The three most prominent names in Marquette County bowling circles showed last week at Ishpeming's Country Lanes why they're such prolific big-score shooters.
A perfect 300 game and a three-game series of at least 800 are both U.S. Bowling Congress honor scores. Rolling either of these would be a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment for probably 97 or 98 percent of the bowlers in the country.
But Justin Stephens, Rod Burdick and Steve Windahl are near the head of the class of the tiny minority that make up the rest.
Going back two weeks, Stephens just missed an 800 with a 796 series in the Tuesday Miller Genuine Draft Major League he is secretary-treasurer of, which included a 279-280 finish.
A week later, the 33-year-old Negaunee resident opened the same league with a near-perfect 299, leaving a single pin on his last ball to miss 300, and finishing with a "paltry" 730 to give him a 239 average after three weeks this season.
If that wasn't enough, in the same league session as Stephens' 299, Burdick put together 30 strikes in 35 shots for 805. It was the 45-year-old Negaunee resident's first night bowling this season.
Then a night later in the Country Trio League on Wednesday, Windahl rounded out the honor parade with a 300 game, also on the 45-year-old Ishpeming resident's first night bowling this season. It was the middle game of a 793 series.
These guys sometimes frustrate me, but for a reason I can only envy - they've had so many of these scores, they don't worry about whether they get publicity for them anymore.
You see, Stephens has 19 perfect games and 11 800s in the 15 years he's been an adult bowler. He's a Port Huron native who moved here when he started attending Northern Michigan University right out of high school at age 18.
Windahl, a lifelong Ishpeming-area resident, is the all-time leader for bowling these scores in Marquette County, with 26 300s and 21 800s.
Then there's Burdick. While he's done most of his bowling around Iron Mountain, he now has two 300s and two 800s since moving to Marquette County about three years ago.
That gives him career numbers of 54 perfect games and "right around" 30 800s - he's not exactly sure on the latter number.
Burdick's 805 consisted of games of 267, 249 and 289 with his 15-pound Track 505A reactive resin ball.
"It goes pretty clean through the front of the lane and has a strong arc," he told me later last week.
Translated, that means the ball goes nice and straight at the start of its path down the lane, waiting till it isn't far from the pins before making a hard, but not-too-sharp left turn into the strike pocket between the head pin and 3-pin.
"I had four 10-pins and a 2-pin," he also said about his only five shots that weren't strikes on Wednesday.
Burdick opened with eight strikes, missing a 10-pin in the ninth before striking out in the 10th.
A "Dutch 200" start to the second game - about four or five frames of alternating strikes and spares - ended with a long strike string and another 10-pin on the final ball.
The last game was his best shot at 300, as he started with 10 strikes before a 2-pin popped up in the middle of the 10th frame.
Windahl, meanwhile, used a 16-pound Brunswick Fury resin ball for perfection in his middle game after starting with 215 and ending with 278.
He actually had two 300s worth of strikes in a row - the 300 was just 12 of his 24 consecutive strikes spanning from late in the opening game through to the eighth frame of Game 3.
The string ended with a 4-9 split. But he picked up this makeable yet still tricky combination after missing it in the first game.
The head coach of the Ishpeming-Negaunee high school bowling team said he got a little coaching himself from Country Lanes manager Clay Sandberg, who was working rather than bowling that night.
"I'm so busy with my kids" - sons Jordan and Tyler attend Ishpeming High School and are bowlers, of course - "and everything else I have going that this is the only league I have time for," Steve Windahl told me minutes after his Trio League was done.
"I can get in, bowl for about an hour and 20 minutes or an hour and 30 minutes, and be done and out of here."
And a 300 definitely won't slow him down, unless this reporter intercepts him with an interview request.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.