It was March 11, 2006, a Saturday morning, on lanes 31 and 32 at Sea Bowl in Pacifica, CA, and 10-year, 3-month, and 16-day-old Michael Tang showed up for his 10 o’clock league sporting an orange and black polo shirt, a color combination soon to become his signature.
“Leading up to that day of league, it was a pretty normal Saturday morning,” Tang said. “Saturdays were the only times I was actually excited to wake up that early because, like every aspiring child bowler, going to league and trying to put up your highest score is what you always looked for after a week of school.”
It was only Tang’s second time ever bowling at Sea Bowl, having just relocated from Serra Bowl because his mom, Tracie Tang, had just started a job as the special events director at Sea Bowl. When all was said and done on that day, Michael Tang had bowled a 656 series, his first 600 series, which is nothing to sneeze at, especially for a bowler averaging 167. But, that’s not what makes this day remarkable.
“During practice, I just stood where I normally stood for my shots, and I was just striking,” Tang said. “I guess I was just feeling it that day.”
A lot of times, when a bowler is throwing a lot of strikes in practice, as soon as play starts they all of a sudden can’t strike at all. That’s why there’s a joke or superstition among bowlers, when somebody is striking a lot in practice, someone will say to them “don’t use up all your strikes.” But on March 11, 2006, Michael Tang did not use up all his strikes during practice.
“I had not really given my score any thought until I got to about the seventh strike because another person bowling with me had the first six strikes at the same time I did, so in my mind I was just trying to out-strike that guy,” Tang said.
This is about the time Tracie realized her son was getting close to achieving something special, although she didn’t know how special it was going to be.
“And when he (the other bowler who started with the first six strikes) finally missed, that’s when I thought to myself ‘wow, I have a chance to shoot 300,'” Michael said. “So I continued to strike all the way up to the tenth frame. When the tenth frame came along, I didn’t really have any nerves because me being so young I couldn’t really understand the magnitude of what I could accomplish at the time. I would say I was too young to even know what being nervous was.”
Michael recalls all of his strikes being flush, although his brother, Darren Tang, who was watching from lanes 27 and 28, says Michael tripped the 4-pin on a few of his shots.
“I just felt really solid during the course of that game,” Michael said, who was standing on about the 20th board with his feet and throwing his ball, the Brunswick Inferno, out to about the six or seven board at the breakpoint. “I had a really good path to the pocket and I just kept stroking the ball down there and they all jut kept falling down. I really didn’t have much going through my mind when I was bowling that game. Most of the thoughts came after that game when I realized what I had done.”
What Michael Tang had done was become the youngest person in the history of the sport to bowl 12 strikes in a row in a single game for a perfect 300 game, beating the previous record of Josey LaRocco of Louisville, KY, by three months.
“Once I threw that 12th strike I did a Tiger Woods-inspired fist pump, which is what my friends, who were there, fondly remember about that day,” Michael said.
“I remember his last shot was a slap 10-pin, and I was the first person to give him a high-five” Darren said
Nobody realized Michael had set a record at the time.
“We looked on bowl.com and we thought he was the youngest,” Tracie said. It didn’t seem official, however, until the press release came out about a week later. That’s when Tracie knew Michael was the youngest to bowl 300, but so did everyone else.
“It was exciting but the phone started ringing off the hook,” Tracie said. “It opened up a lot of opportunities for him, such as getting to travel and the Storm Prodigy contest (which gave Michael a chance to meet PBA superstar Norm Duke).”
The weeks that followed would prove to be memorable as well. A press release describing Tang’s accomplishment was sent out and Tracie received calls from Regis and Kelly, Jimmy Kimmel, the Today Show and the local news station, all wanting to have Michael as a guest on their show.
“Going to a bunch of talk shows like Regis and Kelly was really a special moment in my life,” Tang said. “I got to travel around the nation and see places most kids don’t normally see at that time in their lives.”
Michael does believe his feat was an inspiration to other bowlers. “Kamron Doyle’s (a four-time Jr. Team USA member and multiple medalist, including a gold) father told my mother that my 300 game inspired Kamron to pursue a great career in bowling,” Tang said.
“Well when I first saw that a kid that young had bowled 300 it made me think that if he could do it then so could I,” Doyle said. “It made me really want ant try to beat his record. And I don’t think it was long after that I went to bowl league and shot my very first 300 (he just missed beating Michael’s age record by two months). So Michael was a huge help in me wanting to get better. And ever since then I’ve always grown on trying to do what others have done.”
Michael Tang’s 300 was the shot heard around the bowling world, but nowhere was it heard louder than in his brother Darren’s ears.
“Nobody wants to be known as someone’s brother, so it definitely pushed me to work harder in order to prove I’m better in every other way,” Darren said.