TERRE HAUTE —
What are the odds of sinking a hole-in-one in golf and bowling a 300 game, in a span of two days, at the age of 72?
According to several published sources, the odds of an average golfer making an ace is about 12,000 to 1, while the odds of an adult male bowling a perfect game is about 11,500 to 1.
What with doing both, the time constraint and age factor in the mix, those odds should be much, much higher. Astronomical?
Whatever the odds, Terre Haute resident Sherm “Big Daddy” Wilkins, as he is affectionately known, defied those odds by accomplishing both feats recently.
On Father’s Day, Wilkins recorded his first-ever hole-in-one using an 8-iron on the 105-yard No. 7 hole at Mark’s Par Three. The very next night, he rolled the fifth 300 game in his lengthy bowling career during league play at Vigo Bowl.
Superstitious is he? Not really. The perfect game was his first in the past 13 years.
“All my sons, son-in-laws and one of my grandsons took me out golfing for Father’s Day, along with a couple other friends,” Wilkins recalled.
“What was unique about it, they took me out and I made the hole-in-one. Then I came [to Vigo Bowl] Monday evening and my other grandson, who hadn’t been able to go golfing with us but he bowls with me on Monday night … so I was fortunate to bowl the 300 with him. I did it all with my family.”
Wilkins’ hole-in-one was indeed a family affair, witnessed by Matt Wilkins and Gary Wilkins (sons), Paul Stone (son-in-law), Jordan Stone (grandson), Gene Bedwell (Matt’s married to his daughter Mandy) and good friend Dave Elder. He rolled the perfect game with his other grandson, Tyler Weishaupt.
Wilkins has been a golfer for about 50 years, he estimates, without a hint of a hole-in-one in all those years. “Never … been within a couple feet maybe,” he stated.
While Wilkins enjoys the occasional round of golf, you can tell his true passion is bowling, competing in the sport year-round for 60 years and still counting.
Besides the five 300 games, he’s also rolled a trio of 299 games and has over 75 three-game series of 700 or more. In his prime bowling years, he averaged as high as 214 a game, including a dozen consecutive years averaging over 200. Wilkins was inducted to the Greater Terre Haute Bowlers Hall of Fame in 2005.
“Most of my bowling’s been at Vigo [Bowl], started when I was 12 … bowled consecutively for 60 years in leagues here. I’ve bowled other places, but mostly I’ve bowled here. Been a long, long career,” Wilkins laughed.
“Now I’m just bowling down to one night a week. Just got older. I can’t do the speed the young fellows can do. But I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Good bowlers can recite chapter and verse for anyone who asks “how was your night bowling?” Sherm is no exception.
“What was neat, I only bowled 152 the first game, then I shot 300, then only bowled 177 the third game. So I only bowled 629 [three-game series]. I’d rather not mention that,” he smiled.
The obvious follow-up question of “Did you buy a lottery ticket?” begged to be asked.
“I did buy four and they were all losers,” Wilkins laughed. “I bought a Powerball, I bought an Indiana Lotto and I bought a couple dailies. They weren’t even close. I think my luck ran out that Monday evening.”
Despite his recent success, Wilkins keeps his perspective and priorities firmly in check when queried what he learned from this experience.
“It has something to say about just staying with something for many, many years,” Wilkins said. “I’m fortunate the good Lord’s given me decent health to do things. … because I know people my age that can hardly get out of a chair. It’s just something that I’ve done forever, just thankful I can still get out there and throw the ball.”
Wilkins, a Gerstmeyer graduate class of 1958, is retired after working in printing/paper-sheeting at both Ivy Hill and Modern Album for nearly 50 years.