Jeremy Sonnenfeld was the first bowler in the 101-year history of the American Bowling Congress to score a sanctioned 900 series. Then a 21-year-old sophomore at Nebraska, he rolled his perfect 300-300-300 series at Sun Valley Lanes on Feb. 2, 1997. He spoke with Ken Hambleton this week.
There was talk of you becoming the Tiger Woods of bowling when you performed the 900 feat. What happened?
I got a lot of mileage out of that 900. Bowling got a lot of publicity and I think it played a role in helping give bowling a better image. We still have a long way to go.
What are you doing now?
I am the pro shop manager at Sport Bowl (Sioux Falls, S.D.), where I worked as a kid. I love it here and there’s a steady paycheck.
Do you remember the night you rolled the 900?
I was on. I was feeling pretty good and the ball was rolling really well. It was unreal. I was using a Columbia Pearlized Pulse ball. It’s in my basement in a glass case. When friends come over for card games, they sometimes talk about it. I did a whole lot of public appearances, a lot of interviews. The New York Times, USA Today, the BBC. It was amazing and a lot of fun. That night, I was in the Husker Junior tournament and bowled the first game on lanes 11 and 12, the second on 13 and 14 and the last one on 15 and 16. Nothing was really a lucky break that night. I was just getting the pins down.
Have you come close to a 900 since?
I had an 840 and an 830 series but nothing like that. It was one of those special days.
Since you were the first, there have been seven others perform the perfect series feat. Why has it become more common?
The lanes have changed. The balls have changed. It’s like golf. A lot of new technology has helped a lot of people. I think that’s because people see bowling as entertainment more than a sport these days. When they go out for a night of bowling, they want the strikes and the conditions have made it easier to get those strikes. We’re seeing guys who had 180 averages, get up to 200 and 210 averages because of new technology.
What happened after that sophomore year at Nebraska?
I transferred to Western Illinois and got my degree in business. I earned All-America honors and had a great time. I got to bowl on Team USA in a bunch of international tournaments and do a whole lot of traveling. It was great. But Lincoln will always have a special place in my heart.
Do you keep much memorabilia of the first 900 series ever?
I gave the 900 ring to my mom because I’d probably lose it. I keep a couple of articles from that night. But I’m not a big fan of awards. I know what I did. It’s fun to talk about even to this day. It’s just hard to think it’s been almost 10 years.