Eric Finley and Danielle Sullivan fondly remember playing Cornhole while tailgating at sporting events as N.C. State students. They believed they had as good a shot as any team to win a recent Cornhole tournament held in Elizabeth, only a few miles from their home.
Finley and Sullivan found out quickly how seriously some people can take their Cornhole. Their day ended with a loss in the preliminary round robin bracket.
“We are very competitive,” said Finley, 24. “Today’s just not the right day. We don’t play much anymore, not like we did in college. We were probably expecting to be better, like we were in college.”
The Oct. 25 event was one of 10 mini-tournaments held in the past two months by SportsLink, which coordinates adult sports leagues, and recreational and social gatherings in Charlotte.
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The mini-tournaments were part of SportsLink’s first Cornhole Series, a grand prix-style event in which a champion was scheduled to be crowned Nov. 1.
A grand prize of $1,250 for first place was half of a $2,500 purse to be spread among the top eight teams.
SportsLink owner Christian Crute, a Plaza-Midwood resident, says his company has directed Cornhole tournaments for 8-10 years. Using cycling and auto racing as inspirations, Crute wondered if the party sport of Cornhole could draw enough interest to sustain league play over an eight-week period.
“With all this (Cornhole) equipment, all this stuff, I always wondered about people in other sports having a grand prix series where they earn points to reach a final,” said Crute. “And it’s a season-long process.
“I wondered if we shouldn’t do that with Cornhole. So I’m just trying to apply one sport to another. We’ve been talking about it for three years and we just decided to do it.”
Starting on September 6 and running on consecutive Saturdays, the Cornhole Series was held at establishments in central and south Charlotte. The number of two-person teams for each mini-tournament ranged between 10 and 15.
The top four teams at each mini-tournament earned points towards the series standings. First place earned 100 points while 60, 40 and 20 were given to the teams finishing in the second, third and fourth spots.
Each team’s season-long points determined its seeding at the final tourney, though teams could still advance to the championship event by winning a qualifying event on the day of the finals. Thirty-two teams were set to play in the championship tourney.
Teams paid $20 to enter each mini-tournament. The winner of each mini-tournament won $100.
Individuals were not bound to the same teammate throughout the season. For example, 55-year old Sunset resident Lynn Robinson played with a different partner in all five mini-tournaments in which he played.
“I’m trying to get to the finals but I haven’t made it yet,” said Robinson. “ I’m going to get in the early rounds to see if I can qualify.”
Monroe resident Chelsey Rains, 21, has played with three different partners throughout the series, all members of her family: brothers Tyler and Connor, and her father Phil, who she played with on Oct. 25.
Phil and Tyler finished first and second in the two mini-tourneys in which they were paired.
“We started playing at the beach three-four years ago,” said Phil. “We thought we were pretty good. Then we started playing (people) and found out we needed to practice more.”
Asked what she would do with her share of the grand prize money if she and her father won the championship tournament, Chelsey Rains said she would go shopping.
Posed the same question, Phil mused Chelsey would still end up with the money since he’s paying for her to attend college at Gardner-Webb University.
Crute says he is considering having a spring series.