SALEM, Va. – A local master bowler is sharing deeper meaning behind his perfect games in honor of his late grandfather.
Steven Shepherd can be found Sunday nights bowling with his league, the Gwen Smith League.
“One of my nicknames in bowling is little Peacock,” Steven said. “It is because of the way I be strutting around like a peacock.”
Steven has mastered the sport of bowling to where he has scored a perfect 300 seventeen times.
Despite all his success, he remains humble.
“It is not a lot,” Steven said. “There are other people who have done it. A lot of great players out there.”
Before his success, Steven learned from scratch how to bowl from his grandfather, Robert Shepherd.
“He was pretty much like my father growing up,” Steven said. “Fair but firm. One day we were out of school, and I was probably maybe 13. He was going to practice so I told him I wanted to go to see what he was doing. So, I went and watched him and got interested and asked him can I throw a few balls and I have been hooked ever since.”
Steven said that experience was filled with a fun competitive vibe.
“It was very friendly competition,” he said. “He used to beat me all the time when we first started out. He was supposed to because he taught me, so teachers are always the best at first.”
Steven said he and his grandfather shared countless special moments over the years but sadly, his grandfather passed away from colon cancer when he started his senior year of high school.
“It was very difficult that year,” Steven said. “I continued to bowl for a little while, but I did walk away from it because it wasn’t the same. That passion you talk about you see today I lost it because it wasn’t the same not being able to look back and him being there so.”
Steven said he knew his grandfather would have wanted him to continue, so he did.
“I would know he would want me to keep on, but I had to get past that point to where I was having that same passion again to bowl,” Steven said. “It was about 2007 that I decided to get back to it. Mainly because I felt like there as some things I still needed to do, and I feel like I have been able to achieve most of them.”
When he returned Steven became better and better and eventually score his first perfect game.
“I was relieved,” Steven said. “All I ever wanted was one 300 or 800 so everything else has been a blessing and icing on the cake.”
In 2018, Steven met his close friend and pro-shop specialist for Lee Hi Lanes in Salem.
“I heard some positives about him, and I remember coming out on Sundays and I could tell he got a knack for it,” said Ryan Shepherd. “He is a pretty talented guy.”
Ryan worked with Steven on fitting his hand for the perfect ball and the two have been inseparable with their bond about bowling and the continuous drive to learn more.
Steven credits his success to Ryan and his support.
“Steve is a quiet guy, but you don’t want to ruffle his feathers,” Ryan said. “Since we are talking about a peacock. He takes bowling and sports very seriously and that is what makes him dangerous on the lanes.
Very humble guy but don’t mess with him.”
He goes on to say Steven is beyond a genuine guy.
“You get him off the lanes, he is very genuine, He is going to shake your hands and have a conversation and know it is going to mean something. But when you get him out there on the lanes, he may not be a genuine person. He is a completely different person but in a good way.”
Steven said it is the sacred memories he has with his grandfather that keeps him striving to be his best.
“Just vibing with him,” he said. “Trying to get better first of all to even be able to compete with him. I remember that. Him watching me in the junior leagues coaching me up.”
Steven said he also hopes his story encourages people to be sure to get those health checkups.
“Men, we have a lot of phobias about that, and I have been one myself where we think we are invisible and don’t need to go,” Steven said. “But go get yourself checked out and get your yearly physical.”
Steven also encourages others, especially the youth, to try bowling so that the fun of the sport can continue generations to come.
“Find something that you are passionate about that drives you,” he said. “It can help motivate you in a lot of ways.”
He added that even though his grandfather is not watching from behind, he has peace knowing that he is watching him from above.
“I hope you are happy,” Steven said thinking about his grandfather. “A Shepherd got a perfect score for you. He came close but he never got one. So, I went and got one for him. I believe he would be proud.”