HIBBING — Kevin VonderHaar has been bowling for 54 years.
The owner of the Hibbing Bowling Center has 12 300 games to his credit, 10 series of 800 and too many 700 series to count off the top of his head.
There isn’t much VonderHaar hasn’t accomplished at the bowling alley, but just over one week ago, VonderHaar accomplished a first — bowling two 300 games in the same evening. He finished with an 813 series. His high series is 879.
It was during the Wednesday night Commercial League, with his Hibbing Bowling Center teammates Mike Sparby, Brian Timmerman, Dan Pierce and John Pierce.
After rolling a 213 in his first game, including five-straight strikes to finish that game, VonderHaar proceeded to roll 24 straight strikes to accomplish the feat.
The 29-straight strikes started in the eighth frame of the first game, and VonderHaar got on a roll.
“I moved a couple of boards over, hit the spot and everything was locked in,” VonderHaar said. “Like they say, ‘When you get into that zone, you’re in that zone.’ I didn’t get nervous. When you get in that zone, you don’t get nervous. You stay there.
“When I bowled in Nationals, they said my knees were knocking, but when I threw 10, 11 and 12 in the first game, it was automatic. That’s how it went the whole time. When you get into that situation, you have the feeling in your head, but your body just goes through it. When I rolled the 879, I didn’t have that many strikes in a row.”
When game two rolled around, the strikes kept coming. The other bowlers started to take notice.
“With the way the situation is with COVID, it’s one team per lane,” VonderHaar said. “I noticed more of a difference in the third game after I got six in a row. That’s when they started to congregate, but I kept doing the same things.
“I didn’t do anything different.”
VonderHaar’s normal routine is going out and having a cigarette between throws.
“I do that all of the time, but I’m always back in time,” he said. “I wanted to keep it going, but I don’t worry about it. If you get it, you get it.”
VonderHaar got through the second game, then in the third game, once he got through the fifth end, bowling a second 300 seemed more probable than ever.
“Everything was going so well,” VonderHaar said. “I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to do this.’ I think I’m the first one on the Iron Range to do this. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t happened in Virginia or Grand Rapids. It may have happened in Duluth.”
In that 10th end, VonderHaar shook off all of the pressure and calmly rolled his way into history.
“When I get to the 10th frame, I always walk backward,” VonderHaar said. “I don’t look at the people. I walked straight back. My body was numb doing what I did, especially after rolling 29 strikes in a row.
“When I got done, it was awesome. I couldn’t believe I had done two of them. I can’t imagine the people who have done it three times. When I bowled the 879, I only missed three strikes in that series. It was unbelievable.”
VonderHaar is preparing for the National Tournament in Las Vegas. He will be bowling on May 9-10.
That would be a great time to roll two more 300 games, but he has a more realistic goal in mind.
“I just want to bowl a 650 in every series, if I could,” VonderHaar said.