Even after rolling strikes in each of the first five frames, Geoff Peckham didn’t like his chances.
“Game in and game out, I know where I stand,” said Peckham, 56, a civil engineer who lives in Frederick.
On Saturday afternoon at Terrace Lanes, Peckham happened to be sharing Lane 8 with bowling legend Johnny Petraglia.
And while Petraglia, 72, gave him a small opening, leaving the 6 and 10 pins in the fifth frame and then another pin in the sixth, Peckham could not quite keep pace. He finished with a 223, next to Petraglia’s 245.
“I never thought I would meet him in person,” Peckham said.
On this day, the bowler best equipped to go shot for shot with Petraglia was rolling it a few lanes away and not even old enough to drive.
Tyler Barnhart, a 13-year-old who made the trip with his family from Cumberland, matched Petraglia with a 245 in the first game.
“You just have to keep making spares. You can’t leave any pins. Eventually, the strikes will come,” said Barnhart, who has rolled as high as a 279. “I just stayed consistent and did what I had to do.”
Barnhart got into bowling by accompanying his grandmother, Vikki, enough when she bowled in leagues. The Barnharts frequently make the trip from their home in Western Maryland to bowl at Terrace Lanes.
Eventually, Tyler decided to give it a try and quickly became very good.
“The kid throws a nice ball,” Petraglia said. “He’s pretty good.”
Petraglia is a Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer who was born in Brooklyn, New York, and now resides in Jackson Township, New Jersey.
Now 53 years removed from the first of his 14 PBA titles, he is one of two bowlers to win at least one regular or Senior PBA Tour title in six different decades. The other is Dick Weber.
Last year, Petraglia announced his retirement from the regular PBA Tour. He still competes in eight to 10 events per year on the Senior PBA Tour.
“I can’t compete with the 25- and 30-year-olds anymore,” he said. “Even on the Senior Tour, the guys are a little too young for me.”
Petraglia, still the only PBA bowler to win three consecutive televised tournaments, has kept himself in good enough shape to compete through a martial-arts regimen he learned from his platoon sergeant while serving in the Vietnam War.
He was called into service as a 19-year-old in 1966, a week after winning his first PBA Tour title in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
“Mentally and physically, you stay completely flexible [through karate],” he said. “And from a mental standpoint, you are just much better off. It worked like a charm for me.”
Petraglia’s appearance in Frederick was facilitated by Terrace Lanes general manager Joel Alligood, a 53-year-old Long Island native and a reputable bowler himself who once carried a 230 average.
“I not only followed [Johnny’s career] and am a fan of his career, I have actually bowled against him and lost money to him,” Alligood said. “He would bowl in some of the tournaments on Long Island. I beat him once. We are talking one game. The rest of the time, he was taking the rest of the money out of my pocket.”
Prior to bowling three games with the regular Saturday crowd at Terrace Lanes, Petraglia spoke and answered questions for roughly 30 minutes. There were 48 people that pre-registered to bowl alongside him, according to Alligood.
Some of the bowlers were using the Johnny Petraglia LT-48 ball that was recently brought back by Brunswick Corporation, which has sponsored Petraglia since 1971.
One of the bowlers, Bruce Jones of Frederick, credited the LT-48 ball for significantly raising his average.
Petraglia, meanwhile, used to do about 50 of these types of clinics across the country in a given year. Now, he does about 10.
He said, “The best thing is, in most cases, after you watch a person bowl for a little bit, you can tell them one little thing and it will raise their average by about 10 pins. Then, when I run into people, they’ll come up and say, ‘I have been doing what you told me to do, and my average has gone up 20 [pins].’ They get excited. It’s fun.”
One excited bowler Saturday was Poolesville resident Melissa Rose, who knocked down the three pins she needed to pick up a spare, using the new hook that Petraglia had taught her.
“I am a beginner bowler,” Rose said. “I have always thrown a pretty straight ball. But Johnny made a little adjustment with my hand position and told me to keep my wrist straight, and I threw a hook. It worked. I never thought I had the strength to throw one before.”