I awoke at 3:30 a.m. Got ready, had some breakfast and made sure I had everything ready to go. Packed my bag with sunscreen, bug repellent, a frozen bottle of Powerade, a second thermos of cold Powerade, rag for cleaning the shoes, baseball cap and Snyder EZ Flips. I left at 6:30 a.m. I arrived at 7:45 a.m. My directions were accurate. The tournament volunteers were already in the process of setting up, pits uncovered, clay turned, computer setting up, grill heating up. Well organized, I thought. Registration began at 8:15 and I was advised that no other Elder was needing a partner, but, there might be someone available. If not, I’d get my check back and call it a day.
Below is a photo of the tournament director setting up the computer system to record the days events. All of the information from the days events are recorded and ultimately passed on to the NHPA. Ultimately, they will appear on the NHPA website under the NETSTATS selection for each member of the NHPA listed by state and alphebetically by name.
About 8:45 I was advised that someone was coming and I’d have a partner. I wondered what shoes he pitched and whether we’d have to use his or mine. Unfortunately, the Elders were not scheduled to pitch until 1:00 p.m. I decided to keep score for a team from Post 7. When the tournament began, there was a little confusion on the proper form for keeping the score. Got that squared away and pitching began. Happy to discover that each team member pitches their own shoes and follows them from pit to pit. Each match would be 40 points or 50 shoes whichever came first. It was 50 shoes for each pitcher, not, 50 for the team. I kept score for 6 matches and received $2.00 ($1.00 each team) per game. Lunch money and money for my scorekeeper later. It was very hot sitting in the sun from 9:00 until 1:00. I was feeling myself wilting from the heat and early awakening.
No warmup is permitted between sessions until all morning matches are completed.
At 2:00 p.m. everyone gathered for silent remembrance of our fighting men in action, remembrance of a passing member and National Anthem. Scorecards were passed out, met my partner and discovered that there were 3 teams of Elders. Plan was to do a round robin, pitching each team 3 times with a bye during each round. During my brief warmup, felt that my flip was working better than my turn.
My partner was a member of the local club and 85 years old. We hit it off quickly. The tournament began. My flip was working pretty well, lost the first match, but, had a 40.9% ringer average. We lost the second match, but, again my flip was working well and had a 46.7% ringer average. The bye was next, so, took the time to grab a bite to eat. Third match, another loss, ringer average dropped to 22.7% and continued dropping until I switched to my turn and had a 36.3% average for my last match. Overall average was 30.16% for the day. I couldn’t believe how many ringers my competition was throwing at us. It was obvious that they had much higher averages than my team. I was right. When I returned home I checked the NHPA Netstats averages for the competing teams and discovered they ranged from 40% to 60% per man. Geez, we didn’t have a chance, my partner was at 20% and I was at 30%.
My competitors were surprised I had only been pitching for 1 year and had never seen anyone throw shoes the way I did. A lot of nice complements.
We finished 3rd. No trophy though. Thanked the volunteers for the tournament and got back home at 7:30 p.m. A very long day. It was a fantastic experience. I’m looking forward to the upcoming Maryland State singles tournament in 2 weeks.
I decided to throw this page into the mix to encourage any first time Elder or senior to participate. Think of it as a learning experience and see where your progress has taken you. Ben Hogan once said that tournament competition is the proving ground for what works in practice. My first two games were a validation of my efforts.
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