Bowler Justin Stephens edges closer to 40 perfect games by age 40

Steve Brownlee

Less than two months ago in this space, I mentioned that Justin Stephens was going for the bowling version of the golf accomplishment of shooting your age.

That came up when the 39-year-old Negaunee resident bowled a perfect 300 game.

It was also his 36th 300, meaning he was just four short of 40 as he approaches that magical — at least for some of us — birthday in April.

It might’ve sounded like a joke, but considering that Stephens didn’t start bowling 300s until he became an adult after age 18, is it really too far-fetched?

It might not after hearing he rolled his 37th perfect game on Dec. 12 in the only league he’s bowling in this season, the Tuesday Major at River Rock Lanes in Ishpeming.

Using his 15-pound Roto Grip Dare Devil Trick reactive resin ball, the same one he used a month earlier for 300, Stephens nearly achieved another U.S. Bowling Congress honor score with games of 207 and 279 before finishing perfectly for a 786 series, just 14 pins shy of the 800 series honor count.

“That’s been a good benchmark ball for me,” he said about the Dare Devil Trick. “I’ve pulled it out of my bag first every night since Week 2. I really get a good read of the lanes with it.”

He explained that it is a very even reacting ball, so he can see how the lanes are hooking — the most basic reading being more or less hook than he anticipates, and earlier or later hooking, too.

He also said he had just one strike on the left lane in his “paltry” 207 opener — “that was a touchy lane” — but that the key was when he left a difficult 2-10 split on that lane.

“That one showed me what I had to do, and after that, I struck every ball on that lane the rest of the night,” he said.

Of course, he struck on just about every ball on BOTH lanes the final two games. The only exception was the sixth frame of Game 2, when he left a 10-pin in the sixth frame and made a spare.

Despite his one-night-a-week habit this year, he’s still averaging 238 coming into this week’s league session.

Maybe getting 40 300s before age 40 might be a reach, but I bet getting 40 of them while he is 40 would be something I’d travel to Las Vegas to wager on.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.