Prosthetic leg doesn’t stop Roy Schmidt from bowling at the Hollywood Sports Complex
By Starrla Cray
CARVER COUNTY, MN Having a prosthetic leg definitely makes bowling trickier, but 69-year-old Roy Schmidt has learned to roll with the flow.
Schmidt’s team, the Wednesday Forty-Niners, even earned this year’s championship title at the Hollywood Sports Complex.
“We haven’t won it since 1991. We were always in the roll-offs [the top six], but then we’d always get knocked out,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt and his brother, Wayne, have been hooked on bowling since they were kids growing up in rural Watertown. They joined the same bowling league in 1965, and to this day, they still play together every week.
“When I was younger, I had bowling six days a week,” Schmidt recalls. “One lady asked me what I do on Sundays, and I said, ‘I go out and practice.’”
Losing a leg
In 2003, however, a complication from diabetes nearly made him give up his hobby altogether.
“I had an infection on the bottom of my foot. Gangrene set in and they had to take it,” he recalled.
Schmidt wasn’t able to bowl for the next couple of years, but he didn’t forget about this team.
“My brother always picked me up, and I sat and watched,” he said.
After receiving a prosthetic leg and undergoing five months of therapy in a nursing home, Schmidt gradually began to resume his normal activities.
Bowling, of course, was high on the priority list.
“When I came back, they had a cake decorated with bowling pins to welcome me,” Schmidt said.
Patience and perseverance
Getting back into the game wasn’t easy, though.
“When I first started, I fell down a couple times,” Schmidt said, explaining that, in addition to losing his right leg up to his knee, he also lost a couple of toes on his left foot.
Schmidt had to switch to a lighter ball, and also adjusted to a new throwing approach for better balance.
“Before I lost my leg, I used a four-step delivery. Now, I use a three-step delivery,” Schmidt said.
His scores were also affected. Previously, he was used to averaging 170 or 180 per game. His first time back, he remembers bowling an average of 100.
Schmidt kept at it, though, and by the end of the first season, he had pulled his scores up to the 130s. Recently, his totals have been even higher, although he said, “I still have a hard time picking up the 10th pin for my spares.”
Having a ball
Fortunately, the camaraderie on Schmidt’s bowling team is as strong as ever.
“We have fun; we joke around,” he said.
During the championship game the beginning of April, team members John Hill, Gerald Bundrock, Jim Heckmann, and Wayne Schmidt all helped lead the Wednesday Forty-Niners to victory.
This Friday, all the bowling leagues plan to meet at the Hollywood Sports Complex for an end-of-season party. Schmidt is already looking forward to the beginning of next season, which starts the last week in August.
For others who may be struggling through physical limitations, Schmidt offers this encouragement:
“Don’t give up on yourself,” he says. “Just do the best you can. That’s what my teammates said when I started.”