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Wayne Post
  • A day he’ll never forget

  • It was the 10th frame, and Les Pieters was one strike away from a perfect 300 game and he couldn’t get his hand dry.



    A crowd of people had formed at lanes 9 and 10 of Colacino’s Rose Bowl Lanes in Newark on that Saturday back in 1963 and nerves were getting the best of Pieters. The game so far had had its ups and downs.

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  • It was the 10th frame, and Les Pieters was one strike away from a perfect 300 game and he couldn’t get his hand dry.
    A crowd of people had formed at lanes 9 and 10 of Colacino’s Rose Bowl Lanes in Newark on that Saturday back in 1963 and nerves were getting the best of Pieters. The game so far had had its ups and downs. In the third frame he hit the head pin straight on and almost split the pins before they all went down. Then in the ninth frame, he hit the pocket, but the 10-pin held its ground and seemed suspended before it finally toppled over.
    The air from the hand dryer on the lane’s ball return couldn’t keep up with the nervous sweat that was making his hands too slippery to hold the ball properly. With so many anticipating his next move, he decided to just go for it. Everything hinged on this ball and he dropped it, missing his mark, but he’d put a good spin on it and....STRIKE!
    He’ll never forget that day on Feb. 9, 50 years ago when the last pin fell and his uncle, Chuck DeVries, picked him up in jubilant celebration and carried him off the alley. It was six days before his 21st birthday.
    Fast forward, when Pieters passed the calendar this past Feb. 9, it occurred to him that that very day marked a milestone anniversary for him. He decided to commemorate the day at the same bowling alley, now Doug Kent’s Rose Bowl Lanes. He called his cousin, Terry DeVries, Chuck’s son, and invited him to join him at the bowling alley to help celebrate.
    “I wanted to do it for the memories,” said Pieters, who now lives in Webster. “It was nostalgia.”
    When his cousin urged him to give bowling Hall of Famer Doug Kent a call to help mark the day, Pieters was hesitant — he didn’t even know Kent. But DeVries talked him into it, and to Pieters’ astonishment, Kent enthusiastically agreed.
    Growing up in Newark 50 years ago, Pieters bowled three times a week and held a 175 average. When Pieters met his wife and married, he left bowling behind until a few years ago when he joined a 55 and over league. His average today is about 165.
    Bowling with a legend was just as exciting for Pieters as scoring a 300 game.
    “I’ve never been that close to a pro bowler,” he said of Kent. “It was great. He’s such a nice guy. It was exciting to watch him bowl.”
    Pieters was astounded when Kent, a graduate of Palmyra-Macedon, offered some tips to improve his game. His first game, bowled on the same two lanes as 50 years ago, was 130. Pieters chalked it up to nerves. He bowled four games that day, and by his last game, with Kent’s tips tucked safely away for reference, he bowled a 204.
    Page 2 of 2 - Thinking back on both days as he retold his story, Pieters found he remembered far more than he ever thought about that winter day in 1963. His accomplishment 50 years ago earned him about $1,750 in prizes, including a trophy, a $1,000 bond, a new pair of tires from sponsor Finn Auto Supply and a quarter-caret diamond ruby ring. He wore that ring when he bowled with Kent, and as it passes down through the generations in the Pieters family, the story of his 300 game and the day he bowled with a pro five decades later will be passed down with it.

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