TROY — A group of locals have a “pitch” about their club and what it has to offer.
The Troy Horseshoe Club, now in its 41st year, is seeking new members for a pastime thought to be as old as 2,000 years. Club president Tom Kirk said horseshoe pitching provides exercise, fellowship and fun to those young and old, and he hopes to encourage those interested to come out and give the sport a try.
“The fellowship with the other horseshoe pitchers is why I’ve stayed involved. They are all competitive, but all friendly, good people,” said Kirk, who joined the club in the 1980s.
The club held its first organizational meeting in the spring of 1978. The group at that time built four courts and a clubhouse at the location of the courts presently at the south end of the Miami County Fairgrounds in Troy.
Throughout the years, according to Kirk, members have added courts, for a total of eight at the present. Kirk said club members also have moved, added to, and improved the original clubhouse. Lighting was installed and also has been improved for night pitching, he said. In 2018, members did some cement work, painted the fence, added decoration to the clubhouse and put up banners.
“It looks pretty nice when we get all our signs up,” said Kirk, who said he began horseshoe pitching soon after he was married in the 1960s in his own yard.
Members have provided summer horseshoe pitching in league play and tournaments before and during the Miami County Fair every year since 1978. The Troy Horseshoe Club has been a National Horseshoe Pitching Association-sanctioned club since 1988 and operates in conjunction with the Ohio State Horseshoe Pitching Association.
Members have participated and done well in weekend tournaments thoughtout the state and the state tournament held every year in Greenville, according to Kirk. Some have also played in the NHPA World Tournament held in different cities in the United States.
“There’s all kinds of advancement in horseshoes,” Kirk said. “You can just pitch locally or you can pitch in sanctioned events all over the U.S. or go even further and pitch at the world tournament, this year it’s in Wichita Falls, Texas.”
Kirk said a former Troy Horseshoe Club member has even found fame in the horseshoe pitching community. Jim Walters is well-known countrywide on the horseshoe pitching circuit, Kirk said. Walters reached No. 4 in the high average in the country and was a several-time world champion junior horseshoe pitcher, he said.
Troy Horseshoe Club members pitch at 6 p.m. on Tuesday evenings beginning in May until early August and the courts are open to the public, according to Kirk. During winter, members also pitch with the Darke County Horseshoe Club in a building at the Darke County Fairgrounds from November to April.
“It’s competitive. We have a good time of course. Everyone is welcome to join us. We’re just trying to raise awareness of horseshoe pitching,” said Kirk, who said his brother also pitched for many years. “Anybody that can physically throw a horseshoe can do this.”
In league play, Kirk said pitchers receive three points for a ringer, where both points of the horseshoe are past the stake, and one point for each of the horseshoes closest to the stake. Members pitch four games per evening during individual play, and games generally last about a half-hour each. Kirk said they also follow pitching rules where both parties score with a handicap.
In tournaments, however, members follow the cancellation format, with six to eight members on a team and the event will last three to four hours.
Adults pitch the horseshoe from a distance of 40 feet, while women and those 70 and older pitch at 30 feet or farther depending on their comfort, according to Kirk, who said he now pitches at about 33 feet.
Kirk said the most club members he remembers the club ever having is 35, but right now the club is down to eight to 10 members. He said children generally get started in the sport around age 10, and people sometimes play until they cannot physically pitch the horseshoe anymore.
“We know people that are almost 90 that still pitch,” said Kirk, who manages the two yearly tournaments the club holds annually.
Kirk said the club also would like to have some women pitchers, who have been missing from the courts for the last few years.
“We used to have a lot of women that pitched, but none right now. We’d love to have some back,” he said.
Anyone 8 and older interested in learning more about horseshoe pitching can attend a clinic, sponsored by the Troy Horseshoe Club, from 1-4 p.m. April 27-28, or again May 4-5, at the Miami County Fairgrounds. Registration deadline is April 14, by calling Doug at (937) 212-5879 or Tom at (937) 573-7900.
“We invite anyone that wants to learn more about horseshoes and the different ways of throwing a horseshoe, throwing a turn, or throwing a flip,” Kirk said. “I’ve just enjoyed it. I can others will, too.”