From Backyard Game to International Competition - In Beloit
By, Earl Paulson
Horseshoe pitching has long been a popular sport in Beloit. According to the late Beloit Daily News Historian Lawrence Raymer, "There was a time when there were courts all over the city, and almost every family played horseshoes in their backyard." Several local industries has horseshoe courts built on their premises to provide recreation for their workers. Fairbanks Morse, Beloit Corporation, Besly Welles and Warner Brake held horseshoe tournaments at their annual picnics.
In 1955 at the Wisconsin State Tournament held at the State Fairgrounds in West Allis, Earl Ramquist won the Wisconsin State Championship. Earl is the only Beloiter to have held the State title. Ben Brostuen won the State Class C title in 1969 and the Class B title in 1975. At the state tournament at Eau Claire, Wi in 1990 Earl Ramquist was inducted into the Wisconsin State Horseshoe Pitcher's Hall of Fame.
In the early 1960's Ben Brostuen built a regulation clay court in his back yard. He invited some of the better players from out of town to provide competition. They came from Milwaukee, Lake Geneva, Freeport and other surrounding areas to compete with some of the better players in Beloit.
In the late 1950's Earl Ramquist, Al Walmsley, Ben Brostuen and others built 8 clay courts with cement walkways at the Vernon Avenue Playgrounds. These courts were used until the mid 1960's when due to vandalism and lack of maintenance it was felt a private home would be a better place and would result in better maintenance of the courts.
About 1967 Don Goldsmith and his father built 4 regulation clay courts on their land just off Shirland Avenue on Fisher Road in South Beloit. These courts were built in a nice shady area and were used every tuesday evening and saturday afternoon until the mid 1980's. There were no organized leagues but each fall an annual doubles tournament was held with pitchers coming from Janesville, Milton , Edgerton, Rockford, Freeport and the surronding areas. Some of the local competitors were, Earl Ramquist, Ben Brostuen, Art Larson, Claire Everson, Charlie Goldsmith, Jack Ramsey, Bob Geeser, Don Goldsmith, Ivan Borkenhagen, Bob Kamppi, Doug Goldsmith, Al Knutson, Pete Thorson, Alden Brostuen, Rueben Brostuen, and Al Walmsley.
A New Era Begins
In the early 1980's with a new crop of players joining some of the oldtimers it was felt that more chances for competition could be gained by being better organized and becoming sanctioned by the National Horseshoe Pitcher's Association. The Beloit Horseshoe Club was organized with the following officers:
President - Norval "Bud" Renley
1st Vice President - Ken Lovaas
2nd Vice President - Harold Laws
Sec. Tresurer - Earl Paulson
The league was sanctioned by the NHPA in 1985 and has remained sanction to this day. More leagues were added and soon after sanctioned singles leagues began. From that point on, all league and tournament results and individual averages are reported to the NHPA. This meant that all participants were required to hold a current NHPA card. This also meant that the tournaments were advertised in the Wisconsin State Newsletter. Since that time Beloit has become a major desination for tournament pitchers in the midwest.
A new and larger location
Since the courts were located in Illinois and teh club wanted to become affiliated with the Wisconsin Horseshoe Pitchers Association, the club began to look for a location north of the state line. Ken Nelson, owner of the Hichin' Post tavern on Newark Rd. approched the club wanting to hire someone to build several horseshoe courts on his property. A brushy area several lots in size just north of the tavern was looked at and an offer was made to build the courts without charge provided the club could move its operations to the site. The offer was accepted and early in the spring of 1987 club members led by president Bud Renley began clearing brush and trees and grading the area to make it ready for the courts. Nine regulation courts were completed, the last concrete was poured just one week before the first scheduled tournament in mid-May. The courts were designed and construction was supervised by Bud Renley. He came to be referred to around the state as the "Horseshoe Engineer." Bud passed away in 1991. The courts were named "Renley Courts" and a sign is posted in his honor.
