By Dan Jones
for the Mail Tribune
The number 300 is special to bowlers like Charlie Sanders.
A perfect 300 game is the highest score possible, achieved by rolling a strike during every frame. Record 12 consecutive strikes in a traditional single game, one strike in each of the first nine frames and three more in the 10th frame and you’ve done it.
The 23-year-old Central Point resident recently rolled three 300 games in the span of five nights. To put his feat in perspective, Sanders’ 79-year-old grandfather, Billy Cordell, has bowled competitively for at least 60 years and his highest game ever is a 298.
“It was right place, right time,” says Sanders. “Most people in bowling say bowling is only 10 percent skill and 90 percent luck. I got lucky.”
If that’s the case, consider Sanders one of the luckiest — and most dedicated — bowlers around. He owns seven career 300s and shows no signs of slowing down.
“It comes naturally to him for one thing,” says Cordell, who was one of the witnesses to his grandson’s hot stretch. “He’s a good, consistent bowler with natural ability.”
Sanders rolled the first 300 on Jan. 14 during Monday Night Scratch League play at Roxy Ann Lanes in Medford. The next day, he bowled a 300 at Caveman Bowl in Grants Pass. Sanders rolled the third on January 19 during Friday Night Mixed League action at Roxy Ann Lanes.
Sanders didn’t spend much time celebrating after the first 300.
“To be completely honest, I just kept going,” he says. “I was ecstatic, but I just wanted to see if I could get another one.”
Sanders began bowling at age 2 with Cordell at the old Medford Lanes (which is now Kids Unlimited). He was a league bowler by age 5 and a scratch tournament competitor by 12. Sanders landed a spot on a junior all-star team and has remained a fixture of the local bowling scene since.
Sanders’ first 300 came on Nov. 20, 2015, at Roxy Ann Lanes.
“It was unreal,” Sanders recalls. “It was a moment of chaos and then just pure relaxation.”
His second career 300 came on Jan. 1, 2016, at Roxy Ann Lanes, and the third was in late January of 2017 at Lava Lanes in Medford.
The odds of rolling a 300 have improved greatly since advances in bowling-ball technology and the more liberal application of oil upon lane surfaces.
That said, anybody who has ever bowled knows these 300s don’t come easy.
Each official 300 is verified by the USBC. Witnesses and league officials must be present, the venue must be in good standing and even the bowling ball must be approved.
Sanders received a commemorative ring for his first 300, and was later given a plaque. For each of his other 300s, the plaque has received a small piece of metal commemorating the location and date.
Sanders won his first scratch tournament at Hanscam’s Bowling Center in Klamath Falls last year. He competes about three times a week, getting in about 60 games a week, including practice.
“Pretty much all I do is bowling or video games,” says Sanders, who was home-schooled.
His consistency starts with repetition.
“Nerves start to take over,” Sanders says, “so my pre-shot routine is always the same: wipe off the ball, make sure my shoes are clean and set up. Once I’m on my approach and ready to go, there is nothing else there. No one could get me to move. I’m up there and nothing else matters at that point.”
Visualization is key, Sanders adds. One of his mentors, Alex Romanowsky of Roxy Ann Lanes, has helped him with that.
Sanders says he’d like to compete at the regional and national level next year, hopefully with the Ebonite staff.
Whatever happens next, Cordell is confident that Sanders will just keep rolling along.
“It’s his passion,” he says.
Reach freelance writer Dan Jones at email@example.com.