Jeff Mullen always figured his two sons Josh and Jacob Mullen would be basketball stars, given Jeff's 6-foot-6 height.
Josh, 18, and Jacob, 12, are experts when it comes to driving a ball down the lane, but Jeff's boys often finish with a strike instead of a slam dunk.
In fact, twice, Josh has finished a game of bowling with 12 straight strikes, which equates to a perfect 300.
"It was amazing," Josh said in a phone interview. "The first two games I struggled that day, but I was hoping the third game would completely change everything. I got to my 11th (frame), and I was one more (strike) away. Everyone had stopped bowling to watch. It was amazing."
Jacob is still working on reaching bowling's single-game ultimate bragging right, but a 299 isn't too shabby.
"When I shot a 299, it was very exciting," Jacob said in a phone interview. "I kind of tried to keep my mind off it so I wouldn't overthink my next shot."
A 300 or 299 is certainly impressive, but the accomplishment is a simple achievement compared to trophy hauls Josh and Jacob have been collecting the past few years.
"It's been awesome, actually," Jeff said in a phone interview when asked about their bowling experiences. "We've spent a lot of time traveling three weekends a month to a lot of competitive bowling tournaments. There isn't a lot of competition in Whatcom County, so we head to Tacoma, Seattle or the Puget Sound area every weekend."
Josh's and Jacob's bowling talents have taken them much further than up and down Interstate 5 in Washington.
The pair returned from Las Vegas June 25 after capturing first place at the Junior World Team Challenge, where Josh and Jacob were teammates. They've also placed first in doubles at the Whatcom County Youth Open, the Washington State Youth Championships and last year's USBC National Youth Championships, also in Las Vegas.
Next for the talented duo is a trip to Indianapolis where Josh will compete in both the USBC National Youth Open and the North Pointe/Junior Gold Championships. Jacob is competing in the Youth Open. Josh will be vying for up to $250,000 in scholarship money as well as a spot on the Junior Team USA.
"We've done a lot of traveling the last couple summers," Josh said. "We've gone to Vegas six times in the last four years. We've won the challenge tournament three times in the last four years. We've been to Indianapolis before, and I placed in the top 300 out of the best 1,100 kids in the nation."
Jeff acknowledges his sons always seemed to have a knack for bowling, but it's Josh's and Jacob's mother's side of the family who've had the greatest influence on developing two bowling standouts.
"It's my wife's side of the family who tends to be so into bowling," Jeff explained. "My wife did Tuesday morning bowling league for 15 years until she had to quit. My mother-in-law lived in our basement and worked at Park Bowl. She would have to run in with the kids when they were younger, and she'd just put them out on a lane. Josh really picked it up and had a passion for it."
Although Josh may have set the bowling trend for Jacob to follow in his footsteps, Josh admits his younger sibling's bowling future forecasts to be brighter than his own.
"I've kind of accepted the fact (Jacob) is going to be better than me," Josh said. "He got into the sport a lot sooner than me and has gotten into the basic stuff a lot faster."
Josh and Jacob have enjoyed individual success, but perhaps one of the neatest moments for Jeff is when his boys compete together. It's not every day a recent Bellingham High graduate and a Kulshan Middle Schooler share the same competitive landscape.
"To me it's just amazing that they've been able to compete with teams from all over the country," Jeff said.
"I like it," said Jacob about sharing a lane with his older brother. "Sometimes I'll beat him, and I'll feel like I accomplished something because I know he's better than me."
Though Josh gravitated to bowling, he said he's tried all the mainstream sports, including football, basketball and baseball. He's become a major proponent for sports receiving marginal attention in the public eye.
"I think it's just that not many people (bowl competitively), and it's not mainstream," Josh said about his decision to commit to bowling. "That grabbed my attention. I'm always for sports like lacrosse, because it's not a school sanctioned sport. I'm a supporter of those kids of sports."
Given what Jacob has accomplished in a little over two years of serious bowling, his career seems to have a high ceiling. But there's a chance Jeff could, in fact, have a basketball star on his hands.
"I'm going to start playing basketball for my school next year," Jacob said.
Josh said he plans on attending Whatcom Community College this fall. He's been in contact with a school in Nebraska that has a bowling team and hopes to join the squad in the near future.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
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