Bowler Rolls Perfect Game Without Seeing Pins

Melissa Block talks to Ron Gooch, who is legally blind but bowled a perfect game last month in Morris, Ill.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Last month, 52-year-old Ron Gooch achieved a personal best. He bowled 300, a perfect game. Granted, he's no stranger to the lanes. He's been bowling since he was six, and he carries a 200 average.

But here's what makes Mr. Gooch's game remarkable, he can't see the pins. Ron Gooch is legally blind. And as far as record keepers can tell, he's one of 11 legally blind bowlers in the country with a perfect score.

Mr. Gooch joins us now from Morris, Illinois. That's about an hour outside Chicago. Welcome to the program, and congratulations.

Mr. RON GOOCH: Thank you very much, pleasure to be on your show.

BLOCK: Well, I wonder if this is like with a perfect game in baseball. You know, nobody talks about it because they don't want to jinx it before it's over. Did that happen at the bowling alley?

Mr. GOOCH: Absolutely. You know, after you get, like, say, eight or nine in a row, everybody starts watching you. And when I was going into the 10th frame with a chance to bowl a 300, it was unbelievable because everybody just kind of stopped and let me go by myself. You know, 30 lanes just stopped all at once.

BLOCK: Wow. What did you do right after you bowled the perfect game?

Mr. GOOCH: Well, when I had my 11th one in a row, I had to stand there and wait for my ball. It seemed like it took like an hour for my ball to come back.

BLOCK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GOOCH: And my buddy Jim said whatever you do, don't turn around. Pick up your ball and go. The whole bowling alley is watching you. And when I let the ball go, everybody started, like, come on, come on, come on, come on. And when I hit the pins, and I got a strike, it was like the greatest feeling on earth for a bowler because everybody wants to get a 300. And I never ever thought in my lifetime I would be ever to get one.

BLOCK: Oh, you didn't?

Mr. GOOCH: No, and I did. You know, it's unbelievable.

BLOCK: What's visible to you, Mr. Gooch, when you're bowling? What can you see?

Mr. GOOCH: Well, it's like looking into a flashlight. You know, I could see the light. I know what I'm throwing at. It's just like looking into a flashlight. And say if I get eight or nine pins, well, part of the light is still there. You know, and then I have to knock down like the rest of the light.

My father taught me to line up my feet and bowl. You know, you don't have to see the pins to bowl.

BLOCK: So the pins are appearing to you as just a bright, white light at the end of the lane.

Mr. GOOCH: Yeah, just like a flashlight or a light bulb.

BLOCK: Your dad was a big bowler himself.

Mr. GOOCH: Yeah, he was one of the better bowlers in Grundy County back in the '70s and '80s, and he taught me to bowl. And we spent a lot of time at the bowling alley and just a normal kid out there bowling, and nobody, you know, treated me any different or nothing because I could bowl as good as the average 12-year-old.

BLOCK: Probably better.

Mr. GOOCH: And better than a lot, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Gooch, what's your next goal?

Mr. GOOCH: Well, let's try to do it again, I guess. I mean, we're going to have a baby. We found out right before I bowled a 300 that Tammy(ph) is not supposed to be able to conceive. And all of a sudden, she conceived, and I bowled 300, and I'm 52 years old. And it's kind of scary having a child that late, you know, but God did it.

BLOCK: Well, it's been a big year all around, it sounds like.

Mr. GOOCH: Yeah, I've been it's been quite the whirlwind last month.

BLOCK: Well, Ron Gooch, congratulations. Thanks for telling us about it.

Mr. GOOCH: Wow, it was one of the most awesome things ever. Everybody should bowl a 300, I swear.

BLOCK: I'll keep working on it, thanks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: That's Ron Gooch, who is legally blind. Last month, he rolled a perfect game, 12 strikes at Echo Lanes in Morris, Illinois.

(Soundbite of music)

MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

You are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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