300s Company

Former Vandy star Hamilton discusses program's first 300 game

by Rod Williamson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Brittni Hamilton LaGeorge was a three-time first-team All-American, the only Commodore to win the Intercollegiate Singles Championship and represent the United States five times on Team USA.

She also had the program’s only 300 game – a masterpiece bowled during the 2011-12 season – until Angelica Anthony recently accomplished the feat at the Dezy Strong Classic. LaGeorge is now an academic counselor in Vanderbilt’s athletic department and recently visited with VUCommodores.com for 12 “frames” about her thoughts on the historic feats:

VUCommodores: Why do you think the public values the 300 game so much?

LaGeorge: “There are very few things in sports where you can say you are perfect. There are very few stats across all sports where you can say, ‘that person is perfect.’ In bowling we have that luxury of being perfect. That’s why people’s heads turn, they know it represents perfection in the sport. To know for 12 consecutive shots you were perfect, that’s hard to say in any sport.”

What is more difficult, a 300 or an 800 series?

“I think an 800 series is more difficult – both are very hard. An 800 requires three straight games of near perfection.”

Why is a 300 so difficult – is it mental or physical?

“There are few things that you can do in a sport that are considered perfection and the fact that you know you are getting close to saying you were perfect for an instant weighs more heavily than the physical aspect of bowling.”

Is there any one most common thing that breaks up the possible 300’s?

“Outside the mental piece that I just touched on, to bowl a 300 you have to have a bit of luck on your side. The luck of having the pins fall. Why I think the mental game is more important than the physical is that you can throw a shot perfectly every time and the pins might not all fall down. You still need some bowling luck.”

Is there usually one spot in the 300 game where strikes are easier to accumulate?

“Probably early on in the game. You are yet not thinking about your string of strikes. You don’t yet have seven in a row, eight in a row when you kinda start thinking about what the end may be. In college you are in the heat of the moment, adrenaline is flowing, just starting a match and once you get further along you might get, ‘Wow, this could happen.’ ”

We assume strikes in the 10th come harder than a strike in the first or second.

“For sure. Two of the hardest strikes in a 300 are the ninth frame and the first shot in the 10th. Once you get that first strike in the 10th you can take a deep breath for a second and hope for the best with the next two.”

What frame does a top bowler start thinking 300 is possible?

“A lot of the top bowlers will probably tell you they are not thinking about it. Usually in college bowling you are focusing on winning the match. You are still in a match, still cheering on your teammates. You are probably thinking about it in the ninth frame and you may not have even noticed you have that string going.”

What do you try to think about when you have a 300 going and does it work?

“I’m trying to think about the next shot, not the big picture. You can’t get to 300 without the next shot. Just break it down and make it as simple as possible, all the little physical things you need to do. I always tended to have a song stuck in my head. When I got on the approach I would just be singing that portion of the song to myself to keep me from thinking about other things.”

Is 300 easier on certain lane conditions?

“I’m going to say the middle to end of the day will produce more 300’s, not necessarily on fresh oil. For a lot of people you are figuring out how the lanes are playing as the day goes on, trying to read how the lanes are breaking down. You tend to see 300 games shot later in the day as opposed to right out of the gate.”

How many sanctioned 300’s have you had and how many “close” calls have you had with 300?

“I’ve had eight 300’s. People can’t be counting every 300 they had in practice, not that there are very many of those either. As far as close calls, not as many as you would think. I had more times when I had one of those unlucky breaks we talked about in the middle of games – a 9-spare and a 279 – more so those than getting to the 10th with a string.”

You’ve bowled thousands of games – is the Vanderbilt 300 one of the few that you remember?

“I definitely remember that one. I don’t know that I’ll ever forget that one. It’s one of the very few games that I truly remember much about – my first one, obviously, was in high school. The Vandy 300 was right up there with that one, doing it with your team there.”

What makes some bowlers strike throwers?

“If we had the answer to that question we’d make a lot of money! I think it’s an accumulation of a lot of things, some of it is your technique and the amount of work you put into it. Are you able to repeat shots? (Referring to Anthony’s strike strings of 17 and 16 on successive weekends) That tells me Angelica is very good at repeating shots. A lot is the mental game, if you have a strong mental game you are going to see more strikes than the average bowler.”