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Jobin proves himself 'handi-capable'

Mike Jobin considers himself as normal as the next person. Born without hands and feet and legally blind, Jobin lives independently and works full-time as a Health Information Services medical release technician at St. Mary's/Duluth Clinic Health...

Mike Jobin considers himself as normal as the next person. Born without hands and feet and legally blind, Jobin lives independently and works full-time as a Health Information Services medical release technician at St. Mary's/Duluth Clinic Health System.

In his spare time, Jobin golfs, rides his bike and bowls two nights a week.

And, can he bowl.

In league play, Jobin is averaging 152 at Stadium Lanes and 145 at Country Lanes North. He has a 601 high series and 236 high game -- which he recorded last year -- and threw a 225 game earlier this fall.

"I'm down from my 170 average of a year ago, but I just got a new bowling ball and hope to break out of my slump soon," said Jobin, 28.

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Jobin's biggest bowling accomplishment was a ninth-place finish at the 1991 Bowling Proprietors Association of America father-son national tournament in Dallas, Tex. He and his father, Larry, advanced to the nationals by winning local and state qualifying tournaments.

Jobin says people often come up to him and ask, "How do you do that? I can't even bowl a 90."

"To me it's all normal," Jobin said. "I'm just happy to be out there."

Jobin's best local tourney finish was third-place in a holiday tournament at County Lanes North.

"I was seeded third in the stepladder finals, had a good time, but I think I maybe cracked under the pressure of the television cameras," Jobin said of the Country Lanes North scratch event.

One of Jobin's bowling goals is to compete in the Bud Country Masters League at Country Lanes North (one of the best scratch leagues in the area). He already bowls in the Country Summer Classic Scratch League at Country Lanes North, but all the big shooters compete in the winter league.

"I want to average 200, even if it's just for one season," Jobin said. "I'm not quite as concerned about getting a 300 or a 299."

Country Lanes North proprietor Scott Carlson wouldn't be surprised to see Jobin reach his goal.

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"Mike has the desire to compete, to beat the best and become the best," Carlson said. "If there's anyone who can possibly do it, it's him."

In the meantime, Jobin is an inspiration to his bowling buddies and colleagues at work, including Nita Johnson, who teamed with Jobin in a recent Ted Archer doubles tournament.

"You really have to see Mike bowl to appreciate him -- it's amazing," Johnson said. "He's an inspiration to everyone, and such a great person. He makes everyone around him so comfortable that you don't even notice his handicaps once you get to know him."

Lisa Lind has known Jobin and his twin brother Marty for several years, and also knew their father.

"When I see Mike, there's no handicap," Lind said. "He's such a great guy with a remarkably strong, positive outlook."

Cindy Parker, a former city doubles bowling champion, said: "Mike inspires me. Everything that I've been through in my life, I look at the example he sets and I think, what do I have to complain about?"

Jobin's nearsightedness restricts him from getting his driver's license and makes bowling more difficult.

"My eyesight isn't the greatest," Jobin said. "It's not easy to recognize people at great distances, but I can tell who they are when they get closer to me. And if you were standing right next to me talking, I'd recognize you, but I wouldn't be able to read your name tag.

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"In bowling, I can see the front pins but I can't see the arrows until I'm almost at the foul line. So I throw it out to about the 10th board, at the gutter, and hope it comes back. Of course, it's tough to read the oil on the lanes, and I do have a difficult time determining if there are sleepers on some spares."

Jobin's bowling game is remarkably solid. His father got him and Marty started in the sport.

"I used to bowl granny-style, but I quickly determined that I wanted to bowl just like everybody else, with one arm," Jobin said. "Dale St. Marie way back when I was 12 or 13 helped to design my first ball, and winging it one-armed was awesome. Dale Carlson at Country Lanes and Paul Goeb at Stadium have since drilled me specially-fitted balls -- with a big hole that fits to the contour of my hand, to the end of my arm.

"I can't throw a hook, but the balls are drilled and weighted in such a way that when I throw it out toward the gutter it works its way back to the pocket, when I throw it correctly. Anybody can throw strikes, but most bowlers will tell you that bowling is a game of spares. If you can pick up spares, you'll score high."

Dale Carlson says he has drilled probably five or six custom-fit balls for Jobin, each increasing in weight as he grew stronger.

"In fact, we just drilled Mike a new 14-pounder the other day," Carlson said. "It can't be abrasive because his skin is so tender. I use a urethane thumb product that is very user-friendly for him, which I can sand to a very smooth surface. He's becoming quite competitive; he hates to lose."

Last Place on Earth teammate Larry Morse says "for a guy who can't see all the pins, Mike's pretty darn good."

"Remarkable might be the best word to describe his bowling game," Morse said. "His average is higher than mine at the moment."

Goeb says Jobin has "overcome obstacles that some of us couldn't imagine."

"Mike is an overachiever and one of the nicest guys in local bowling," Goeb said.

Jobin says a father once brought his son over to watch him bowl, which made a lasting impression on all three.

"The dad said, 'Watch him bowl,' and I happened to roll three strikes in a row," Jobin said. "I learned later that the son was getting down on himself because he wasn't bowling well. I wish I had had the opportunity, because I would have told the kid to just keep trying.

"I have never given up on anything that I've wanted to do. We have to work toward our goals. My handicap has made me a better person and made me more sensitive and humble. If I see someone who isn't bowling quite as good as me, and he's not without hands and feet like I am, I feel pretty lucky. People like Dale and Paul have really helped me out, and without their support it would be quite a struggle. They ask me, 'Does it fit right? Where does it hurt?' Without them, I would still be throwing granny-shots."

Jobin has a four-year degree in applied psychology from Bemidji State (1997) and is still single ("I'm always looking, always."). He originally wanted to major in technical illustrations and graphic design, to be a graphic animator, and today he's glad to be working at SMDC.

Some of Jobin's other interests include biking and working on his computer. "I'm a pretty fast typer, which surprises most people," he said.

Jobin says he prefers the term "handicapable" when describing himself.

"It's kind of the opposite of being handicapped," Jobin said. "I don't consider myself handicapped. I can do pretty much what anyone else can do, if I put my mind to do it. The one obvious limitation I have is driving, only because of my eyesight and nothing to do with my hands and feet.

"I don't want people to feel sorry for me because I believe that I can hang in there with the best of 'em, no matter what we're doing. It might take me a bit longer, but I can keep up. I find that for me, when people first meet me, they want to help out. But once people get to know me they treat me just like everyone else.

"I have a hard time asking people because I don't want them to think that I can't do it. The people at work are great. They're good people and I know that they care. I don't want to push them away by rejecting their help. They want to help because they see me falling behind. I know they want to help, not because they feel sorry for me but because the job itself might be too much for one person. But I want them to know that I can carry my own load. With this job and the people around me, I am learning that it is OK to ask for help; which is also very humbling."

Jobin is very professional at his job, said SMDC HIS Supervisor Grehling Smith.

"His job has a lot of rules and regulations, both state and federal, and he takes a lot of pride in what he does," Smith said. "He does extremely well in data input on the keyboard, which isn't surprising, and he's timely."

Jobin says he's become closer to Marty as they've aged.

"Like most brothers, we used to antagonize each other, but now we get along," Jobin said.

Now, that sounds normal.

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