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79-year-old Timber Pines resident bowls perfect game at Spring Hill Lanes

Franklin “Jack” Voak, 79, of Spring Hill bowled his first-ever perfect game last month at Spring Hill Lanes.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Franklin “Jack” Voak, 79, of Spring Hill bowled his first-ever perfect game last month at Spring Hill Lanes.

SPRING HILL — With a lifetime of athletic achievements, no one would have faulted Franklin "Jack" Voak had he not gotten too excited about his first perfect game as a bowler.

But that wasn't the case for the 79-year-old retiree.

The Timber Pines resident, who first began bowling when he was 25, wasn't sure he would ever reach that ultimate goal.

"I never thought I'd get there at this age," Voak said. "But it was sure fun once I did."

Although he remains active with jogging, golf and bowling, Voak has a bad back and is a far cry from the athlete he has been for most of his life. His accolades are many, including induction into two halls of fame.

Voak was a star baseball, football and basketball player at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institution, a private Catholic high school in Buffalo, N.Y., and was nicknamed "Captain" because of the leadership roles he took. In 1999, he was inducted with the sixth class into the St. Joseph's Sports Hall of Fame.

After high school, he wasn't concerned with continuing his education, although he did receive serious interest from Niagara University and Canisius College. He decided to continue his athletic career by barnstorming with traveling baseball and basketball teams around New York, Canada and Pennsylvania.

"I wasn't a real big fan of school," Voak said. "We'd earn about $15 a game, which was a lot of money back then."

Many of those he played with at that time were collegiate stars. To get an idea about the level of competition, Voak mentioned one of the players he used to play basketball with — Doyle Alexander. Alexander, a two-sport star in college, ended up pitching for 19 years in the Major Leagues and is best known as the player the Atlanta Braves traded to get John Smoltz in 1987.

When Voak stopped traveling at 25, he began working as a heavy equipment operating engineer and took up bowling five or six times a week. He averaged about 200, but the nearest he came to a perfect game was a 297.

"It was blood and guts back then," Voak said. "I am enjoying it far more now."

Voak balanced his time between work, bowling and playing fast-pitch softball for many years. As late as age 60, he was competing for a fast-pitch team in Naples. His exploits on the softball diamond were so well known in his home state that he was elected to the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame in 1981.

He and his wife, Betty, moved to Timber Pines 12 years ago. Since then, he has done his best to stay active. He was featured in the Timber Pines newsletter earlier this year for shooting a golf round of 78 two days after his 79th birthday.

"It's always an accomplishment to shoot your age," he said, "but I shot 78 when I was 78, and then I shot it again after I turned 79."

With some encouragement from friends in Timber Pines, Voak began bowling again six years ago after a 25-year hiatus. Timber Pines has a league that competes at Spring Hill Lanes on Thursday afternoons, and Voak felt comfortable competing with his neighbors.

Since coming back, he has been consistent, averaging 206 in 2004-05 and maintaining the same average last season.

When he rolled his 300 game last month, teammates and onlookers were as excited about his accomplishment as he was. Many had never seen a perfect game firsthand.

Jerry Sessa, a teammate of Voak's for the past three seasons, was especially impressed.

"This was the second perfect game I've ever seen," Sessa said. "When Jack is on, he's pretty hard to beat."

With all of Voak's athletic accomplishments over the years, there is one person who is rarely surprised by his feats. Voak said his wife might have had the most fitting comment when she found out about his latest exploit.

"My wife said to me, 'You've done all this stuff now. What do you have left?'

"I don't know if there is anything else," he said.

Fast facts

Franklin

"Jack" Voak

Age: 79

Resides: Timber Pines, Spring Hill

Hometown: Buffalo, N.Y.

Accomplishments: Member of the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame (1981); member of the St. Joseph's Sports Hall of Fame (1999); shot 78 at Timber Pines Country Club (2009); rolled perfect game at Spring Hill Lanes (2009)

79-year-old Timber Pines resident bowls perfect game at Spring Hill Lanes 11/11/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 16, 2009 11:38am]
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