North Carolina bowler perfect again at 2019 USBC Open Championships

LAS VEGAS - Last week, Lee Vanderhoef of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, was "Facebook famous" for something he did a decade ago.

Instead of being satisfied just being a hashtag, the 40-year-old right-hander found his way back into the spotlight at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, where he now is record-book famous as well.

Vanderhoef rolled 12 consecutive strikes during his team event Thursday at the South Point Bowling Plaza to become the third bowler in tournament history to record three perfect games on the championship lanes.

VanderhoefLee2009OCForWeb250x140He achieved the feat for the first time in 2009, also in Las Vegas, and added his name to the short list of bowlers with multiple 300s during the 2013 tournament in Reno, Nevada.

His perfect game Thursday was the 12th of the 2019 event and earns him a place in the record book alongside Craig Szplett of Beecher, Illinois (1996, 2005, 2013), and David Cirigliano of Phoenix (1998, 2007, 2016).

"I was probably more nervous in the last frame today than I have been in a long time, if not ever, until I threw the Brooklyn," Vanderhoef said. "The pressure was off after that, but it was important to me to follow it with a good shot. After getting a break like that, it meant a lot to throw the last one well."

Social media still was catching on at the time of Vanderhoef's first run at perfection on the biggest stage in bowling, and posting video only had been a thing for about two years, so it took some time for word to spread.

Within minutes of his record-tying performance Thursday, friends and family across the world got to share in his success, including his crossover strike in the final frame.

"This is pretty shocking, and now I need one more, I guess," Vanderhoef joked about becoming the tournament's first bowler with four 300s. "Honestly, we just come out to have fun now, but it's pretty cool for something crazy like that to happen. I did get a little love along the way, but sometimes you have to get a few breaks."

Though he may not consider himself to be the top-tier competitor he was as a full-time professional bowler, Vanderhoef has a nice head start toward a seventh consecutive all-events total of 1,880 or better. His opening set Thursday included games of 180 and 201 for a 681 series.

He'll be back on the lanes for doubles and singles on Friday at 10 a.m. Eastern, and he'll be partnered with his girlfriend, Kim Weiss.

While his outlook on the sport might be a little different than 10 years ago, it doesn't mean he's any less appreciative of the event or his accomplishment. He's just seeing the tournament from a different perspective.

Some bowlers compete for the Eagles and prize money, others enjoy the event for the travel and host cities and many simply enjoy the camaraderie and time with friends and family.

"I was a bowler then, but now I'm more here to spend time with the family, have a good time and enjoy everyone being together on the lanes," said Vanderhoef, who was joined for his 16th tournament appearance by Weiss and her parents. "It's a different perspective, but, for right now, it's a less about chasing Eagles and a more about a vacation and everyone having a fun time. Honestly, this one might be the most special because they all got to be a part of it."

Entering his 2019 Open Championships campaign, Vanderhoef was one of 30 bowlers in 116 years of tournament history with multiple 300s. Two more added their names to the list with 300s earlier in the 2019 event. VanderhoefLee2013OCForWeb250x140 

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