Turnout high for tournament

Sunday, August 17, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Michael Martin of Jackson pitched a horseshoe at the Knights of Columbus state tournament Saturday in Scott City.
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Michael Martin of Jackson pitched a horseshoe at the Knights of Columbus state tournament Saturday in Scott City.

Bryan Basler never practices. But on Saturday, he hit enough ringers to advance to the next round in the 28th annual Knights of Columbus Horseshoe Tournament.

"You just might see me tomorrow walking out with a trophy," he said, laughing. "It comes up to about here," he added, motioning to his waist. Laughing again, he said, "I'd put it right on my mantle, if I was allowed."

He's been coming to the event for eight years, looking forward to the camaraderie and casual competition.

More than 1,100 people competed during the weekend, spilling onto the lawn behind the Scott City Knights of Columbus hall. Beer flowed freely, horseshoes sailed and pork burgers nearly sold out. There was the usual trash talk or frustrated kick at the sand, but nearly everyone said the event is just good old-fashioned fun.

"It's a pretty easygoing crowd. It's just a good time overall. And the beer's cold, too," said Clete Burkemper, from Old Monroe, Mo.

The competition attracted people from across Missouri; it is held in a different location each year. When it first started in 1981, there were 54 teams. This year, 559 teams participated.

While the Knights of Columbus also hold golf, bowling and softball tournaments, among others, the horseshoe tournament is arguably the biggest.

FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Karen Smith pitched a horseshoe on a team from Scott City St. Joseph Council 6420 at the Knights of Columbus state tournament Saturday in Scott City.
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Karen Smith pitched a horseshoe on a team from Scott City St. Joseph Council 6420 at the Knights of Columbus state tournament Saturday in Scott City.

"People go to it every year," said co-chairman Mike Miller.

This year, the weekend started with a mixer Friday night, with bottomless beer or soda and food. A Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament kicked off the night. Sixty-eight people competed for a $1,400 prize.

The "Truck Driver Special" was served for breakfast Saturday, featuring biscuits and gravy. Dinner was pure "Southern goodness," with no shortage of calories: pork steak, fried chicken, baked beans, broccoli-cauliflower salad, fruit salad and homemade ice cream.

Games ran nearly all day, with a break at 5:30 p.m. for Mass. The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic men's fraternal and charitable organization.

"The organization is all about helping Catholic charities in the area. When you play you're helping out the local charity of that council," Basler said.

The Scott City council began planning for the event in November. Supplies travel between locations year to year, and volunteers began setting up 208 pits about two and a half weeks ago.

In all, Miller estimated 2,000 people attended. Wives and daughters of men in the organization are allowed to compete.

"It's all in the timing. You got to find your rhythm, find that knack," said Lora Meyer, of Ste. Genevieve, Mo. She began practicing in July, before qualifications. Each team pitches 100 horseshoes and submits their score, which is used in determining brackets and classes.

A ringer is worth three points, and one point is awarded for shoes that land within one shoe width of the stake. During competition, the team that reaches 21 points first wins.

"The guys take it pretty seriously, but we all have a good time," said Amy McCulloch, who has a pit in her St. Paul, Mo., backyard. "It's a nice weekend away."

McCulloch said she didn't think there were as many competitors this year as in the past. Hot August weather can be a deterrent, she said.

"But this year didn't turn out to be as bad," she said. The temperature was in the low 80s most of the afternoon.

Walking around the field, cries rang out of "You got robbed!" or "Put it on there, right down the middle," or "There it is! A hammer!"

Susan Fohey, of Hannibal, Mo., has been competing for 22 years. She doesn't take the game too seriously.

"I'm out so I'm drinking beer," she said, laughing, while watching her husband. "The horseshoes are a lot of fun. We love the fellowship and camaraderie between all the knights."

The tournament resumes at 9 a.m. today.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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