Punzel rolls city-record 888 despite dealing with health issues

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012
— Bowling is in Kevin Punzel’s blood but so is agammaglobulinemia, a blood disease that affects the body’s ability to fight infection.

Punzel, 45, rolled an all-time city-high 888 series Thursday, March 22, in the Wiggy’s Saloon League at RiversEdge. He had games of 299, 300 and 289 to pass Jamie Jones’ 866, also rolled at RiversEdge.

After leaving a 10-pin on his final ball in his first game, Punzel kept his focus to record his 31st 300 in his second game. Overall, he had 33 strikes in 35 frames.

“You go through the same steps you do every game, and that helps a lot when you are bowling scores like that,” Punzel said. “Just following through so you are not thinking about throwing a ball out, and missing your mark.”

Punzel’s big series was sweet because last July agammaglobulinemia put his bowling career in serious jeopardy.

“I don’t know how to spell it,” Punzel said. “I’ve had it all my life, but I was never really sick until last summer.’’

Punzel contracted pneumonia, and a chest X-ray revealed an abscess had completely collapsed Punzel’s lung. On July 31, Punzel had emergency surgery remove it.

“They thought I had cancer or an abscess,” Punzel said. “They said they never saw anybody living with an abscess that big.’’

The cost of Punzel’s surgery was more than $90,000, but Punzel’s medical expenses do not end there. Once a month he has an eight-hour treatment that costs more than $17,000. Punzel said the treatments would continue for the rest of his life.

A fundraiser to help Punzel meet his medical expenses is slated for this Saturday afternoon at RiversEdge Bowl. Bowling is from noon to 5 p.m., and a silent auction and a 50-50 raffle will be held.

Punzel, who works for Stoughton Trailer, said insurance pays a percentage of the medical costs.

“It doesn’t cover much,” Punzel said. “But I’m alive.’’

Punzel’s surgery went well, but he paid a price.

“They had to peel part (of the abscess) off the lung, and that damaged 20 percent of my lung,” Punzel said. “There was a chance I could lose my lung.’’

During a long recovery, Punzel could not lift a bowling ball.

“I had a five-pound weight restriction,” he said. “I couldn’t lift a gallon of milk. It weighs eight pounds.’’

After three months of recovery, Punzel was allowed to increase his physical activity.

“I didn’t think my doctor expected me to bowl, because I never thought I could bowl,” Punzel said.

But in October, Punzel was back on his game.

“The first night I bowled, I shot like 550,” Punzel said. “I was disappointed. I thought if this was how it was going to be, I don’t know if I want to bowl.’’

Punzel has been setting Janesville league bowling records since 1994, when at 28 years old he rolled his first two 300 games in the same week. He was the first Janesville league bowler to perform the feat.

“We all know bowling is a 90-percent mental game,” said Punzel, who has 21 299 games and four 298s. “You think you’re going to pull a ball, chances are you are going to do that.”

Punzel knows how to adjust not only on the bowling alley, but also in life. He entertained joining the PBA Tour, but his wife, Nancy, became ill and he had to put professional bowling on hold.

Whether it’s rebounding from missing a perfect game by one pin, or unexpected trouble life throws at him, Punzel has made the adjustment.

“I never liked needles, but it’s something I’ve got to do,” Punzel said of his monthly treatments. “I guess I look at things different in life. You never know.’’

Last updated: 8:13 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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