Perfection times three

The odds of bowling a perfect game are estimated at 11,500-to-1.

The LaLonde family has beaten those odds three times.

Three generations of the family have each bowled a perfect game. Bob LaLonde, of Las Cruces, N.M., bowled his perfect game in October 1994. His father Dave followed with a perfect game in Alpena in January 1996 and Bob’s son Bo became the third generation of the family to bowl a 300 game, accomplishing the feat last October in Arizona.

“It’s pretty awesome and it doesn’t happen often,” Bob said. “We’ve all been bowling for many, many years.”

Bowling is a passion that runs in the LaLonde family and all three members have spent many years pursuing that passion. Bowling perfect games is just an extra way that bowling bonds the family together.

Bob, a 1978 Alpena High alumnus, began bowling when he was four, worked at Thunderbowl Lanes as a teenager, and eventually became the senior stratch champion as a senior in high school. He had ambitions of joining the pro tour, but injuries to his leg and ankle ended those plans. He bowled a pair of perfect games in college and another in 2010, but his first sanctioned 300 game came in 1994.

“I was bowling in a mixed league in Las Creuses. I had 11 in a row and I was going for 12. My legs were numb, but I threw No. 12 and got it right in the pocket,” Bob said.

Bob’s current average is 220 and he also bowled an 800 series last October after finishing with an 814 (256-279-279). He is also a certified bowling instructor who has taught the game to adults and kids alike.

Although he had a perfect game to his credit, perhaps Bob’s biggest triumph was seeing his son Bo throw a perfect game of his own in October. Bo and Bob bowl together in a league in Arizona and Bo already had a 299 game to his credit in a junior league game, but he didn’t miss this time. Like this father, Bo also has bowled since age four and averages 215.

“I didn’t realize how many strikes I had in a row until I had eight or nine and then I looked up and saw it,” Bo said. “I knew I was going to throw one (then). Every shot I threw was perfect, right in the pocket.”

Long before he bowled his perfect game, Dave, 81, grew up around bowlers and learned to love the sport even before he knew how to play. He got his start at age 14 at Howe Lanes on Second Avenue, where he would set pins by hand on the alley’s eight lanes and was paid three cents a lane.

When Dave bowled his perfect game in January 1996, he remembers the hush that fell over the bowling alley as fellow bowlers watched him make his run.

“I know at that time, everyone would stop bowling and watch you,” Dave said. “I didn’t want to look back and my friend Spencer, he kept saying, ‘One more Lo, one more.'”

Dave still bowls in Rogers City, averging 170 and also bowls in Florida where he spends winters and runs a league in his community.

Bowling a perfect game might be enough for many amateur sports enthusiasts to hang their hat on, but Bob, Bo and Dave have a new challenge in mind.

Up next for the LaLonde clan? Another sports feat with hefty odds: sinking a hole-in-one, an accomplishment with odds of 12,500-to-1.

Two of the three generations already have a hole-in-one to their credit. Dave recorded his ace in 1996, the same year as his 300 game and Bo, who works at a golf course and makes his living playing tournaments in Arizona, has one as well.

Bob often gets pointers from Bo on the course, but as he can attest, recording an ace is no easy task.

“It doesn’t matter how much help you get, you have to be lucky,” Bob said.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.