Legends: A Feverish Performance

“By all means, I was set up to fail that day,” Scott McMullin of Pacifica, CA said of a Sunday in January, 2009. “I didn’t get any sleep the previous night, I was hallucinating, my nose was running constantly, I was coughing up a storm, I had a 104.5 degree fever, I had no medication and I ate barely any breakfast.”

This is the ball Scott McMullin won the Yuba City tournament with. As you can see, the thumb hole is packed with tape.

This is the ball McMullin won the Yuba City tournament with. As you can see, the thumb hole is packed with tape. Photo courtesy of Scott McMullin.

On top of all that, McMullin was using a plastic spare ball for his strike shots, a ball that was designed to go straight and wasn’t even fitted to him. The ball was nearly a pound heavier than he was used to throwing, the thumb hole was filled all around with five pieces of tape, and his fingers slid into the finger holes halfway between the first and second knuckles. The story of this spare ball goes back to the summer of 2008, when McMullin was competing at the Junior Gold Championship tournament in Detroit, MI.

“I threw a Columbia White Dot at a 10 pin in Detroit,” McMullin said. “I picked it up clean, but then you could hear a really loud grinding sound coming from behind the pin deck. Well, my ball came back with a crater the size of my fist in it. That was great. The bowling alley drilled up a new spare ball for me, but it was like 13 pounds, and I was used to throwing a 15 pound ball. I was hurling it like 23 mph down the lane, the ball felt like nothing in my hand. There was no way I was ever going to pick up a spare with that ball.”

One night in league, one of the bowlers gave McMullin his spare ball, with a rubber tire inside of it, saying he didn’t really need it. The ball didn’t even remotely fit McMullin’s hand and was nearly a pound heavier than he was used to, but amazingly enough he was picking up all of his spares with it.

“The span was fine, it didn’t hurt my hand, and I was consistently picking up my spares, so I figured I’d roll with it,” McMullin said. “Why change what’s good?”

Anyway, this was the ball Scott McMullin held in his hand that Sunday in January. As he said, all bowling logic said he’d bowl like

The finger holes were way too big for McMullin's fingers - but it worked!

The finger holes were way too big for McMullin’s fingers – but it worked! Photo courtesy of Scott McMullin.

crap that day. BUT, this was Nu Generation Lanes in Yuba City, CA, a place where McMullin had lots of success in the past. He’d won a tournament there once before, when he was 13, shooting his first 750 series. He’d also placed several other times at that alley.

The tournament was a two-day event, and McMullin didn’t bowl all that well the first day. But the last game on Saturday, he switched to his rubber tire spare ball because he didn’t like the reaction with any of his regular balls, and he shot 255.

As the evening progressed, McMullin started feeling worse and worse. As he was lying in bed, trying to find sleep that just wouldn’t come, he was thinking “I just want to go home, I’m going to bowl like absolute crap tomorrow.” But, he thought about the money he paid for the tournament he wouldn’t get back, so he determined he would stick it out ’til the very end. He’d throw his spare ball, that way he’d at least have some fun with the situation.

The first game on Sunday, McMullin bowled a 192.

” ‘Okay,’ I thought to myself, ‘I’m doing something wrong. I’m not doing the exact same thing I did yesterday when I shot 255.’ ” McMullin said. “In my completely fever-addled state, I was like, ‘1 1/2 boards. That’s the answer.’ So, I moved 1 1/2 boards to the right so I was standing between the 11 and 12 boards and rolled the ball straight up the five board. I then threw the last three strikes in the 10th frame to shoot 192.”

Well, that’s where the ordinary ends and the extraordinary begins. Those three strikes in a row would soon turn into 23 strikes in a row, a personal record for McMullin. That’s right, the game after the 192 was a perfect 300 game. The next game was begun with the first eight strikes before a stubborn 10 pin ended his chances at back-to-back 300 games. He would end up shooting 268.

“I deserved that 10 pin,” McMullin said. “I knew I threw it too hard. The 300 was my first 300 with no lucky strikes. My speed consistency, which was always the weakest part of my game, was spot on, between 15.4 and 15.7 mph the whole game.”

The 268 game was followed by a 277. For three consecutive games, McMullin had bowled his first 800 series, an 845. However, they were games two, three, and four, so the 845 wasn’t officially recognized by the USBC (United States Bowling Congress) and he didn’t get an award for it. But McMullin still finished up the six-game set with scores of 218 and 243 to win the tournament by a landslide, his second time doing so.

“That day, I learned it’s all about staying relaxed and keeping your mind out of it,” McMullin said. ” You have to find any way to not think about it. Getting in your own head causes you to over think things. Over thinking it kills you, and I succeeded that day because I wasn’t even remotely capable of getting in my own head. My mind was only blank or seeing strikes.”

It may not be officially recognized as such, and he may not have received an award for it, but McMullin will always consider January 25, 2009 at Nu Generation Lanes in Yuba City, CA, to be his greatest day of bowling.

“This is always going to be the best day of bowling for me,” McMullin said. “I only missed a 900 series by three frames. Even if I shot a better series, I would just feel I got luckier than this day. My form and mindset were nearly perfect. Because I was so sick, it was as if someone put a suppressant in my blood stream. I couldn’t replicate that if I wanted to. This is bowling perfection for me. Being that clear-minded, I couldn’t repeat that. Even if I bowled 300 tournaments, it would take me forever to get back to that one point when I was 18 years old.”

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