Something must have been floating in the ether at Plum Hollow Lanes in Dixon on Dec. 5, for that Thursday night was a rare one indeed.
During the Commercial 16 League, Jeff Van Quathem rolled his third 300 game. At the same time, down in lanes 1 and 2, Tim Goodson came up three pins short of his fourth 300 game, while Jeff White was surpassing even his own expectations with an 812 series.
“I don’t know how it happened; I wish I knew, because I’d do it again,” said Van Quathem, a 43-year-old from Lost Nation. “It’s hard to explain; the only way to describe it is a fluke, something that will probably never happen again.”
“It’s really odd, something I’ve never seen before,” added Goodson, a 45-year-old Mount Morris resident who’s been bowling his whole life. “It’s a little bit unusual, but when you think of all the good bowlers in these leagues, you wonder why it doesn’t happen more often.”
While each bowler was wrapped up in their own goings on, all three said they were definitely aware of what the other guys were doing.
For White, he actually had a better handle on what Goodson was doing one lane away than his own masterful performance. A “190-something bowler,” White was paying more attention to Goodson’s run at 300 than he was at adding up his own score.
“I was watching and cheering Tim the whole time, and I wasn’t really thinking mathematically about what my series could be,” said White, a 44-year-old Dixon resident who was shocked when he heard his final score. “I went into the last game thinking, ‘OK, this has been a good night, let’s just finish with another good game.’
“I wasn’t keeping track of how close or far away I was from 800, or how feasible that would be. I was just having a good time bowling, trying to keep good form and hit my mark. I guess it worked out.”
White called the career night “an outlier for me, statistically speaking,” adding that the next week, he rolled a 603 series and was “plenty happy with that, not the least bit disappointed” because he made his average.
Several lanes away, Van Quathem also wasn’t expecting his good fortune. Bowling just 1 night a week, he credited his third 300 game as “more luck than skill.”
“Probably about the ninth frame, I realized that I had thrown all strikes,” Van Quathem said. “I just tried to stay calm, throw the ball the way I had been, hoping I wouldn’t leave a 10-pin or something.”
As is usually the case when someone approaches 300, all the noise and activity around Van Quathem ceased. It wasn’t like a no-hitter in baseball, but the 35-year bowling veteran was definitely on an island all his own.
“It was strange; all of a sudden, everybody stepped back and it got very quiet,” Van Quathem said. “They weren’t giving me the silent treatment or anything, but they were definitely respecting my run.”
“The lanes around you just stop; nobody wants to distract a guy who’s that close to perfection,” Goodson explained. “Everybody’s focused on you, watching your last few balls, and you just have to stop for a minute and get that out of your head and just focus.”
Goodson was experiencing the same thing back across the alley. As he rolled his second strike of the 10th frame, every eye nearby was turned on him, hoping they’d see the second 300 of the night.
But his fourth 300 just wasn’t meant to be.
“The last ball was a little wide to the outside, and it didn’t quite make it back to the pocket,” Goodson said. “That was the most disappointing thing about it; I didn’t give it a good chance.
“I’ve also bowled two 299s, but in those situations, I threw good balls, it just didn’t work out. This time was more of a letdown.”
In addition to the 300 and the 297, White’s series included games of 290 and 287, with a 235 in between. The 290 featured 11 strikes after an opening-frame spare, and the 287 followed the same formula, except with a 7 on the final throw instead of a strike.
In an interesting twist, White’s 14-year-old son Jarod had set his own personal best earlier in the day. A member of the Dixon Dukes bowling team, Jarod White rolled a 222 game at practice the afternoon before his father’s fantastic performance.
“It must’ve been something in the water, or the planets were aligned just right and the moon was in the perfect phase,” White said. “Maybe the oil pattern helped, or the guys with us were all rolling it just right that night.
“It takes a little luck, a break here or there, getting your head in the game the right way … a lot of things have to go right even before you let go of the ball. Whatever it was, it just worked out well for us that night.”
• Tim Goodson, 45, Mount Morris: Just missed his fourth 300 game, rolling a 297; he also has two 299 games in his career.
• Jeff Van Quathem, 43, Lost Nation: Rang up his third career 300 game – with all of them coming at Plum Hollow.
• Jeff White, 44, Dixon: Rolled games of 290, 235 and 287 on his way to a career-high 812 series, shattering his old personal best of 756.