Friday, December 19, 2014

Ringers bring heat

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 7/7/2014

Robert “Bob” Booe started playing horseshoes professionally in the 1960s.

Though the Atchison man has been playing in nationally sanctioned horseshoe tournaments for the past 48 years, he loves venturing to Ottawa each Independence Day to compete, he said.

Robert “Bob” Booe started playing horseshoes professionally in the 1960s.

Though the Atchison man has been playing in nationally sanctioned horseshoe tournaments for the past 48 years, he loves venturing to Ottawa each Independence Day to compete, he said.

“I’ve been coming to this tournament probably ever since they started having it on the Fourth of July,” Booe said Friday at Ottawa’s Barney Bell Open in Forest Park. “I look forward to coming down here every year.”

Booe won the Kansas Horseshoe Pitching Association (KHPA) men’s state championship in 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2005, as well as the championship in the KHPA state men’s elders class in 2012. The KHPA has sanctioned tournaments across Kansas each year including in Topeka, Salina, Wichita, Edgerton, Belleville and Lawrence.

The Barney Bell Open, previously called the Chautauqua Open, saw more than 40 of the best horseshoe players from the state competing at Forest Park, 320 N. Locust St., Ottawa, organizers said. Barney Bell, Richmond, president of the Ottawa Horseshoe Club, organizes the annual tournament, he said, which is a great way to kick off the holiday weekend.

“We play in the morning and then you can shoot fireworks off at night,” Bell said. “When you get older, [playing horseshoes] is competition and you are playing against people of your own ability. It is a lot of fun.”

Horseshoe also is a serious game for those who come to Ottawa to compete in the official KHPA tournament, Bell said. The object of the game is to pitch the horseshoe so that it comes to rest encircling an iron stake protruding from a 6-foot log by 3-foot-wide clay area called the “pit,” according to rules by the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association. Depending on a player’s division, participants pitch their horseshoes anywhere from 20 feet away from the stake to 40 feet.

Barney Bell open

The Barney Bell Open is a round-robin tournament featuring contestants facing off one-on-one. Each contestant pitches two horseshoes in succession and points are scored as follows: the closest shoe to the stake within six inches scores one point, two shoes closer than the opponent’s scores two points, one ringer and the closest shoe for the same player scores four points, one free ringer scores three points. All equal ringers count as ties, or no score. Most games are played to 40 points, according to NHPA rules.

An Independence Day tournament is a regular occurrence for Ottawa, Bell said, and the town has a deep history of playing the game.

“As far as I can remember, they’ve had a tournament on the Fourth of July,” Bell said. “They were playing horseshoes where the swimming pool is now under the dike, and when they built the dike, they moved the pool and moved the horseshoe pitch. They’ve been pitching horseshoes since the 1920s.”

Friday wasn’t Ottawa’s only KHPA tournament this year. Coming tournaments include Summer Heat 1, 9 a.m. Aug. 3; Summer Heat 2, 9 a.m. Aug. 17; Summer End, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18; Fall Open 1, 1 p.m. Oct. 4; Fall Open 2, 1 p.m. Oct. 26, and the Pre Winter Open, 1 p.m. Nov. 1. All tournaments are at Forest Park.

“We have 11 sanctioned tournaments in Ottawa this year,” Bell said. “We’ve had seven state tournaments here in Ottawa. I’ve had four in the last five years.”

The state tournament is set for Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 at Gage Park in Topeka. Topeka also will play host to next year’s World Horseshoe Pitching Championships July 13-25, 2015, at the Expocentre’s Landon Arena and Exhibition Hall.

“About everybody you see here [at the Ottawa tournament] will be at Topeka,” Bell said. “They are predicting about 2,000 [horseshoe pitchers] for nationals.”

As for Ottawa’s tournament, several members of the Ottawa Horseshoe Club were among the competitors, Bell said. The club pitches every Tuesday and plays four games from 7 p.m. to about 9:30 p.m. Bell has about 21 people signed up with the club this year, he said. For more information on becoming a member of the club or to become a NHPA sanctioned player, call Bell at (785) 835-6635 or (785) 418-8240 or email him at

The game has no age restrictions, Bell said, with children and elderly men and women pitching at closer distances.

Throwing a shelter fundraiser

The Ottawa Horseshoe club is doing more than just pitching ringers. Members are preparing to take donations for two new shelters in Forest Park, Bell said.

“We are going to start taking up donations around the city for a shelter on the south end and north end built for anybody that needs to use it,” he said. “The place needs some more shelters for picnics and whatnot. They are going to be long. [One] will be 70 feet long and [the other] is going to be 90 feet long. It will be for horseshoe tournaments and people [using the new playground]. I’m getting a bank account now set up for the Forest Park shelter fund. We are going to start construction as soon as school starts in September.”

The club plans to start asking for donations soon and already has donated some of its funds, as well as received a donation from the Power of the Past Antique Engine and Tractor Association, Bell said.

Bell is hopeful the new shelters will provide shade for both those using the new playground in the park, as well competitors and spectators at Ottawa’s horseshoe tournaments, he said. After all, the competition is always hot.

“There are some of the best people in the world here,” Bell said.

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