disease. To them I'm just another middle aged guy out for some fun competition. One of them came up to me later on and said I might get the award for high handicap game at the end-of-season banquet. I was so awful at the beginning of the season I quickly established a pretty high handicap.

For those of you out there dealing with some kind of disorder like Parkinson's that seriously affects your quality of life, I hope this provides a ray of hope that your life doesn't just come to an end after the diagnosis. There are still good times to be had. Just go out there and have them.

(Steve Lester is a correspondent for the Lake Placid News. He writes Artist Profile features and reviews of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta.)



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