Perfect? Mmmm ... no but Christian Karatau isn't too far from it if numbers are anything to go by in tenpin bowling.
From where he takes his stance at the Superstrike Tenpin Bowling Centre in Hastings, Karatau suspects the "truer" synthetic lanes offer enough traction to find nirvana in the code.
"I was going for 300 but I got 299 and that's my personal best so I'm pretty happy with that," says the 16-year-old after momentarily bringing proceedings to a halt during the Monday night league at the centre during the second of his four games.
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Karatau got 10 out of 10 that night which had catapulted him to the top rung of the leaderboard on 34 points in a league of 15, ahead of New Zealand senior representative Murray Bicknell on 30.
The Hastings Boys' High School student believes he did everything right for a "decent shot" but feels the ball had perhaps skewed a little more to the left than intended to miss the "pocket". One stubborn pin wobbled but, agonisingly, had defied the laws of gravity.
"That one pin just didn't want to fall over," says the circumspect Year 12 pupil with a chuckle after racking up 11 strikes on the trot but managing only nine pins on the 12th frame.
"I'm a little bit disappointed with myself about that last shot but it is what it is, I guess, and just part of bowling."
For the record, according to tenpin stalwart Preston Epplett, the only official 300 bowled in Hastings is credited to Koia Shannon, registered on June 3, 1995.
"There have been a couple in practice but that is the only officially recognised one," says Epplett.
The chartered accountant says up to half a dozen perfect scores are recorded in the country annually.
Since 1977, he says, only 140 have been registered officially. Records for 299 only go back to 1990. In the past three decades only 50 official ones of those have been logged in.
"That is from the thousands of league and tournament games bowled each year," Epplett says.
A perfect game is the highest score possible in tenpin bowling.
A player achieves that by scoring a strike in every frame to register 300. That constitutes 12 consecutive strikes in a traditional single game — that is, one strike in each of the first nine frames and three more in the 10th.
Because a strike counts as 10 pins plus any pin fall in the next two balls, 30 points are up for grab in any given frame.
Does the talented teenager need to exorcise a few demons in seeking closure?
"It is haunting me a little bit because it did wobble but didn't want to fall over for me," he says with a laugh, not feeling as much pressure as he did when he was younger.
"Every time I used to come close to getting a perfect [score] I used to look behind me at all these people watching me and getting quite nervous about it but this time I was a lot more on the ball and didn't worry about them."
The rookie New Zealand under-21 representative — who was part of an eight-member team who had competed the 2020 National Youth Cup and Youth Challenge from January-16 — says about 30 bowlers had stalled play to watch him try to achieve 300.
All the indications were there that Karatau was flirting with a perfect score. He had registered 289 a fortnight ago.
"It has to wait until the next league night to see if I can bowl that perfect game," he says with 40 weeks remaining in the season to accomplish that.
Centre owner Barbara Nonu is his grandmother so honing his prowess isn't an issue for Karatau who has been investing countless hours to procure that curve ball. He become a graded junior champion at 8.
The centre, touted as among the best in Australia and New Zealand, is hosting the national 55-plus tournament this week.