The State Tournament Comes to Beloit
The 1989 Wisconsin State Tournament was scheduled to be held at the Pitchin' Palace, a 12 court indoor facility near Sturtevant, Wi. This event is traditionally held on Labor day weekend each year. In the spring of 1989 the Pitchin' Palace went out of business. The State association was faced with the prospect of finding someone willing to host the event on rather short notice. Due to the Beloit club having already built a reputation of running successful tournaments we were asked and accepted. Having only 9 courts we went back to the construction mode again and added four more, making a total of 13 courts. The 67th Wisconsin State Tournament was held at Beloit on Labor day weekend 1989. This was the first State tournament to be held at Beloit. Since then we have hosted the event in 1992, 1995, 2001, and 2005.
International Competition comes to Beloit
The demise of the Pitchin' Palace brought another opportunity to the Beloit club. At the world tournamnet in Huntsville, AL in 1984 the idea of an International Team Tournament was spawned during a conversation between Tom Roanhouse, owner of the Pitchin' Palace and Bob Fanjoy of Hamilton, Ont. It was decided that the name of the event should be "The Canadian-American Friendship Tournament: or "Can-Am" as it was known the first few years. In February of 1985 the first Can-Am was held at the Pitchin' Palace with Minnesota winning their first title. The competition is between four person teams representing their State or Canadian Province.
In the Spring of 1989 the Pitchin' Palace was closed. Seeing this as an opportunity to keep a popular event going and bringing it to Beloit the club contacted the members of the tournament commitee to see if they would be willing to continue if a suitable facility could be found at Beloit. Upon recieving unanimous support from the commitee the City of Beloit was contacted regarding the possibility of renting the pavilion at Telfer Park for the event.
With the co-operation of Lee Fassett, Director of Public Works, Jerry Edwards and Sue Porter of the Beloit Youth Hockey Association, Mark Edwards, Diane Cox and the crew at Telfer Park, arrangements were made to turn the pavilion into a Horseshoe Pitching arena as soon as the ice was removed in early April. Portable courts and scoreboards were trucked in on loan from the Eau Claire Horseshoe Club, 24 courts were set up and filled with 30 barrels of Chenoa clay which had been puchased from the Pitchin' Palace and on the last weeken dof April 1990 "Team World" as it is now called came to Beloit. Twenty teams from as far away as California with Ontario and Saskatchewan representing Canada made up the largest field ever for the event.
Complete round-robin between all the teams began on Friday and ended about noon on Sunday. The top 5 teams competed in a ladder play-off on Sunday afternoon with the Indiana team edging out defending champion Minnesota for the World title. Indiana was also the first recipient of the "Team World Cup" which was bought and donated to the tournament by the Beloit Horseshoe Club. This trophy has since traveled to many states.
The Pitchin' Palace had only 12 courts and had very little space for spectators. The size of the pavilion at Telfer makes it an ideal location for this event. This as well as the many motels and resturants near by has made Beloit a popular destination for horseshoe pitchers has helped to make Team World one of the most important tournaments in the sport.
At the first Team World, professional bowler Walter Ray Williams Jr., a 6 time World Champion, having just competed in the PBA tour in Hartford, Ct. flew in to the Rockford Airport, rented a car and made it in time to compete in the second round on Saturday helping the California team to finish in seventh place. Other former world champions to compete in TEam World in Beloit Include: 3 time champ Dale Lipovsky of Minnesota, 2 time champ Mark Seibold of Indiana, 1955 World Champion Don Titcomb of California, 7 time World Champion Alan Francis of Ohio, 10 time Woman's champion Vicki Winston of Missouri, 5 time champ Phyllis Negaard of Minnesota, 3 time champ Sue Snyder of Kentucky, 2 time champ Bev Nathe of Minnesota, 1987 Woman's Champ Sandy Jensen of Ontario, Canada, 1993 Women's Champ Cathy Carter of Iowa, and champion Sylvianne Moissan of Quebec. Also former Canadian Champions Andre LeClere of Quebec, Colin Finney of Saskatchewan and Steve Hohl of Ontario. This caliber of competition is the reason no one from Beloit has ever competed in Team World. The Beloit Horseshoe Club feels honored to be able to host the event each year. This event is like the All Star Game of horseshoe pitching.
