Rolls perfect game in match against Wood-Ridge
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Ryan Donohue basically had no choice but to be a bowler. After all, his father, Rich, owns Bowl-Rite Lanes in Union City.
So when Ryan was just a toddler, Rich put a bowling ball in his hands.
“I guess I was about 2 or 3,” Ryan Donohue recalled. “I threw the ball with two hands.”
But Rich Donohue was strict about one aspect in young Ryan’s development.
“There were never any bumpers,” Ryan. “My Dad wouldn’t allow me to learn that way. I had to learn the right way. It was pretty hard to do. I just tried to throw it straight and hit the pins.”
Young Ryan had his instant motivation.
“Once I knew my father owned the lanes, I knew I could bowl all the time and get better,” Ryan said. “I liked it a lot right away. Just seeing my Dad bowl, seeing how good he was, I wanted to do that, too. He was my inspiration.”
Ryan played other sports growing up in Lyndhurst, like baseball and football.
“I like baseball,” said the 14-year-old Ryan, who said he played first base in Little League and travel baseball. “I’m pretty good at baseball, but I would say I’m a better bowler.”
So when Ryan enrolled at Lyndhurst High School last September, he knew he would try out for the bowling team. However, Lyndhurst has a history of having excellent bowling teams, having won three NJSIAA state sectional titles in the last four years and a second place finish overall last year among Group I schools.
Making the varsity team as a freshman would be a little bit of a chore.
“I was in a league where I was averaging 175-180 against guys the same age as me or older,” Donohue said. “That gave me a lot of confidence. When I was younger, I was a pretty inconsistent. I had to improve on that.”
Donohue improved enough to post an average close to 200 for the Golden Bears varsity.
In the third match of the season last Tuesday, Donohue and the Golden Bears faced Wood-Ridge at Wallington Lanes.
In the second game of the day, Donohue started to get that special feel, throwing five strikes in a row, then six, then seven.
“Around the sixth frame, I started to feel it, but I really wasn’t thinking that much about it,” Donohue said. “But by the ninth frame, I started saying to myself, `Wow, this can really happen.’ When I threw the first one in the 10th frame, my teammate Daijon Smith said, `C’mon, you have to finish on a good note.’”
Donohue threw the first strike in the 10th frame.
“I realized that it could really happen,” Donohue said.
The “it” being the elusive perfect game — 12 straight strikes, a 300 score.
“I wasn’t too nervous, but I got real serious,” Donohue said.
He threw the 11th straight strike with no problem, leaving him one strike shy of immortality.
“When it came to the last strike, I tried to block everything out of my mind,” Donohue said. “I was focused on hitting my mark one last time.”
When Donohue threw the final ball, he didn’t think he had it.
“The ball came out high,” Donohue said. “It wasn’t the best shot.”
Two pins remained up for a second.
“The four pin and the nine were the last to fall,” Donohue said.
After a second delay, the pins fell. Donohue had his perfect game, something that no one could ever take away.
“I did nothing at first, then fell to the ground,” Donohue said. “I heard a lot of screaming, then my teammates picked me up and pushed me into the crowd.”
Nearby was Rich Donohue. “I had no idea what was going on for the first six,” Rich Donohue said. “I really wasn’t paying attention. But by the 10th frame, I wasn’t moving from that one spot. When he threw the last one, it felt like forever. After the pins went down, I started walking over to him. I had a little tear in my eye. I gave him a big hug. You have no idea how proud I was of him.”
Rich Donohue, the avid bowler, got to the final strike four times and left one pin standing for a 299 score. He has never reached perfection like his son did.
For his efforts, Ryan Donohue has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week, the first honoree for the winter scholastic sports season.
Donohue has continued his fine bowling right away for the Lyndhurst varsity. He had a 224 game in another game last week.
“It did give me a lot of confidence,” Donohue said. “It was a very, very good feeling. To get a perfect game this soon, I’d have to say I’d never think I’d get it. This actually takes a lot of pressure off me. If I didn’t get it, I’d still be reaching for my goal.”
“It was really exciting,” Rich Donohue said. “Incredibly, when he was younger, he used to practice a lot more, like 20-to-30 games a week. Then, he didn’t practice. Now, all of a sudden, he wants to come more. I’ve been waiting for him to do something like this. It’s almost unreal, like he didn’t do it. I’ve taught a lot of kids over the years at the lanes, kids who average over 200. And here’s my son, doing something like this. It’s really amazing.”
And it’s a moment that no one will ever take away from Ryan Donohue. Perfection never goes away. He has a teammate, junior Jordan Lopez, who knows that feeling all too well. Lopez threw a perfect game last year in the Bergen County tournament. Having two perfect game bowlers on the same team is pretty special.