At 83, Norwich man becomes a perfect bowler

October 2, 2011 11:21:44 AM PDT
Pete Bochese was concerned for a moment.

The longtime Norwich resident was on a roll at the Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center on a recent Monday night, but realized as he drew his arm back that his arc was a bit too wide.

The man who has been bowling since he was 12 knew there was a way to correct it - he had to slow down his delivery. As the ball softly came down on the lane, Bochese realized the change in momentum worked. Although the ball started wide, it gradually curled in and took down all 10 pins.

It was a moment Bochese remembered on a night he will not soon forget.

The pins continued to fall and the crowd behind him continued to grow. They saw something they don't see every day. Bochese was on his way to a perfect game, a 300, something in the sport everyone aspires to get, but like a hole-in-one in golf, not everyone will reach that goal in their lifetime.

At 83, Bochese had resigned himself to staying in the latter category.

"I had given up on it. Even when I got five strikes in a row the week before, I had never thought about it," Bochese said.

Bochese's love for bowling began when he was 10 years old and setting pins in Apollo, Pa. At the time, people, generally young boys, stood in the back of the alley and reset the pins. Bochese gradually developed a love for the game, especially since one of the perks of being a pin-setter was free bowling when no one was in the alley.

He brought that passion with him to Connecticut when the mason was looking for work and couldn't find any in Pennsylvania. A friend told him there were more masonry jobs in Connecticut and Bochese came to New England, but only for a brief time. Unable to find work, he returned to Pennsylvania.

He received a call upon his arrival at home, asking him to return to the Nutmeg State if he wanted a regular job. Bochese left Pennsylvania on New Year's Day in 1964 and has been here ever since.

Bochese continued to bowl throughout his working years and is still at the lanes once a week in the Monday night Willimantic Winnelson Bowling League in Norwich. His son, Jeff Bochese, proudly stated that his father is a two-time Connecticut senior bowling champion, having won the title in 2002 and 2009.

But the elder Bochese had no inkling that he was going to bowl a 300 game on that Monday night. He had just bowled a "lousy" first game and decided to change his ball for the second game. He was thinking he would change back to his first ball for his third game until he finished on a three-strike note and decided to stick with it.

"One after another, I just kept getting strikes," Pete Bochese said.

Through the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth frames, Pete Bochese bowled perfectly, following a routine after each throw. He said he turned, dried his hands, waited for the ball to come back, picked it up and sent another "beautiful" ball down the lane.

"He was on a mission, solid as a rock," Jeff Bochese said.

As Pete Bochese neared the final frame, the crowd behind him grew, and on his final three balls, he was the only person bowling in the alley. Everyone was watching Pete Bochese attempt to become the oldest man in the Southeast Connecticut Bowling Association to reach perfection.

"My hands were a little sweaty when I saw all the people watching, but I knew as soon as I threw the ball (in the final frame) that it was headed for the pocket and everybody started to holler," Pete Bochese said. "My son came over and picked me up and everybody came over to shake my hand. I was more nervous about that than when I was bowling."

He wasn't the only one.

"I have bowled eight 300 games in my life and never have I been that nervous," Jeff Bochese said. "I just hope I can walk when I'm 83 years old, never mind bowl a 300."

Jeff Bochese said he believes his father is the oldest person in Connecticut to bowl a perfect game. Pete Bochese wasn't far off from being the oldest in America. Jeff Bochese said the oldest recorded 300 was by an 89-year-old man.