Horseshoe club small on numbers, big on fun
By KENT MINCER
When Dale Kellerby first started pitching horseshoes 15 years ago, more than 40 people belonged to the Western Colorado Horseshoe Club.
These days, the numbers have dwindled to half that.
“A lot of them don’t pitch every week,” said Jeff McDonald, who is the club’s tournament director and compiles the scores from the weekly league pitches.
On warm summer nights, with people taking vacations or just trying to avoid the heat, eight or 10 show up.
They still manage to have fun.
The club meets Tuesday evenings at 6:30 at the Lincoln Park horseshoe pits for a three-game session. Each session lasts approximately two hours.
Each game consists of 50 pitches. Men’s pitchers throw from 40 feet; pitchers in the senior, women’s and youth divisions throw from 30.
The good thing about horseshoes is that everybody has a chance against everyone else.
“It’s on a handicap basis,” Kellerby said.
At 80, he is the senior member of the group. He also has the best handicap (for the record, it’s 3). He began pitching in 1994. Two years later he was competing in a national tournament.
As for the scoring, ringers are worth three points; pitches within six inches of the stake are worth one.
That means when Kellerby plays someone like, say Paul Green, who is a 54 handicap, he’s got to make up 51 points per game (or, in essence, one point per pitch) in order to win the game.
“Sometimes it comes out that you’ve got the feel,” said Kellerby, who’s undoubtedly sensed that feeling often.
The pitchers rotate after each game, facing three different opponents per night.
There are no weekly points awards; top placers for the 15-week league at the end of the season earn prizes.
McDonald and a friend maintain the 16 mud pits and stakes at the Lincoln Park facility; the Grand Junction Parks Department maintains the grass within the pit area. McDonald is surprised that the numbers for the Grand Junction club have dwindled over the years.
“A town this size ought to have 50 pitchers,” he said.
McDonald said the appeal of the sport is its low cost. The fee for adults is $5 to belong to the state horseshoes organization plus a $1 club fee. The cost to pitch each week is $4.
For juniors, it’s even cheaper — $5 for the state fee, $1 for the club dues and $1 to pitch in the league each week, although the only current junior member is Kellerby’s great-grandson.
“If you buy a good pair of horseshoes, it can cost anywhere from $30 to $60,” McDonald said.
That’s a cheap equipment fee for a summer of entertainment.
McDonald also likes the family atmosphere. He’s pitched in beer leagues, but that’s not the environment he wants for this club.
The league concludes its season next week. If enough interest is generated, there’s talk of trying to organize a fall league.
If not, there’s always next summer. For the members of the Western Colorado Horseshoe Club, they’ll return because the company is always good.