Other Events at Edwards Activity & Sports Center (Telfer Park)
With all the work involved in setting up the courts at Telfer, it was decided to hold more than one tournament to make it worth while. The Wisconsin State Club Team Tournament is run on a similar format to Team World with 4 person teams representing various clubs around the state. By dividing the firled in to several classes it is possible to run this tournament in one day (Saturday). The following day it was decided to have a sanctioned singels tournament, called the Beloit Encore. Both events proved to be very popular. About the 3rd year the Beloit Encore drew 152 entrants from roughly a 400 mile radius. This turned out to be the largest one day tournament on record. It also turned out to be a very long and grueling day for the people running it. In order to take some of the pressure off it was decided to make this a two day event, one week later. This left an open day, the day following the State Team event. A suggestion was made to the State Association to use this day fir a State Doubles Tournament (A first for Wisconsin) provided the State Association would run it. They took us up on the offer so now another major tournament was added to the schedule at Telfer. The present schedule each year at Edwards Activity and Sports Center is as follows:
Last Saturday in April - Wisconsin State Club Team Tournament
Last Sunday in April - Wisconsin State Walking Doubles Tournament
First Weekend in May - Beloit Encore Tournament
Following Weekend - Mother's Day (No Tournament)
The following Friday, Saturday and Sunday - Team World
Other Tournaments (Held at Beloit Club Facilities)
Beloit Spring Singles - This is a continuation of the event which began at the old Goldsmith courts in the early 1980's. This draws usually between 90 and 100 players from a 400 mile radius and is a two day event. Usually held about the second weekend in June.
Southern Wisconsin Open - Mid July to Mid August. This event began on the new courts in the late 1980's. It is a popular event with about 40% of the players coming from Illinois.
Annual Doubles Tournament - (late September) This is a non-sanctioned event a continuation of the yearly tournament that began at the old Goldsmith courts in the late 1960's. This usually draws about 70 or 80 people and its run in one day. Doubles play is popular in backyards and on picnics but the real competition which is highly competitive and hard to beat for anyone who had a competitive spirit. In Team World and the State Team events the players are matched up in singles games and they play for team points. All National and International records are established in singles competition.
Since 1985 the Beloit Horseshoe Club leagues have been sanctioned under the National Horseshoe Pitcher's Association sanctioned league program. All Participants must hold a current NHPA card. Leagues are held three times a week as follows: Monday AM - Old Timers League. 10 to 15 players, mostly retired, play in a singles round-robin format.
Tuesday Evening - Doubles League. 28 to 30 people, 14 or 15 teams in two classes play in a round-robin format.
Thursday Evening - 8 to 12 people compete in a singles format.
Leagues begin the last week in May and run thru the last week in August. The annual awards banquet is held about the first of October. Club Awards, NHPA awards and prize money for games won are distributed at this time.
Several other horseshoe leagues are operated in the area each summer. Beloit Moose Club - 40 or more players compete in a doubles league each monday night. League director for many years is Ken Beebe who is also a long time member of the Beloit Horseshoe Club. The Beloit Moose Club has been the host of the Wisconsin State Moose Tournament several times in recent years. Earl Paulson of Beloit was State Moose Champion in 1996 & 1997. South Beloit Legion - The South Beloit Legion Post 288 has had a doubles league during the summer months for many years. League Director is Doug Brown.
Roscoe VFW - Each Wednesday night the Roscoe VFW has a doubles league. About 40 players compete on 11 courts. League President is Carl Conklin, Secretary, Ron Derry; Vice President, Pete Rockers.
Security Road League - From 1965 until 1999 Roger Whitney ran a doubles horseshoe league on four courts which he built on his back yard on Security Road in Beloit. The league usually consisted of 12 to 16 players. Some of the players competing were: Carl Payne, Roger Harstad, John Zielinski, John Henning, Roger Whitney, Scott Payne, Jerry Toper, Ron Smith, Bob Hurley, Bob Babcock, Tom Hanson, Tim Whitney and Mike Henderson.
