Melvin Ford of Hinesville has been bowling since he was about 9 years old. But it took him roughly 40 years to accomplish the sport’s ultimate goal — a perfect game.
Ford hit that goal last Wednesday at Marne Lanes on Fort Stewart.
Born in Louisville, Ford was drafted and served in the Vietnam War. After the war he was stationed at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and bought his first bowling ball in 1970. He said that bowling ball, which he still has today, has toured with him around the world.
While assigned to Izmir, Turkey, Ford bowled in the Mediterranean Sports Conference tournament and finished second in all events. He also bowled for a travel league while stationed in Germany.
“My last overseas assignment was in Vicenza, Italy, in 1986. I was the SETAF (South Eastern Task Force) champ,” Ford said.
He was assigned to Fort Stewart in 1978, taking up residence in Hinesville and retiring from the service in 1989. He said he kept bowling at the monthly tournament held at Victory Lanes — now Marne Lanes — until he had a setback.
“I had a heart attack in 1993,” Ford said. “I quit bowling for eight years.”
Ford said his daughter finally convinced him to start bowling, and he picked up the sport again in 2001 in Statesboro. He went back to Marne Lanes one year later when he heard the Professional Bowling Association held tournaments on post.
“I decided then I was going to be a pro,” he said.
He kept competing and earned a high-enough average to be able to apply for a PBA card.
“I applied and was accepted,” he said. “I bowled in about three or four PBA regionals a year. I cashed my first year finishing 12th. I cashed once or twice each year.”
Ford said he nearly hit the perfect 300 four year ago at Marne Lanes.
“I bowled a 299 … It was a heart-breaker; the last ball left the 6 pin (up),” he said.
But last week, Ford showed up for his weekly Wednesday night game and went up against teammate Tim Fair.
“I was trying to make sure he didn’t beat me in the first game,” Ford said. “The next thing I knew, we both had the first nine strikes. In the 10th frame, Tim had a solid pocket seven pin. He picked it up and struck on the next ball for 279. I knew I had to strike on the first ball of the 10th to beat him. I rolled it and got a strike. I got up on the next ball and rolled it and got the 11th strike. I got up and was standing on the approach, and the ball felt a little heavier. My legs didn’t seem as steady as in the last 11 strikes.”
Using his long- time trusted bowling ball, Ford let it roll.
“And I could tell it was going to be a solid hit,” he said. “When all the pins went into the pit, I was elated as if a great weight had been lifted from me. After 40 plus years of bowling, I finally got that perfect game.”