It's rare to see a bowler or athlete in any sport reach his peak at the age of 72. Dick Otto, no stranger to competitive bowling, did exactly that this past season. Otto has competed in Parma, Ohio, where he used to reside, and also at Neffer's Lanes in Homosassa. He hovered around a 200 average for some time now before he spent his first season in Hernando County and Spring Hill Lanes. But Otto began to ascend into elite company on the lanes, beginning with his first U.S. Bowling Congress honor score in August. He tossed a 297 game to start off his evening in one of the first weeks of league play. He followed that game with consecutive 200s and a 734 series.
"I didn't know much about Dick (for most of the season) except that he had come down from Ohio," Monday Night Men's League teammate Ciro Verdi said. "The first night we bowled, his very first game was a 276 — he's all right in my book."
Still, Otto or any of his teammates, couldn't have known that was a sign of things to come. Powering along for most of the season with high scores and his highest-ever scoring average, Otto was satisfied.
Everything changed May 5.
In the midst of another good night knocking down pins, Otto began to feel pains in his chest. It was just mild discomfort, but enough to concern the retired senior. Upon examination by his doctor, it was determined that he would need an angioplasty, which is the technique of mechanically widening a narrowed or totally obstructed blood vessel.
"I feel good now," Otto said, "but it was definitely a scare."
Otto did his best to live his life normally and move on before what many cardiologists refer to as a routine procedure. However, he did one better only a week later. On May 12, Otto threw his first perfect game during the Monday Night Men's League at Spring Hill Lanes.
"I ended up having three stents put in the artery in the back of my heart," Otto said. "Ironically, I felt no pain at all when I shot my first 300."
The meeting with perfection came in the night's second game, following an opening 259. He then wrapped up the evening with a 198 while trying to overcome the rush of excitement from the previous game. The scores gave Otto a 757 series for the evening, one of his nine 700s this season.
After more than 50 years of competitive bowling, Otto finally reached the top of the mountain and will forever have the jewel-encrusted ring on his finger to commemorate that night.
With the support of his wife, Dee, and his ability to commit to bowling as a hobby in retirement, he shows no signs of slowing down.
"He gives me hope," Verdi, 69, said. "I haven't bowled my first 300 yet, so it makes me ecstatic to see him do something like that."
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