By Chris Chaney
Walking into a bowling alley in the middle of the day and finding it absolutely silent is a rarity. Usually, the sound of balls smashing into pins is the soundtrack that plays every waking hour.
But if you were to walk into Madison Bowl on Wednesday, Jan. 9, you could have heard a pin drop as Glen Este’s Leslie Campbell set up to roll her final strike in her first-ever perfect 300 game.
“Well, (Leslie) hits her first five (strikes), then six and all of our girls start noticing,” Glen Este coach Kathy Demarko said, setting the scene. “The people who are in the glass room in the back are starting to take notice, the people at the concession stand are hearing us cheer because every time she hits a strike, we explode.
“She hits the first eight (strikes), then the first nine and now we’re serious. And I’m noticing the other team (Walnut Hills) starting to pay attention more. She throws the first one in the 10th (frame) and by then, every person has stopped bowling and they’re watching her, every person in the entire place.”
Campbell’s 11th strike was money from the time it left her fingers. Demarko said the pins exploded as the ball hit perfectly in the pocket.
Before that, however, Campbell said she had a feeling this was the game that she would finally achieve her lifetime goal of bowling a perfect game.
“At first I was just taking it like another match, one ball at a time” Campbell said. “I started stringing them and I tried to take it even slower. Once I got into the 10th frame, I threw the first one and I had a feeling I was going to get it.
“When I was going up for the 12th (strike), it was kind of nerve-wracking. And after I got it, it was a little shocking, but it was a relief because I’ve spent so much time trying to get one and I finally got one.”
Campbell watched the 10 pins fall for the 12th time and turned toward her coach and her teammates, let out a yell and began to cry. She had achieved perfection.
A large factor in her achievement was Campbell’s experience. Coming from a bowling family, Leslie knows all about 300 games. Her father, Tom, has bowled five perfect games and Leslie has come very close before.
“Many times,” Campbell said. “Before Wednesday, I’ve had two 279s and a couple 269s. 279 is one strike off and 269 is two strokes off and I’ve had a 288, which is one strike off, too.”
Those experiences allowed Campbell to stay in the moment and not psych herself out.
“(Those close calls) helped me not to get nervous and keep my nerves calm,” Campbell said. “Each time I came closer to it, I don’t worry about (as much).”
Demarko said she’s had a bunch of bowlers that she has coached roll perfect games, but no one has done it during a competitive match or tournament.
“It’s pressure, absolutely,” Demarko said. “You have to be able to stand there and throw 12 strikes in a row during a match. It’s tough to walk up there and throw 12 consistent balls. You have to be mentally and physically able to do that.”
And it takes a special kind of bowler to do that. Leslie Campbell is that special kind of bowler.
“Driven,” Demarko says of her junior. “That’s the terminology I would use (to describe Leslie). She has her mind set on becoming a professional bowler and she has worked and practiced and gone to great lengths to become the bowler that she is.”
While becoming a professional bowler may very well be in the cards for Campbell, she still has a year and a half left at Glen Este and then she has other aspirations before setting out to achieve her career goal.
“I want to try and bowl an 800 (series) either this year or next year and bowl in college,” Campbell said. “But after high school, I want to go try out for Team USA and hopefully I can make it.”
The Stars and Stripes would be lucky to have Leslie Campbell representing them.