LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS —
"Everybody went 'Awww,'" and with that, Harry Tilbury had rolled his first sanctioned 299 game Nov. 7 in Lackland's intramural bowling league at the Skylark Bowling Center.
The 299, a perfect game except for a single pin remaining on the 12th and final roll, is the highest game rolled at the Skylark since a renovation was completed Oct. 12 to install new synthetic lanes and approaches.
Appropriately, the high score was by the overseer of the improvements, since Tilbury is manager of the Skylark.
"A blowout 7 is what you call it," Tilbury said of his last roll in the 299 game. The pins fly into the pit, "and there stands the 7," somehow unscathed by the crash of falling pins.
"The last ball was the best of all of them," he said.
"The crowd goes 'Awww," he said, and he turned with uplifted palms as if to ask, What happened? What more can you do?
"It's a little bit of a letdown, but the fun was just getting there," he said.
Don't feel too sorry for Tilbury, though. The 38-year-old bowler has had nine sanctioned 300 games, his first of seven at the Skylark in 1995, and also has rings for two 298 games. The 299, plus a 207 first game and a 170 third game, raised his average to 214 and helped keep his team, Allen Tharp No. 1, in second place.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Bowling Congress this year decided to award rings only for 300 games.
Tilbury, who started work for the 37th Services Division in 1985 as a nonappropriated fund janitor at the Skylark, was promoted to manager of the bowling center in 1999. He and his wife, MaryJo, who carries a 175 average, bowl together Tuesday night in mixed doubles at the Skylark. They have three sons, 15, 9 and 3.
The right-hander taught himself during competitive night games at the Skylark when he was a janitor there. He developed a low, smooth and nearly lane-touching and soundless delivery with a rolling wrist action that provides a powerful hook with tremendous carry - most of the time.
Tilbury said he's been getting good reports on the new lanes. "Everybody loves em. I've been getting really good feedback on the approaches. The sliding conditions are really good.
"It's too early to tell if it's the lanes or what, but the scores have been really high since we put the new lanes in," he said.
Before his 299, the highest score on the new lanes had been an 831 series with a 279 game (all strikes except for one spare) rolled by Mickey Shivers in the Wednesday morning Old-Timers League. Aaron Jackson rolled another 279 bowling for Allen Tharp No. 2 in the intramural league the same night as Tilbury's 299, so it seems the new lanes' first 300 game is close at hand.