Summerlin resident Leo Little has always been active, playing various sports as a young man. After he got married, he and his wife of 59 years, Joyce, enjoyed bowling, starting in about 1960 when they lived in Sacramento, Calif.
On the morning of March 9, Little, 82, hit the Holy Grail –– he bowled a 300, a perfect game.
“By the 10th frame, I think I was almost, I don’t know, I felt like I was in a zone,” Little said. “You ask an athlete, they’ll say, ‘In the zone,’ like runners do that. The last three (frames), they were just perfect.”
Little has been bowling consistently for the past 15 years, soon after moving to Sun City Summerlin. He was at the 64-lane Suncoast Bowling Center, 9090 Alta Drive, with the Suncoast Fun League for its usual meeting. The league meet three times a week. His first game was a 178, his average score. The second game was when he got 10 strikes in a row.
“Everybody stood up and cheered and carried on,” said Catherine Yeakel, league secretary/treasurer.
She said no one else in the league had ever accomplished the feat.
Mike Kaufman, director of bowling operations for the Nevada region for the Boyd Gaming Corp., called local and state United States Bowling Congress representatives, who ran some research and told Kaufman that Little was the oldest person in the state to have bowled a perfect game.
“Citywide, we have a handful of people who bowl 300 in a month,” Kaufman said. “But those are usually done by the 20- or 30- or 40-somethings and usually by the higher-performance bowler. They’ll average in the 220s, 230s. But to have someone who’s (82), and who averages 178, to accomplish that, is just remarkable.”
The USBC told Kaufman that the former state record holder was a 77-year-old woman who bowled 300 in 2012 and that, nationwide, the oldest person to accomplish the feat is a 90-year-old.
Kaufman said there are two kinds of strikes: a Brooklyn strike, where the ball goes on the other side of the headpin, and one directly in the pocket.
“I asked him, ‘How many Brooklyns did you have?’, and he said, ‘I only had one,’ ” Kaufman said. “He said that (by) the 10th frame, he’d put every ball in the pocket. Even at a high-performance level, that’s very hard to do. You know, you’re nervous, your knees are shaking a little bit. So, he definitely, he was in the zone.”
John Peck, fellow league member, said the league had only recreational players but that he knew Little “had it in him there somewhere.”
Little normally uses two balls, a 15-pound ball for strikes and a 14-pound one for corner spares. Little said when the 10th frame was over, he was “as amazed as anybody else here. It wasn’t something I strived for. It just happened.”
Last year he bowled a 247, his highest score at the time.
Little said he was a jock as a youth.
“I lettered in all my sports all through high school,” he said. “My wife made a plaque of all my varsity letters, in football and basketball and all that.”
Little, a graduate of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., first came to Las Vegas when he worked at the Nevada Test Site on the nuclear rocket program. In the early 1970s, he was part of a team testing rockets.
“We’d take a rocket engine and set it upside down on a test stand, and then we activated the nuclear reactor. ... that was going to be for a manned mission to Mars, but they canceled the program,” he said.
He also managed the Yucca Mountain Project as an engineer.
He and Joyce like bowling because it gets them out of the house, he said. They moved last month into Las Ventanas, 10401 W. Charleston Blvd.
The 300 score earned him a plaque, a $100 prize from the bowling center and a free dinner at the Suncoast for him and Joyce.
Does he think he’ll ever repeat the feat?
“It’s possible,” Little said. “One time, just in practice, I bowled 13 strikes, but that was practice. It takes a lot of luck.”
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.