Being Perfect Isn't That Bad : Rose Walsh, at 60, Learns to Like Being a Celebrity After She Bowls 300 Game in Costa Mesa Tournament

Times Staff Writer

Poor Rose Walsh. All she did was knock down 120 pins with her bowling ball and now people won't leave her alone.

With 12 rolls of her Brunswick 12-pounder, Walsh went from the bowling lane to the fast lane. Twelve balls, all strikes, and she went from anonymity to celebrity.

Walsh, a 60-year-old Pomona mother of two, and grandmother of four, rolled a 300 game at the Women's International Bowling Congress Tournament at Costa Mesa on May 29.

Since then, Walsh has been interviewed by the media, celebrated by her WIBC peers and received a phone call from WIBC President Helen Baker from Florida.

There was the interview with a television station film crew when she attempted to recreate her glory by rolling a ball down the same lanes (Nos. 3 and 4) at the New Kona Lanes in Costa Mesa--but came up short with the cameras rolling. After several attempts, she finally got a strike.

And there even was a big headline in one of the bowling papers: "Walsh Wallops 300 in WIBC, Second-Ever Perfecto for Tournament."

It's not that such attention has really bothered Walsh, mind you, but she was as surprised by the reaction to her feat as she was by the perfect game itself.

Walsh's 300 game was only the second perfect game among some 8.5 million tournament games rolled by WIBC bowlers dating back to 1916.

Lori Gensch of Milwaukee rolled the first perfect game in tournament play in 1979.

And Walsh is the second-oldest bowler to roll a 300 in WIBC-sanctioned play. In 1982, Helen Duval of Berkeley had a 300 in a WIBC league game at age 65.

So how did it all happen? Especially to a bowler with a 156 average, one whose previous high game was a 257?

Well, there she was, minding her own business, bowling in the WIBC's Division I for bowlers with an average of 151-170, when the unusual occurred.

After rolling games of 137 and 177 in singles play, something strange happened to Walsh. She started rolling strikes. Strike after strike after strike.

"I was upset because I hadn't really bowled a good game up until then," Walsh said at her home in a Pomona trailer park. "I figured I had nothing to lose, so I just started throwing it out there."

Like a pitcher working on a no-hitter, she was well aware of what was going on, frame by frame. And as is the custom while a no-hitter is in process, no one at the lanes said anything down the stretch to keep from jinxing her.

Said her husband, James: "Her ball was working real well, so after about eight in a row people sat up and took notice. That's when everybody stopped to watch. It got real quiet in there."

Said Rose, "Some WIBC officials came over to make sure that everything was OK (legitimate). Nobody said a word to me after the first ball in the 10th frame. I just looked down and concentrated."

If James was both nervous and sympathetic, that was understandable. Twenty years ago in Ohio, he had been in the same situation, facing a 300 game going into the last frame.

"I left a 7-10 split and finished with a 298," he said.

For Rose, it wasn't the score that made her uncomfortable, but rather how the crowd was reacting. If it's tough to throw strikes as it is, it becomes even tougher when you're the center of attention of the entire lanes.

By the 12th ball, the New Kona Lanes had turned into Walsh's personal Rose Bowl.

Said Rose, "My legs were shaking. I took a deep breath, looked down, found my spot, and followed through."

She said the break was clean, but for one pin standing.

Said Rose: "The 7-pin was solid , but I saw the other pins coming over and one tipped it. Then I had it, so I got down and kissed the lane. It was the greatest feeling ever. All I remember after that was the scorekeeper hugging me. Everybody else was cheering and clapping."

For Rose, the notoriety has been fun if only because she has heard from old friends. The Walshes moved from their Buena Park home of 30 years in December and the attention has put them in touch with many of their old Orange County acquaintances.

The Walshes are now retired, which will give them time to work on other such recreational pursuits.

"I've just taken up golf," Rose said. "Who knows--maybe I'll get a hole-in-one sometime."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World