ROCHELLE — With one shot remaining for a chance at history, T-Byrd Lanes owner Dan Wyka calmly went through his normal routine as dozens of close friends and fellow league bowlers watched the 60-year-old Rochelle resident attempt to complete the first perfect game of his career.
Armed with the Motiv Golden Jackal he’s owned for about three years, Wyka showed dominance over his first two games of league action Monday evening, rolling 246 in the opening game before striking in the first nine frames of his second game to shoot 267. Wyka continued to strike in the third game, staying perfect through his first ball in the 10th frame.
It was then that Wyka could feel the noise calming inside the house as bowlers stopped playing and watched from a distance as he looked to close out the perfect game. With his head down and his focus solely on the lanes, Wyka confidently struck on his 11th ball before stepping up once again and throwing perhaps the biggest shot of his lifelong bowling career.
“After I threw my 10th strike, I didn’t look at anybody when I turned around,” Wyka said. “I looked at the ball return and waited for my ball to come back so I could clean it like I always do. I set my pace, threw my next ball and I struck again. I turned around again and kept my head down because I could tell people had stopped bowling. I wanted to stay focused, so I went back to the ball return, cleaned my ball, set my feet and threw one of my best balls of the night.”
Wyka’s final ball of the evening was a no-doubter, with all 10 pins falling back into the pit as the number 300 appeared on the scoreboard. With perfection achieved, Wyka raised his fists to the ceiling in excitement as longtime friend and teammate Jim Lyles ran onto the approach for a warm embrace. The perfect game secured an 813 series, the first 800 series of Wyka’s career.
“The place just erupted,” Wyka said. “To finally bowl a 300 and an 800 series at 60 years old was really exciting. It meant everything to see all the bowlers come down and congratulate me. We all support each other, especially when someone has a chance to shoot 300. I’m happy that our bowlers are back and we’re able to bowl again… I wasn’t as nervous as much as I was in the past. I’m not sure if was because I was bowling well or not, but I didn’t get nervous this time.”
When Wyka stepped onto the approach in the 10th frame, it was the first time he had a chance to shoot 300 in roughly 12 years. But for Wyka, who’s previous high score was 299 and who’d carried multiple potential perfect games into the final frame in the past, achieving perfection in his bowling center while nearly 50 league bowlers watched was a memory he’ll cherish forever.
“To be at my home and to do it with the people I’ve been bowling with, week after week, for the last several years really meant a lot,” Wyka said. “We weren’t really focusing on throwing a perfect game. My teammates and I were joking and laughing all night and nobody brought it up. I was just throwing the ball and I think that’s why it was easier for me to stay focused.”