Tim Emery has 13 perfect 300 games to his credit, but it’s his latest that separates him from the rest of the world’s bowlers.
The Ewing resident knocked down all 10 pins in 12 straight frames in a world-record 74.85 seconds on June 2. The previous record of 86.9 by New York resident Ben Ketola didn’t even last two months.
“It’s pretty cool,” Emery said. “It’s a little overwhelming.”
Emery used 10 bowling balls and 10 lanes to accomplish the feat. He threw one ball down a lane, then would move to his right to the next lane and throw the next ball. He did that until he’d thrown 10 balls, then dashed back to the first lane to throw the 11th frame and slid to the next lane on the right to complete the perfect game at the West Hunterdon Lanes in Frenchtown, where he works.
“Probably the biggest thing is the pace,” Emery said. “A lot of bowlers set themselves. They focus on their mark on the lane. When you’re trying to bowl a 300 in under 86 seconds, you don’t really have time to set yourself, you don’t have time to look at anything. You get the ball and you just hope you hit it in the spot you’ve been hitting it.”
Emery hadn’t known about the record until some friends had tagged him in a Facebook video of Ketola’s record-setting bowling. Ketola had broken pro bowler Tom Daugherty’s record of 1:50.99 that stood since 2015. Emery tried to set the record a few times unsuccessfully. When the alleys were empty, he started an attempt but customers came in and he had to stop his pursuit. He took about a half-dozen attempts at it.
“I had tried it a few times, and I was out of breath and sweating, you name it,” Emery said. “I got a lot of respect for that guy after I did it. I thought, it’s a lot harder than it looked.”
Emery felt he was in a rhythm as he started the record attempt, but it almost ended a few frames later. He hesitated after he threw the ball on the fourth frame for an extra peek that can be seen on the video of his record performance.
“I have watched that video probably 50 times, and the fourth shot was really close to missing,” Emery said. “Actually, I would say I lost maybe two seconds. I looked back. I thought I missed it right off my hand. I hesitated. My buddy who filmed it, he goes, ‘Just don’t look back, keep going.’ I gotta look back. That’s just natural to do.”
The rest of the time when Emery looked back, he saw 10 pins being knocked down time and again. Seeing ball after ball go just where he aimed them was one reason he was confident he could set a new record.
“I’m very consistent,” he said. “I’m really good with my marks. Bowling is hand-eye coordination, so where you look nine out of 10 times is where the ball goes if you’re a good bowler. It’s kind of crazy to say, but every time I went to throw a shot, I was always looking at this certain mark. Somehow I ended up hitting 12 times within 74 seconds.”
To do so, Emery used 10 different bowling balls. Nine of them are his own that he has accumulated, but he needed a 10th ball to pull off the record.
“On my ninth shot, I two-handed it,” Emery said. “The reason I two-handed my ninth shot was I only have nine bowling balls and the one is my friend’s, who is a little younger than me so I don’t fit in it.”
Emery drew additional attention for the shoes he wore during the record. It’s noticeable that he had one bowling shoe on and one Timberland boot.
“I wound up destroying my bowling shoes right towards the end of the season, about a month before I did that video,” Emery said. “I was trying to get new bowling shoes to do it, but I didn’t get around to it, so I decided to wear one bowling shoe and a boot.
“Being that I’ve gotten so much publicity just from the two different shoes, I’d probably try to do it again with one bowling shoe and a Timberlane again.”
Doing it as fast as he could without his regular bowling shoes actually added to the difficulty of his achievement.
Emery is applying to have his record recognized officially by the Guinness Book of World Records.
“If you watch what he did, he was slipping and sliding the whole time,” said Tony Colatruglio of Big Daddy’s Pro Shop in Green Brook and Aberdeen. “He was moving so fast and slipping all over the place. It was a little bit of a miracle. That was his day.”
Colatruglio coaches Emery, and still drills his bowling balls, but he didn’t coach him on the record. That was something that came about at the urging of Emery’s friends. He’d never had any experience bowling for speed.
“I bowl on Mondays and Wednesdays in the winter—after those leagues, me and my buddy would hang out there until 11 and we’d turn all the lanes on and we’d do first one to strike on every lane wins. But you can miss. You didn’t go back to zero, you just stayed on that lane until you struck and then you kept going.”
Emery is applying to have his record recognized officially by the Guinness Book of World Records. In the meantime, he’s thinking about lowering his record time, but also busy planning to make his debut on the Professional Bowling Association tour. He earned his PBA card this spring.
Emery had been hearing from teammates in the adult leagues to go pro, and he’d had friends suggest that he apply for the PBA. Emery wanted to make sure that he felt ready.
“A lot of going for it is self-confidence. You’re going to be going up against the best in the world,” he said. “There’s a reason they’re pro bowlers. If you think they’re gods and you can’t beat them, there’s no point in you doing it.”
Emery said that he met the criteria about three years ago, but didn’t feel confident until this year. “I wait every year for the county tournament and I always bowl badly, I don’t know why,” he said. “It’s like I psyche myself out. This year I bowled really well.”
Emery’s father, Wayne, introduced him to bowling when he was 8 years old. Initially, he wanted nothing to do with the sport.
“It took him a while,” Wayne added. “He struggled for years. He really just figured it out on his own. Now he’s got it down to a science.”
Emery was a standout bowler for the Hunterdon Central Regional High School team where he bowled with his brother Ryan. That time period is when Emery began to embrace bowling.
“Until I was 10, I didn’t like it,” he said. “Then I got better and I started learning on my own. My dad helped me a bit. By the time I was 12 or 13, I started bowling 200s.”
He said that his bowling improved a lot during his junior and senior years.
“It had to do with bowling more. I was only bowling one day a week when I was young, on Saturday mornings,” Emery said. “As soon as I got into high school, I would be bowling every single day in practice, then we’d have matches and I’d bowl Saturdays.”
Now 23 years old, Emery has experience and maturity on his side. It’s helped him become a steadier bowler.
“He was good, but he had a temper to him,” Wayne said. “Once he calmed down and figured it out, he made it more of a science activity. He has the physical tools to it.”
Emery will continue to work at improving his consistency through the summer before he aims to make his debut. It’s the next big thing on his agenda.
“I’m waiting for one on the East Coast, a couple hour drive and you can hang out for the weekend,” Emery said. “Also, being that I work at a bowling alley, I want to start practicing some of the special oil patterns they put down. The self-confidence is there, I just have to practice a little more. I would think by September I’ll be in my first tournament as a PBA member.”
Aside from focusing on starting his pro career, Emery is looking at trying to lower his record time.
“I want to do all 12 lanes,” Emery said. “I’m fortunate to have 12 lanes at the alley I work at, so it works in my favor when I want to do something like that. I only ran back because that’s what the other guy had done. I didn’t want to break that record doing all 12 lanes to have them say, ‘Well, you did it quicker because he only had 10 lanes to do it on.’”