Cornhole champions being decided in West Virginia

  • Article by: JOHN RABY
  • Associated Press
  • July 18, 2014 - 2:55 PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Cornhole, the strange-sounding game made popular in backyards and at football tailgate parties, is taking on a serious side this week.

The American Cornhole Organization will crown its world champions as about 380 competitors from 17 states vie for $10,000 in prize money in singles and doubles events.

Cornhole involves tossing one-pound bags filled with plastic pellets into a hole in a slanted board 27 feet away. Players earn points depending on whether the bags land in the hole or on the board. The first one to 21 points wins.

The Guy family of Alexandria, Kentucky, has won six of the eight singles titles.

Bret Guy, 20, is the defending champion. His father is five-time champion Matt Guy. They also are doubles partners.

"Any day of the week, anyone can get knocked out," said Bret Guy, who has been playing since he was 9.

Other than lots of practice, he has no special formula to winning.

"I just try to throw it in the hole. Anyway I can," he said.

The American Cornhole Organization debuted in 2005 to develop the competitive side to the game. President Frank Geers said it's more economical than golf and doesn't require large groups of people.

"Cornhole gives a person with that competitive itch something to do," Geers said.

Toby Smith, of Blacksburg, Virginia, went to a Virginia Tech football game at Wake Forest in 2006 when he was recruited to play cornhole at a nearby tailgate party. He has been hooked ever since.

Smith, a 35-year-old engineer, has cornhole boards set up at his office so he can practice for an hour or two after work.

"It's gobs of strategy," Smith said during a break in the tournament.

Some throws are meant to push other bags into the hole or block an opponent. The "airmail," or a high lob, goes directly into the hole.

Although its origins aren't clear, with different groups and regions laying claim to popularizing the game, cornhole's name derives from bags that were originally filled with corn.

For the organization, that changed when one of its clients, a cruise line, complained that the corn attracted rodents on its ships. The bags also were prone to mildew, bugs and would lose weight and density over time. For consistency's sake, plastic resin pellets replaced the corn, Geers said.

The tournament, which ends Saturday, will hand out grand prizes of $1,100 for the men's singles winner and $1,000 to the winning men's doubles team. There are also women's competitions.

"When you're out there throwing, it's serious," Smith said. "And then as soon as it's over, it's time to buy somebody a beer."

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