Woodward, Okla. —
For the second year in a row the Woodward Conference Center will host the Oklahoma state championship horseshoe pitching tournament.
The tournament is sponsored by the Oklahoma Horseshoe Pitching Association (OHPA).
Top pitchers from across the state will be in Woodward this weekend to compete for championship titles, said Chuck Arnold, an OHPA vice president.
“We have some coming in from Broken Bow, which is about as far south as you can go before getting into Texas. Then we have some from the Tahlequah area, from the Tulsa area, from Bartlesville, pretty much just sprinkled throughout the state,” Arnold said.
He said a total of around 90 pitchers and 300 people, including their family members, friends and spectators are expected to participate in this weekend's tournament.
The pitchers will compete in different divisions, based on their age and gender. There is a junior division for young pitchers under 18, a women's division, a men's division, and an elderly men's division.
Arnold explained that the distinction is made for elderly men, because normally male pitchers stand at 40 feet away from the post, while everyone else stands at a distance of 30 feet. However, after age 70, men have the option to move up to the shorter pitching distance, he said.
Before state champions can be crowned in the different divisions, Arnold said the tournament will get under way Saturday with preliminary play. Each pitcher will be placed in a class of 6 or 8 members and will then play round-robin style so that each pitcher in a class will compete against every other pitcher in that class, he said.
Games will start at 8 a.m. Saturday and continue until around 6 p.m. or until all preliminary games are completed, he said.
Class winners will be awarded to those winning the most matches in a particular class, Arnold said. However, he said it will be ringer percentages that will determine who will advance from the preliminary to the championship round. Ringer percentage refers to how often a pitcher throws a “ringer,” which is when the horseshoe falls around the stake.
“Someone could win their class and not go on to compete for a title because their ringer percentage isn't high enough. It doesn't happen often, but it can,” Arnold said.
The top 8 men with highest ringer percentages and the top 6 women and top 6 elderly men will go on to compete Sunday morning, starting at 10 a.m., for the state titles.
The junior division winners, including both a girl and a boy winner, will be decided on Saturday as there are only about 14 junior pitchers who will be competing this year, Arnold said.
Horseshoe pitching is not new to Woodward.
“We've played horseshoes in Woodward for the past 30 years. We even have a member in Woodward, Tom Goff, who has won 13 state titles,” Arnold said.
Tom Goff's wife, Barbara Goff recently won a world title in the 2013 World Horseshoe Tournament that was held in St. George, Utah in July.
“Woodward is very familiar with horseshoes and horseshoes is very familiar with Woodward,” he said.
Arnold said the OHPA is looking forward to returning to Woodward and the conference center for the state tournament.
“Woodward is always a great place to pitch because of it's facilities,” he said.
For many years, Arnold said Woodward's outdoor pitching courts, which are located at Crystal Beach Park, have been “some of the best in the state.”
And now that the conference center is built and can host an indoor tournament, pitchers can enjoy the game of horseshoes in the comfort of air conditioning, he said.
Beyond the facilities, Arnold complimented the community of Woodward.
“The hospitality we receive there is always amazing,” he said.
OHPA is hoping to show that same hospitality to anyone interested in coming to watch the tournament.
“It's free; it's free parking, it's free entry,” Arnold said. “We welcome anyone to come.”
While “most people are probably familiar with the game of horseshoes,” Arnold said the tournament will be “different from your old backyard game when you're just having a good time and cooking out.”
“It is a tournament so people will be taking it seriously,” he said.
But he said that should just make the games more interesting to watch.
“This is competitive and there's a high level of skill involved, so you can see some good matches,” he said.
Arnold said the state tournament could also be a great way for people to learn more about the organized sport of horseshoes and foster an interest to join.
“If they're curious they can come out and see what it's all about,” he said.