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Cornhole: Fun game is a serious sport

By Rachel Southmayd
rsouthmayd@heraldonline.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/02/23/00/782-18kW1x.Em.6.jpeg|252
    JEFF SOCHKO - SPECIAL TO THE HERALD
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/02/23/00/64-1nvMWW.Em.6.jpeg|252
    JEFF SOCHKO - SPECIAL TO THE HERALD
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/02/23/00/254-J2Yxa.Em.6.jpeg|210
    JEFF SOCHKO - PHOTOS BY JEFF SOCHKO
    Jason Kulick of Shelby, N.C., gets his partners name in a blind drawing as Carowinds hosts the American Cornhole Tournament on Saturday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/02/23/00/592-1e4kia.Em.6.jpeg|210
    JEFF SOCHKO - SPECIAL TO THE HERALD
    Jeff Johnson goes for the toss as Victor Bray spins the bag in doubles play during the tournament.

FORT MILL To most people, the game of cornhole is associated with tailgate and backyard barbecues. But for hundreds of people who turned out at Carowinds amusement park on Saturday, cornhole is a serious sport and most were there to win and add to their point total, upping their world ranking.

Yes, there are point totals and rankings and it’s all organized by the American Cornhole Organization, which has 1,300 active, points-earning players from 25 states, according to ACO president Frank Geers. Saturday’s event was one of eight majors hosted by the ACO throughout the cornhole season.

At the end of the season, the top players advance to the world championships in the summer, Greer said. On Saturday, 142 singles players from 11 states had registered to compete.

One of those players was Victor Ruiz, from Raleigh, N.C. He’s currently ranked ninth in the world.

Ruiz called large cornhole competitions such as Saturday’s, “fantastic.”

“You get to come and play against some of the best players around,” he said.

Ruiz said he was aiming to make the Top 10, but said it’s always nice to pull out a win.

Early in the morning, Ruiz was practicing his game, wearing an official jersey with his name across the back. On the boards next to him, a younger player prepared for his first major tournament.

Zach Crumlich came from Columbia. Although he’s just 16 years old, he’s been playing cornhole for five years and has never lost a tournament, so he decided to test the big leagues.

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The ACO and its professional tournament structure grew out of a business venture, Geers said. His company was making supplies for cornhole and saw that there was a lot of interest in making cornhole a professional sport.

While no professional cornhole players have been able to quit their day jobs yet, Geers said, the sport is getting more recognition and is growing in popularity. One day, he hopes to see it at the Olympics.

For now, though, Karen Spencer, from Rocky Mount, Va., is just excited that cornhole has gotten as big as it has. She plays, but on Saturday she was just there to watch her husband and stepson compete at their first big event.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “Cornhole is getting bigger by the day.”

Lindsey Crouch of Roanoke, Va., was also competing at her first major tournament. She plays doubles with her friend Stephanie Biagi. Biagi’s husband and Crouch’s boyfriend introduced them to the professional circuit.

While the guys play to win, Biagi and Crouch were playing for fun. Tournaments such as Saturday’s are fun, Crouch said, because all the players and spectators get to know each other.

“Everyone wants to have fun, but when it comes down to game time, they’re serious about it,” she said.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072
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