NEWBERRY — Close won’t count in horseshoes on Saturday and Sunday when professional throwers come to Marion Davis Park for the kick off of the 2014 Horseshoe Pitchers Pro Tour in The SummerFun tournament.
Tournament director Ron Taylor said the tour event is unique because only ringers, horseshoe throws where the shoe wraps around the stake, will be counted. The tournament is being held at the Marion Davis Park horseshoe court facility on Kendall Road.
The 20 participants will compete in heats and can receive cash bonuses for the number of ringers they throw in the first two rounds. By the third and championship round, the bonuses go out the window and the competitors go after the titles.
Three world champions and several former world champions will attend this year out of the 20 competitors. In all, 10 states will be represented.
Three-time Men’s World Champion Brian Simmons from Vermont along with seven-time Women’s World Champion Sue Snyder from Indiana and six-time Women’s World Champion Joan Elmore from Tennessee highlight this year’s event.
“We have had some Newberry pitchers compete in the past but there are none in the tournament now,” said Scott Sawyer, director of City of Newberry Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
Simmons, who makes the trip from Vermont said, “I love pitching in Newberry. This is my favorite tournament location besides the World Tournament.”
Simmons is the only SummerFun Pro Tour participant to pitch a perfect game, 30 pitches and 30 ringers. He enters this year’s event with an 85.79 percent ringer average.
Last year’s tournament was rained out, but the forecast calls for sunny skies this weekend.
Round robin play begins Saturday at 10 a.m. and continues into Saturday evening with the 40 foot championship division finals starting on Sunday at 10 a.m. and the 30 foot championship division finals scheduled for a noon start on Sunday. The champion will be crowned Sunday night.
The horseshoe pits contain Kentucky blue clay, a top-of-the-line playing surface added when the horseshoe courts were added to Marion Davis Park around 2000, according to Sawyer.
Newberry hosted a S.C. sanctioned tournament early in the facility’s history and then the Newberry Recreation Department networked with the president of the S.C. Horseshoe Association to have a summer tournament moved to Newberry.
The SummerFun has been held in Newberry since 2003. Initially taking place in August, it has bounced around the calendar in order to fit into regularly scheduled National Horseshoe Pitchers Association tournaments, but it has retained its name for identity purposes within the horseshoe world, despite not being played in the summer.
The tournament began as a sanctioned open tournament and was consistently in the top 10 of the largest tournaments in the Unites States.
In 2009, tournament director Ron Taylor sought to have The SummerFun become a part of the newly formed Horseshoe Pitchers Pro Tour. Newberry remains the only location to host a Pro Tour event in each year of its existence.
Newberry is a Gold sponsor site, thanks to White Distributor in Erie, Pa., and that means the throwers receive a bigger payday for the ringers they throw here.