Bowler revives passion

Kelly has new focus on sport after accident

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Donovon Kelly had bowled since he was four years old, but he was ready for a break.

Donovon Kelly had several schools willing to offer bowling scholarships when he decided to quit. A car accident two weeks before his high school graduation reminded him of his love of the game.  RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF
RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF
Donovon Kelly had several schools willing to offer bowling scholarships when he decided to quit. A car accident two weeks before his high school graduation reminded him of his love of the game.

When he was 17 years old, he decided to say goodbye to college bowling scholarship opportunities from the University of South Carolina and Wichita State University and take an indefinite break from the sport he had known almost his whole life.

Two weeks before his high school graduation in 2007, however, he was in a car accident that broke several bones and changed his perspective on leaving the sport behind.

"Laying in bed, wondering if I would ever even walk again, that made me realize how much I loved bowling," he said. "I had taken it so much for granted."

There was a short time where the doctors weren't sure if Kelly would be able to walk again, but when the doctors told him he would be alright, he had one reaction.

"OK, let's bowl," he remembers saying.

Kelly had to work through more than six months of rehab before he could pick up his 15-pound bowling ball, but says that served as a good incentive.

"I worked real hard at rehab," he said. "When I finally got back to bowling, it was a little shaky,"

His average score was much lower than before his accident, and he still was wearing a protective boot on his foot.

"It was kind of rocky," he said.

He persevered, and his average began to climb.

He began bowling in a league at Brunswick Bowling Lanes, and bowled as a substitute for other leagues as well. Despite all the practicing, however, Kelly never could get to 800 -- the series score threshold all bowlers strive to pass.

"I kept wondering, when am I going to do it?" he said. "A lot of my friends were getting 800 scores, and I was ready for my turn."

One night recently, Kelly was watching television and got an urge to go bowling. He called the bowling alley to see if any leagues needed a substitute, and there happened to be a spot open. He drove down to Brunswick Lanes and began playing.

"I started out with a bad throw," he remembers.

He got his act together, and started bowling the best series of his life.

After that first bad round, he picked up speed and bowled two perfect games until the last time he held the ball.

"I was a little nervous," he said. "There wasn't any pressure from other people, but I just wanted that score so bad."

He stepped up, released the ball and watched it spin down the center of the lane and hit the pins, resulting in a final score of 846.

"I finally did it," he said with a smile.

He says he owes all of his success bowling and the lessons he has learned to his mother, Katurah Sanders.

"She's my coach, my best friend, even though she knows nothing about bowling," he said with a laugh.

"She's sacrificed a lot for me to be able to do this, but she believes in me and knows one day, her money won't be wasted,"

Sanders doesn't consider her money to be wasted, and she said she values the things he has gained through bowling.

"I've always tried to motivate him to persevere," she said. "I don't like the word 'can't' without trying,"

The high score Kelly got weeks ago has served as another jumpstart to his renewed interest in bowling.

"I really don't want to be known as just a house bowler," he said, referring to term used for bowlers that are only known in their home bowling lanes.

"I want to go out and compete more."

His mother has no doubt that he will make it to the big leagues someday.

"I believe with all my soul that he will bowl professionally someday," she said. "I know he believes it, too."

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