PORT ANGELES — A total hush fell over the bowling alley Friday night as Tracey Almond stepped up to the lane one strike away from the second perfect 300 game in the same series, a first in Port Angeles history.
Everyone was holding his or her breath; you could have heard a cotton ball hit the floor even though it was a full house at Laurel Lanes.
“We have 16 leagues on Friday night, it’s a popular night,” Laurel Lanes owner Vern Elkhart said.
Almond, a 51-year-old maintenance worker for Port Angeles School District, knew the implications of his final frame of the night.
“I was a little bit more nervous than usual, but I have gotten them [perfect games] before, and so I have slowly learned to do my best to shut out things,” Almond said.
“Your first two 300 games gives you very weak knees but after that [you take it into stride].”
Still, Almond’s heart was pounding as he let go of the ball in a potential history-making release.
You didn’t have to be watching his lane to know if Almond made the strike or not.
The whole building erupted with cheers, clapping and noise as Almond’s ball swept the pins away.
Elkhart saw Almond’s first 300 game but had gone home and missed the shot heard around Port Angeles.
But he got a phone call at home immediately after it happened.
“It was pretty exciting,” Elkhart said.
“This is the first time this has happened in Port Angeles. It was a luxury for him to bowl two 300s in one series.”
Almond bowled 300-236-300 in the series for an amazing total score of 836, which is recognized by United States Bowling Congress, the governing body of amateur bowling.
The USBC recognizes 800 and higher series.
He made 33 strikes out of a possible 36 on Friday night.
“I was fortunate and lucky to boot,” Almond said about the magical night.
“You have to do your part but luck is part of that. It’s a treat for me to be able to do it.
“And I appreciate how the older bowlers are treating me.”
Elkhart estimates that there are about 10 to 15 perfect 300 games per bowling season.
Almond now has five sanctioned 300 games in bowling leagues and two unsanctioned perfect games outside of bowling leagues even though he has been bowling only six years.
“Tracey went from novice to expert in one season,” Elkhart said. “For most of us, it takes 20 years.”
Almond is one of the top-tier bowlers at Laurel Lanes, Elkhart said.
“There are about 10 to 12 who are above the rest,” the bowling alley owner said.
Almond gives credit to his quick rise to elite bowler Mitch Guckert, who took Almond under his wing.
Guckert, 26, is one of the top-tier bowlers despite his young age.
“Mitch has been bowling forever,” Elkhart said.
Guckert came over to give Almond tips on how to bowl after watching him for awhile when Almond was a rookie.
“Now we bowl together a lot,” Almond said.
Almond takes his bowling seriously.
He bowls three times a week in leagues and bowls on Sunday when Elkhart turns one of the lanes into a more competitive tournament condition.
The owner does that by the kind of oil and thickness of oil he has installed by a machine on the lane.
“The degree of difficulty can be changed on lanes,” Elkhart said.
Practice is what bowling is all about, according to Almond.
“Bowling is all about consistency,” Almond said.
“If you’re not consistent, you’re not going to throw strikes.”
Almond started bowling because of his wife, Cindy.
The couple began bowling together soon after they were married.
“My wife says I need to have more fun when I’m bowling, and not be so competitive,” Almond said.
Cindy may have a lot more fun when she bowls but she is no easy mark, either.
“She’s an above-average bowler,” Elkhart said.
Almond, meanwhile, is not about to give up his competitive edge anytime soon because he is gearing up for nationals in Reno in May with Elkhart, Guckert and 27 others from Laurel Lanes.
This will be the 36th year that Elkhart will be competing at nationals. A little less time for the others. This will be Almond’s fourth year at nationals.
Laurel Lanes will be taking six five-player teams to nationals.
Almond is not expecting to bowl 300 games at nationals.
“It is very tough at nationals,” he said. “They have a high degree of difficulty on their lanes and you can get some phenomenal bowlers from the Midwest.”
From the world, too, Elkhart added.
“Jamaica always has very good bowlers,” Elkhart said.
Right now, though, Almond has done something that no other bowler has ever done in Port Angeles.
And he has many witnesses to his feat.
It probably has never been that quiet at Laurel Lanes on a Friday night. At least for a few heart-stopping moments.