There are two active leagues operating in Janesville, the Janesville Moose Club and the UAW.
With more than 150 players actively competing in leagues and with 7 or 8 horseshoe tournaments held each year it seems that horseshoe pitching is alive and well in the Stateline Area.
Horseshoe Pitching on the Internet
In 1997 Terry Lokken, who works for the City of Beloit Dept. of Public Works and a charter member of the Beloit Horseshoe Club decided the club would have a web page. Due to much hard work and dedication by Terry the Beloit Horseshoe Club became one of the first clubs in the country to have its own web page. Much of the recent activity of the club can be found as well as tournament schedules, tournament results including articles on all of the Team World events that have been held in Beloit since 1990. There are now links to horseshoe clubs and organizations in every state and Canadian Province and to other countries such as England, Sweden and Finland. Terry has recieved compliments from all over the country.
A Perfect Game
Perfect games in horsehshoe pitching are very rare. A perfect game in bowling, which are becoming increasingly common, requires only 12 consecutive strikes in one game. In horseshoes, it requires a string of 20 or more consecutive ringers depending on the number of shoes pitched in a game. Each year at the NHPA Hall of Fame banquet, Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Professional Bowling fame, tho is responsible for keeping track of such things, gives out an award to each person who has pitched a perfect game during the past year. The presentation doen't take long, at most only 3 or 4 perfect games are pitched during the year nationwide. In 1992 at Telfer Park during Team World, Cathy Carter, a young lady from Council Bluffs, Iowa pitched the only perfect game at Team World, 40 consecutive ringers. Her opponent was three time world champion Dale Lipovsky. Dale had a fairly decent game, 32 out of 40, yet failed to score a point. This game will be in the records for all time. History was made at Telfer Park !!
An Award Winning Club
At the Hall of Fame Banquet of the NHPA held during the World Horseshoe Tournamnet in Kitchener, Ont. Canada in July of 1997 the Beloit Horseshoe Club was honored with a 1997 Achievement Award. This award was given for the Club's hosting and promoting the Team World Tournament which has "Grown into one of the most recongnized and regarded tournaments in the country." This was a great honor for the Beloit Club and a great boost for Team World. At the Wisconsin State Tournament in Eau Claire, WI in 1998 Earl Paulson was honored by Ken Jaeger, President of the WHPA with the President's Award for the year 1998 for his work in promoting the Team World Tournament and for being Tournament Director for many tournaments including four state tournaments.
At the Hall of Fame Banquet of the NHPA held during the World Tournament in Bismarck, ND in August of 2000, Seneca "Red" Ferguson, one of the original members and a major benefactor of the Beloit Club, was honored with a NHPA Achievement Award for the Year 2000. NHPA Vice President Paul Stewart of North Carolina cited his long time dedication to teh Beloit Horseshoe Club which enabled it to begin construction of a indoor horseshoe pitching facility.
Beloit Horseshoe Club - Growing
Total membership in the Beloit Horseshoe Club has remained quite steady during the years it has been in existence. Each year some members are lost and some are added. Total membership has remained between 50 and 60 people.
In 1990 when the Hitchin' Post Tavern changed hand the club purchased the land where the 13 outdoors courts are located. A clubhouse was later added. THe club then purchased the remaining parcel of land just to the west. It is bounded by Newark Road, Haborn Drive and Ravine Drive. In addition to 13 outdoor courts, the club now has a 6 court indoor pitching facility.
In the late 1980's and early 1990's the Beloit Horseshoe Club has hosted a women's league. Georgia Beebe, Barb Ramquist and Ann Van Tassel organized it and kept the stats. Some of the league members included, Barb Behling, Pam Woodard, Betty Bird, Carolyn Pollock, Tracy Pankhurst, Audrey Henderickson, Donna Grenawalt, Rondi Podschweit, Carol Brown, Lenoria Warner, Bernie Lokken, Nicole Beebe, Judy and Tracy Phoenix. In later years the women hace been mixed in with the men as they no longer have enough to continue a league of their own.