Since his first perfect bowling game in 1993, Kent Thompson has racked up 92 more.
While the first one was special because it had him motivated to do it again, he still gets nervous during the final frame.
Then that turns to excitement when he sees 300 at the end of the line.
“I’ll be honest, I’ve had 93 of them, but I still get a little nervous when I get to that point,” the 47-year-old Brownstown man said. “Back years ago when you kept score by hand, it was nothing for a whole bowling center to stop and you would be the only one bowling. You could hear a pin drop. It’s all noise and everything, and then all of a sudden, you get up there and it was like, ‘Where’d everybody go?’”
His last two 300 games came during the nearly completed league season at Columbus Bowling Center.
With the lane conditions, new bowling balls and technology, Thompson said shooting a perfect game is easier to do nowadays.
“Like with golf, used to, you would hear of guys driving the ball 350 (yards), and now, they are driving it 400,” he said, referring to the improvements in equipment.
Having 93 300 games and 45 800 series to his name is special to Thompson because he has been able to excel at a sport he began when he was 5 and that has always been a family tradition.
“My mom, dad, grandparents, they all bowled, and I went with them all of the time,” he said. “Then I joined the youth league here in Seymour when I was 5 years old and really enjoyed it. The family always did it, and at one point, my family was up there seven days a week between my mom, dad and grandparents. I kept meeting really good people through the years and stayed with it and continued forward.”
After graduating from Medora High School in May 1992, he moved into the adult league in the fall.
His first 300 game was in May 1993 when he was 19. That came during the Seymour bowling alley’s season-ending honors score tournament, which required having a 700 series to participate.
“Bill Woodard was on my pair of lanes with me, which is a friend of mine who has helped me out throughout the years with bowling and teaching,” Thompson said. “He just kept talking to me trying to keep me calm. It was my first time having that opportunity. I was pretty nervous, let’s put it that way.”
The first time he had gotten 11 strikes in a row, Thompson said he messed up on the final try and scored 296.
“Bill just talked to me, tried to keep me calm and it worked. I ended up finally shooting 300,” he said.
To make the accomplishment even sweeter, he was the top seed in the stepladder final and won the tournament.
“I’ve actually still got my ball at home from my first 300 game,” he said.
Thompson’s second 300 came a year later.
“I’m not going to say it’s easier, but after you break the ice, it seems like it smooths everything out a little more,” he said.
He said most of his 300s were at the now-shuddered Seymour bowling alley. He also has shot 300s at all three bowling alleys in Columbus, though only one of them is still open today. Plus, he had perfect games at Bedford, Bloomington, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville. Even when he lived in North Carolina for a while, he shot several there.
The most he had in one season — which runs from September to April — is 12.
Celebrating the 300 games with family and friends has been special to Thompson, too. One of them was achieved while bowling on a Friday night with his wife, Jennifer Thompson, mother-in-law, Sherrye Ruddick, and stepson, Dustin Strong.
“I had never bowled one with Sherrye. Finally this year, I bowled one with her being there and bowling with me, so she was excited,” he said.
What’s interesting is his father, Harold Thompson, has only bowled 300 one time in his career despite being in the Seymour USBC Hall of Fame, while his son, Zac Thompson, has 13 300 games on his record.
When Thompson is on a roll in a game, he said he tries to stay mentally focused.
“I really don’t think about it a whole lot. I try not to,” he said. “I look more at the team-wise ‘OK, I need to strike out for us to win.’ I don’t really think about it until after the first ball on the 10th frame.”
Then he takes a deep breath and focuses on the next two shots.
“I basically sit there and tell myself, ‘OK, you’ve done this a million times. Just get up there and make your shot,’” he said.
On the series side, Thompson said he shot his first 800 in 2001. That was unique because it was during a city tournament in Seymour with his dad.
“I shot 801 that day,” he said. “I didn’t even realize I was shooting and had a chance to bowl that. I thought, ‘Eh, OK, I’m going to have a good series.’ I wound up shooting 289 the last game to shoot 801.”
Last year, he shot a personal-best 857 series, which also was the second highest at Columbus Bowling Center. His highest in Seymour was 849.
Over the years, he won the city tournament multiple times in Seymour, and he has won singles and doubles tournaments in Columbus.
Also, he was inducted into the Seymour USBC Hall of Fame in 2005, and he was elected into the Columbus hall in 2020 after Zac had nominated him. His grandmother, Margie Thompson, wife and mother-in-law are in the Seymour hall, too.
Thompson said the people he has bowled with over the years have helped make him the bowler he is today.
“It doesn’t matter how good of a bowler you are. If you know somebody’s game, you can help them,” he said.
He also likes bowling because it’s a sport he can do for a long time.
“Any age, any size, it doesn’t matter if you’re 100 pounds or 400 pounds, you can still do it,” he said. “It’s just something if you want to try it, just go out and try it and have fun. Don’t go invest a bunch of money into it until you’re sure this is what you want to do. Start off with your open bowling or cosmic bowling. Then if you decide, ‘Hey, I really like this,’ maybe get a couple of your buddies and join a fun league.”