John Kelley’s latest perfect game was more special than the first 42 of his bowling career.
First, the 300 game, which Kelley achieved at the same time his dad, Skip, rolled one, put John and his father into the national record book.
Second, Claudette Kelley, Skip’s wife and John’s mother, who was hospitalized the first time father and son had 300 games together, got to see this one at Regal Lanes in Warren on Jan. 12.
“They always tell me you can never beat the first time, but that’s a false statement for me now,” John Kelley said. “My mom and dad are always supporting me. For her to be there, and for Dad and I to do this again, it was very special. It was very exciting.”
Skip Kelley felt the same way about Claudette’s presence at Regal.
“She’s our biggest fan,” he said.
Skip and John Kelley, the United States Bowling Congress said, became the first father-son duo to twice roll 300 games during the same game, for the same team, when they turned the trick at Regal Lanes almost four years after they did so at Sunnybrook Lanes in Sterling Heights on March 15, 2011.
On both occasions, the right-handers were bowling in the Corpus Christi Men’s League, and both times the same five individuals comprised their team, The Brook.
“It’s a memory that will stick with us forever,” Sterling Heights resident Skip Kelley said. “It’s unbelievable.”
“It’s pretty cool,” John said.
Skip was the team’s fourth bowler and Clinton Township resident John its fifth at Regal Lanes.
“When I threw (a strike) in the ninth frame, I had to go outside and get some air,” Skip said. “I knew we had a shot at something special. We were both throwing the ball well.”
As the game unfolded and the drama heightened, John feared the opportunity was going to be lost.
“It was the eighth or ninth frame,” he said. “I tugged the shot. I didn’t think it was going to hold for me, but it did. That was the biggest break of the game for me.”
The son had a difficult time watching his dad bowl the 10th frame.
“I was more nervous for his 10th frame than I was for mine,” John, a designer for a tooling company, said. “I was shaking, because I really wanted him to shoot 300. My knees were going.
“This was the fourth time we’d gotten to the 10th frame (carrying twin perfect games).”
Skip Kelley, 62, who works at a machine shop in Madison Heights, navigated the 10th frame with three strikes for his 14th 300 game.
“I finished out nervously,” he said.
Then it was 28-year-old John’s turn.
His buddy Jay Lang was bowling in the next lane, which gave John, who was using a Columbia Delirium ball, a sense of calm.
“The frame felt like it was just normal bowling,” John said. “Sometimes when you’re close to a 300 game, everyone has stopped bowling and they’re watching you.
“But Jay threw his shots and I threw mine.”
When John’s 12th strike of the game and third of the 10th frame fell, the celebrating began.
“I jumped out on the lane and we jumped around together,” Skip said. “We enjoyed a few adult beverages together when we were done bowling.”
The Kelleys bowled the 300s in the second of three league games that night, with teammates Tom Stockton, Pat Kennedy and Joe Ross.
Skip finished with a three-game total of 760. John’s series was 815.
The Corpus Christi Men’s League competed at Sunnybrook until that center closed, and then it moved to Regal.
John’s perfect game was his third in about 10 days.
“I’ve been on a tear lately,” he said.
Skip, a former assistant coach at Stevenson High school, has a lifetime best series of 802. John, who bowled on Titans teams coached by his father, including the 2005 squad that won a state championship when John was Michigan’s Mr. Bowling, has a best of 845.
John bowled his first 300 game at age 16.
The Kelleys have been among the better-known Macomb County bowlers for years, but their celebrity spiked in the aftermath of the second Corpus Christi 300s.
“It’s been really exciting,” said Skip, who was congratulated time and again while he worked at the county high school tournament at Sterling Lanes Jan. 16-17.
“It’s been pretty awesome,” John said. “A lot of fellow bowlers have contacted me. They’ve said things like, ‘It’s so cool. I wish I would have had the opportunity to do something like that with my dad.’”
“John and I have a lot of fun together,” Skip said. “I coached him when he was young, but he’s the bowler now. I get my kicks watching him.”