Putting together a perfect 300 game in bowling is a special feat for anybody, but for Christian Bertoletti the accomplishment is just a little sweeter and a little more prodigious.
Bertoletti’s feat came on Oct. 25 at Bowl Haven Lanes in Alton, a little more than a month prior to his 14th birthday on Dec. 5. At 13 years old Bertoletti now owns the distinction of the youngest bowler ever to produce a perfect game at Bowl Haven.
“I had no idea,” Bertoletti said recently of being the youngest bowler at Bowl Haven to ever bowl a 300 while reminiscing about that special Saturday morning.
Hannah Diem of Seminole, Fla., holds the record for youngest bowler ever to compile a 300 at 9 years, 6 months and 19 days, when she did it in a sanctioned event on Nov. 17, 2013.
As for locally though, Bertoletti’s accomplishment is astounding. The previous record for the youngest bowler to record a 300 at Bowl Haven was Dick Butler in 1964.
General Manager Bill Netzhammer said Butler was either 16 or 17. It was also the first-ever perfect game at Bowl Haven and they still have the scorecard proudly on display for patrons to view. Bowl Haven opened in October 1958 and it took until June 8, 1964, before Butler logged that first 300.
“It doesn’t come around very often, that’s for sure,” Netzhammer said of a 13-year-old bowling a 300. “There have probably been a few around the country maybe a little bit younger, but in this area that’s one of the youngest ones I ever remember. There have been some kids that have been in their teens and high school kids that have accomplished that later in their teens, but never that young.”
Bertoletti, who is in the eighth grade at Roxana Junior High School, said his friends were teasing him during practice that morning that he was going to bowl one, but he simply shrugged them off.
Everything was fine until he knocked down the first three strikes, then the possibility of “what if” started to sink in. By the eighth frame he started to hit the zone.
“The eighth frame my mind just started going blank and it was just me rolling the ball down the lane,” Bertoletti said. “I got to the 10th frame and everybody around me stopped bowling and it made me really nervous. That first ball in the 10th I struck and I got a little excited, then the second one I struck and I was trying to keep as quiet as I could. On that last frame I got up on the approach and I remember (pro bowler) Chris Barnes on TV, what he said, ‘You don’t get many chances like this, so make it good.’ So I rolled it and it looked really good going in and I struck and it was so unreal.”
Netzhammer was busy taking care of his day-to-day duties as the GM, but as the perfect game approached he took notice.
“It was quite the accomplishment and created quite the stir,” Netzhammer said. “I was kind of busy with some other things and I was like, ‘What’s going on out here?’ By golly, I look up there and he had 10 in a row and I thought, ‘Boy, this could really be something.’ And he nailed the next two and the rest is history.”
Bertoletti, who has been bowling since the age of 3 when family friend Tim Timmins introduced him to the sport, quipped, “At first it didn’t seem real and then I looked up at the score and I was like, ‘Man, after all these years, I finally did it.’”
Bertoletti has rolled a 296 before and on Nov. 25, exactly one month after his perfect game, he shot a 279 practicing at Airport Bowl in Bethalto. He was perfect through nine frames.
Physically it is impressive for a bowler that young to accomplish such a feat just due to lack of size. Bertoletti is good-sized for his age at 5-foot-5 and 145 pounds. He also plays baseball, and Netzhammer admitted that helps.
“He’s a pretty good-sized young man and definitely stature wise that helps,” Netzhammer said. “But he’s a pretty good athlete all the way around. He plays baseball also, which helps. When you are a good athlete I think that helps contribute to being able to handle the physical aspect of bowling.”
Bertoletti’s next goal is to log an 800 series. On the day of his 300 he bowled a 776, the highest series of his burgeoning career. The 800 series is a coveted accomplishment, maybe even more than a 300 game.
“That’s a bigger accomplishment by far,” Bertoletti said. “That’s my next goal.”
As for a perfect 900 series, there have only been 25 of those ever accomplished in sanctioned play by 24 individuals. Robert Mushtare is credited with two 900s to his credit.
Bertoletti isn’t thinking 900, his next focus is just to become a high schooler and take his talents to the prep lanes for the Shells.
“My eighth-grade computer teacher is actually the high school bowling coach (Marsha Ribes), so she knows me really well and I know her,” Bertoletti said. “She’s waiting for me next year.”
Netzhammer and the rest of the Alton area bowling community will be waiting to watch Bertoletti’s talents on the lanes, too. Bertoletti should have a bright future ahead of him.
“Definitely, most definitely,” Netzhammer said.