Men's Journal

Ben Ketola on Bowling a Perfect Game in 86.9 Seconds

By the seventh ball, Ben Ketola realized he actually had a shot at this thing. He’d seen video of Professional Bowlers Association member Tom Daugherty bowling the world’s fastest perfect game, in 1:50.99, and he figured, what the hell.

Ketola works as an assistant manager at 281 Bowl in Cortland, New York. There’s plenty of downtime and after-hours practice opportunities. One late night at the empty alley, he set ‘em up and tried it a few times.

The first attempt, running from lane to lane after each roll, he managed six strikes. He tried two more high-speed games that night and rolled seven strikes each time. “All decent, not great,” Ketola recalls.

A few weeks later, after wrapping up a league night and clocking out, Ketola tried again — this time with his colleague, alley manager John Bishop, shooting video.

On his second try that night, Ketola rolled a perfect 300: 12 consecutive strikes. On the video, you can hear Bishop urging him on quietly through the last few frames, taking care not to distract him. “One time!” he blurts as the last ball heads toward the pins.

The whole thing took just 86.9 seconds. In the aftermath, Ketola has been trying to find out if he qualifies for an official Guinness World Record.

“What I’m gathering is that I didn’t have enough eyewitnesses, even with the video,” he says. “They won’t accept it as proof.” For now, he’ll just bask in the unexpected glow of his accomplishment.

Ketola, 23, took up the sport after the death of his grandfather, who loved the game. He bowls two-handed, an unorthodox style that has been gaining momentum with the success of pro bowlers such as the Australian Jason Belmonte. In just a few days, the video of his perfect game has attracted millions of viewers; Ketola says he’s been amused by the complaints of the anti-two-handed protesters online. (Oddly, Daugherty also uses unusual form: He bowls using the no-thumb delivery.)

Ketola, who is training to become a firefighter, says he’d love to bowl a season on the PBA tour. He’s hearing there will be a major event in Syracuse soon, and he hopes to qualify for that.

In the meantime, he’d like to get a little recognition from Storm, the manufacturer of the bowling balls he prefers. In the days since his record-breaking game, he may be gaining some leverage there: “I did just have two other companies come forward and send me jerseys,” he says.