Wyatt Smith’s perfection only lasted a few minutes before human error brought him back to earth.
The Island Coast junior secured the first 300 game in the six-year history of high school bowling in Lee County on Thursday. He followed it up with a missed 10 pin on the first shot of his next game.
“Still shaking a little,” he said.
This is what happens in bowling. Perfection is usually followed by above averageness. You have to live between the spares and the splits.
It’s why Smith, probably no taller than 5-foot-10 and about 140 pounds, keeps telling himself, “You’re only as good as your last shot.”
But history does count for something. In this case, Smith, who spent his Saturday afternoons growing up watching PBA tournaments on ESPN, captured a perfect game during a relatively innocuous home match against East Lee County at Coral Lanes in Cape Coral. It was his fourth perfect game overall.
“During the last three years Wyatt has certainly shown the potential to achieve that,” Gators coach Brian Jones said.
Problem is, how do you follow up that sugar high with this thing called a ‘Baker Game,’ which is a format in high school bowling that requires five teammates to roll twice in one 10-frame game?
Smith missed one pin on his first throw, but then smacked all the marks down later in the game. Didn’t really matter. The Gators still cruised to a win. Island Coast is the reigning LCAC champion and Smith, who finished seventh individually in the meet, remains one of the best bowlers in Lee County.
“That’s the thing about bowling,” Jones said. “In those Baker games you still need five guys to really throw well to do well.”
Smith started throwing a ball when he was 3. His father, Clinton, taught him how to glide down the line, his body in one fluid motion. And his mother, Linda, she was the one who took him to the lanes every Sunday.
He’s got 12 different bowling balls. Each one has a specific design and task. The right-hander uses a 15-pound ball because they have “more carry” and he feels “they’re good for me.”
When he goes into matches, he takes a look at the oil patterns in front of him. Most of the lanes he throws in Lee County have “house shots,” which he says look like “Christmas trees” and allow for more room for error if you don’t hit your marks.
Either way, Smith has a routine. He picks up his ball from the chute, carries it up to the line, then lets his mind go blank. .
“I look at nothing,” said Smith, who said his favorite movie is ‘Kingpin,’ the Farrelly brother’s movie about bowling. “It blocks out the nerves. And I just concentrate on making a great shot.”
He scored his first 300 at the age of 14. Three months later he had another, which was part of a three-game series of 827, his best ever.
He says he finds himself playing at least 50 games a week at Coral Lanes, which calculates to almost 100,000 shots a year.
He wants to earn a scholarship to Webber International University in Babson Park, a school known for their bowling program which trains out of the Kegel Training Center in Lake Wales.
One day, Smith says, he’d like to become a professional bowler, like his idol Pete Weber.
But first, he’ll need to finish his high school career. There’s a matter of competing for an LCAC and District 6 title. Smith says he’ll have to average at least 220 pins over three games in either competition to be in contention for a championship.
And when states roll around? He’ll solve that problem when he gets there.
If Thursday was any indication, he’s on the right track. Even when Smith does hit perfection, he doesn’t bask in it all that much.
“I just went home and acted like it was another 300,” he said.