MEDFORD, Ore. – After time in the service and a long career in the mills, at 78 year-old, Jerome Lee would just assume sit back in his easy chair. Instead, he’s bowling at a level above people half his age.
“At some point you’re going to have to fall off,” his friend Randy Cochran said. “I mean, you just can’t do this until you’re 150 years old.”
Jerome Lee is more than halfway there so it’s best not to count him out. He’s still bowling at a very high level.
“You wouldn’t anticipate anybody in their 70’s to be able to compete at a level that kids compete at today,” Cochran said. “I mean, he’s floored everybody’s expectations at this point.”
That’s not to say age isn’t a factor.
“It seems like the speed on my ball has slowed down,” Lee said.”I get tired real quick… My joints and knees and so forth, they hold me back quite a bit.”
While his body holds him back, he still keeps bowling and not only because he wants to. Nina, his wife of 54 years, continues to push Jerome along.
“Without Nina, Jerome is another bowler,” Cochran said. “He needs somebody like Nina to keep him going the way he goes.”
“If not he’d sit behind the TV or sit behind the computer,” Nina Lee said. and I think he should be out bowling so that’s what we do.”
Nina was there from the beginning of Jerome’s career in the late 1950’s
“When we go to tournaments, I always pay the entry fee,” Nina said. “I always write the scores down, and see how the other guys are doing.”
Yet Nina is one of the main reasons Jerome never became a professional bowler.
“I thought about it for awhile, but I had a wife and two daughters at home,” Jerome said, “and I didn’t think going out on the tour was a wise decision.”
So he remained an amateur, working a regular day job until 16 years ago when he retired.
“I wanted those last few years of my days to be a relaxing sort, but I don’t know if it’s turned out that way,” Jerome said.
“Why do you think that is?” Brandon Kamerman asked.
Bowling,” Jerome said.
He’s 78 years-old and still bowling. His body is not as capable as it used to be, but he still has an edge over his competition.
“He’s got a very good mind and really studied the game,” Nina said. “He won’t do anything unless he does it well. He’s always been that kind of a person.”
“When I first got into tournament bowling, I didn’t realize the psychological effects of little things. I was bowling him in a grand finals event, and I would put my towel on the telescore, and when I got up to bowl the next time, his towel would be on top of mine. I’m thinking, ‘What a dork. Why couldn’t you put your towel over there?’ I realized after a while, he was doing it on purpose, and it got to me.”
He’s 78 years-old, his body is slowing down, but his mind keeps working, and the pins keep falling.