By Joel Hall
Four and a half years ago, Jonesboro teenager, Paul Mouton, had never picked up a bowling ball. Last month, the 16-year old accomplished what many league bowlers have never done -- rolled a perfect game of 300.
Mouton achieved the perfect score at the AMF Embassy Row Lanes in Forest Park, during the first Embassy Row Youth Bowler's Program Singles Handicap Scholarship Tournament.
For his achievement, Mouton won a $300 college scholarship and a ring from the United States Bowling Congress, symbolizing he has joined all league bowlers who have achieved a perfect score.
Mouton dedicated the game to his great-grandmother, Jerry Lee Gainer, who died at the age of 100 on Sept. 10 of this year. Mouton said she was his constant supporter since he joined the youth bowling league four years ago. He move to Jonesboro from Pensacola, Fla.
"The first thing that came to my mind [after bowling a perfect game] was my great grandmother," said Mouton. "She always came to see me bowl and was at my tournaments. She was like my best friend."
Mouton said Gainer's passing was sad, but he felt she was with him in spirit when he bowled the perfect game.
Mouton, who is currently home schooled, hopes to use the scholarship money to help him attend Florida State University, Florida A&M, or Alabama State University.
"If I do something, I try to do it to the best of my ability," said Mouton. "I feel I'm blessed by God to be able to bowl something like that."
Wilbert Brown, a bowling instructor at Embassy, said he has watched Mouton's progress in bowling.
"He's improving every year," said Brown. "You have a lot of kids who are just bowling for fun, but he is one of our more serious bowlers. There is so much technique to [bowling] that you may never learn the whole game ... he is one of those that attempts to do it.
"[Bowling a perfect game is] hard to do, even if you are an adult," Brown added. "You have professional bowlers, who bowl for a living, who haven't got that."
Brown, a resident of Riverdale and a bowling instructor since 1985, started the Embassy Row Youth Bowler's Program five years ago as a way to engage local students in positive after-school activities, as well as attract more minority youths to the game.
"A lot of people in the black community don't realize that there is a lot of money in bowling," said Brown. An increasing number of universities in the south are offering bowling scholarships to youth bowlers. "It's like a lot of other sports ... it's wide open now."
Ron Sloan, manager of Embassy Row Lanes in Forest Park, said between all of the league and non-league bowlers who come to the alley, only about six people per year bowl a perfect game.
"You don't see kids shoot that many [strikes]," said Sloan. "That says a lot about the program itself, because you have coaches teaching them how to do this."