What an incredible experience this was. Early in the summer I had wondered about competing in the event when it came to Frederick, MD. on September 18/19. I really didn’t know what to expect. When I decided to seriously consider it, I first went to their web page at www.hpprotour.com to check out the membership, rules, etc. There are basically three classes, Class I, II and III. Class I are the 30 and 40 foot pitchers with averages over 60%. Class II were the 30 and 40 foot pitchers from 50% to 59.99%. Class III are the 30 and 40 foot pitchers who have averages under 50%. The percentage is based on tournament results over the previous 12 months.
I wanted to pitch in Class II, but, was concerned that the two remaining tournaments before signing up, were the Maryland State Doubles and Maryland State Singles and could possibly exceed the 60% ringer average putting me into Class I. I mailed in my $25 annual membership fee and completed and mailed in the $50 entry fee for the Frederick tournament. My partner and I won the Maryland State Doubles and I finished with a 59.5% ringer average. I tied for second in the Maryland State Singles, but, dropped to third with a lower ringer average. The 1st and 2nd place pitchers both had 70% averages coming in. My last three matches I finished with a 60.3% ringer average. My new technique described in Part 24 had me psyched about the upcoming Pro Tour event.
Prior to the tournament I had received my membership card and pitching schedule. We were to report at 9:00 a.m. on the 18th and pitching would begin at 10:00. I arrived at 8:00 a.m. and checked over the facility. Everything was in tip-top shape. The pits were groomed, stakes painted, scoreboards up, chairs at the ready. The Frederick team had done a magnificent job of preparing for the tournament. A few additional items were present. The sponsor banners were hanging, the PA system up and running, and a variety of Pro Tour paraphernalia, i.e., shirts, towels, etc. I zipped down to the last pits for a warmup. Prior to the event I had typed up and had laminated my series of swing keys, i.e., stance, grip, alignment, swing speed, etc. I settled down quickly and was happy with my preparation.
At 10:00 we were all called to the front. We first stood for the National Anthem and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Then to the introductions and rules of play. Saturday was the qualification day. You basically pitched to progress to Sunday. There were 45 competitors in the three classes. I looked around and saw four of the worlds greatest horseshoe pitchers. Brian Simmons, Bobby Fields, Sue Snyder and Joan Elmore. Also attending and participating was Bobby White, of White Distributors and his son Tony. The competitors had come from all over the country…Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Nevada, West Virginia, Tennessee, New York, Indiana, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.
The rules were as follows — each person pitched 30 shoes and only ringers counted. Everyone started each match at the same time and no match would start until the results from the previous match were posted. Each competitor was given a scoresheet and large plastic name plate to be hung on each pit scoreboard. I would be pitching 8 games. The scorekeepers were to receive $1.00 per game from each competitor. All participants moved to the north side of the pits and were introduced one by one by name and state and moved to the south end of the pits. After all introductions the matches began.
It seemed that pitching for ringers was less stressful than pitching heads up against one another. In Class II the two top ringer averages would move on to Sunday. The remaining pitchers would pitch again at 2:00 p.m. to move two more to Sunday. On Sunday, there would be 4 pitching in Class II. There would be other qualifiers at 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. I started well with 21 ringers out of 30 for a 70% average. I followed up with 50%, 56.6%, 56.6%, 66.6%, 63.3%, 63.3% and 56.6% for an overall ringer average of 60.42%. At the end of my 8 games I was in 1st place and would return the next day for the finals.
The finals would begin at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday. The rules were different on Sunday. It was to be a best 2 out of 3 competition. Introductions were made and the matches began. I was to pitch the 4th place qualifier and just did win the first two matches. The worst I could do now was 2nd place. My competitor threw two beautiful games, the last which was a 73.3% game. I ended up in 2nd place and walked away with a little money in my pocket.
What a wonderful experience. The highlight of my two days was meeting and speaking with Sue Snyder and Joan Elmore. Both were very warm and friendly ladies. Besides the excitement of coming in 2nd, my friend, Vicki Kunde, who pitches at American Legion Post 7 in Crownsville, MD., won Class I — 30 feet, by defeating Joan Elmore and Sue Snyder and Bobby Fields. I was disappointed that I did not have a chance to speak with Bobby White. Bobby has always been available to answer any question about horseshoes via email. He has also been very encouraging during my design development. The success of the Frederick venue insures a return of the Pro Tour next year.
I have been working for the past couple of months to transition from designing with wood patterns to computer generated models. The difficulty has been to find products that go from CAD (Computer Aided Design) to mesh based 3D software at a reasonable price. Up until now I have been able to work with a variety of woodworking tools such as band saws, routers, oscillating sanders, and polymer clay to create my designs. However, I now need to add some design features that are not easily created with these tools. In recent years, there has been the development of 3D printing. It is difficult to determine with wooden patterns, the volume (the amount of ductile iron to be used) that will create a shoe that weighs precisely 2 pounds 8 ounces. With computer generated 3D images, it is very easy to determine the volume of your shape. It is much easier to alter the shape of a horseshoe in 3D than a wooden pattern. I have, this week, sent forward to an engineering firm a 3D rendering that will result in a working version of my latest design. Using 3D also allows me to precisely move around the center of gravity of the shoe. My goal is to produce a shoe that is more traditional in shape, but, has the weight distributed precisely front to back and side to side.
The real challenge in this process is to find a 3D package or packages that are affordable. Some 3D packages cost in excess of $8,000. I am trying to use public domain (free) and affordably priced software. I am using SketchUp, Blender, Milkshape, MeshLab, TurboCad 17, etc. All of which are low cost and/or free. I hope to have at least one, possibly two, new designs available for the 2011 season.
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