Top pitchers congregate at Beloit's Edwards Arena
They call it the Team World Championships, but to be honest, you won't find Zimbabwe, Iceland or Argentina anywhere in the field.
In fact, it would be the U.S. Team Horseshoe Championships if not for a certain group of ambitious Canadian pitchers making the trek south every year to represent Ontario.
“I think I've made it all but once here, Stanley Leis said in between a couple practice tosses at the Edwards Activity and Sports Center at Telfer Park.
The Beloit Horseshoe Club has hosted the three-day event since 1990. This year, 18 four-person teams will compete on the 24 indoor portable courts with approximately $5,000 in prize money as well as the title of Team World Champion on the line.
Ontario usually reaches the finals, tournament director Earl Paulson says, but the best the team has ever achieved is third place.
This year the team should be a solid contender again, with two past individual champions. Sandy Janssens is a former Women's World Champion and Lucille Leis was the 2006 Senior Women's World Champion.
“It's been 20 years since I won my title, said Janssens, who was only 16 at the time. “But I have been having a pretty good year.
Pitchers are judged by their ringer percent - how often they throw a ringer. Heading into the tournament, Janssen has the second-best overall ringer percent in the field at 78.16. Only Gert Wilcziek of Wisconsin No. 1 is higher, at 82.25.
“I've made a lot of these (Team Worlds), but I'm an accountant and when it was held in April, at our tax time, it was tough for me to make it, Janssen said. “I enjoy this tournament because it really gives you a chance to get out and see everybody and socialize.
They also compete on a high level.
“We've had basically the same team for the past 20 years, Janssen said. “We switch off a little bit here or there.
Lucille Leis has a 68.20 ringer percent. Stanley Leis is at 65.40 and Steve Hohl at 59.78.
“Our women are our top two pitchers, said Stan Leis, Lucille's brother-in-law. “The key is lining up your team's lineup against the other team's. That falls on the coach (Tom Stroh).
It's not always smart to line up your best against their best during the round robin play, Leis said, but when you get to the finals it becomes absolutely necessary.
Colorado won the title the past two years and three of the past four. With Sheila Shepard (75.86), Carl Carlton (74.42), Paul LaCrosse (70.35) and Rich Pintor (64.39), they again have one of the most well-balanced foursomes in the field and are favorites to repeat.
“They're even stronger than last year, on paper, Leis said.
Wisconsin No. 1 should also be formidable with Wilcziek leading a team that includes Mark Mauthe (74.71), two-time Junior Girl champion Penny Steinke (68.96) and Jim Larson (61.91).
NOTES: Preliminaries begin today at 10 a.m. with the last round scheduled for 4:10. It will pick up again at 9 a.m. Saturday with the last round at 3:55. Sunday, it starts at 9 a.m. and the finals begin around 11:30. The public is invited to attend the event throughout the weekend. Admission is free. Food vendors will be on site.