BY CHAD DARE
When the Danville Horseshoe Club was founded in 1989, it was only natural for them to host a tournament.
“When you are starting a club, it’s almost expected that you will hold a tourney,’’ said Leo Bratland, one of the tournament organizers. “There are a few of us still with the Club that we’re here for the first tournament.’’
Today and Sunday, the Danville Horseshoe Club will host its 25th Annual Danville Open at the Douglas Park Horseshoe Complex on South Bowman Avenue.
A total of 154 entries from 13 states will compete in 19 classes, making this the largest Danville Open in its 25-year existence.
“No. We had no idea that it would ever get this big,’’ Bratland said. “We have really seen some growth in our tournament in the past 10 years.’’
Bratland is quick to give credit to the entire Danville Horseshoe Club.
“We have some members that will compete this weekend, but everyone in the club makes sure the little things get done around the park,’’ Bratland said. “We have people that volunteer as scorekeepers. We have people that make sure the pits are clean and they have plenty of water. We have people that make sure the scores and the standings are posted as soon as possible.
“We know that it’s the little things that we do that have made this a very enjoyable weekend for the past 25 years.’’
Bratland wasn’t sure how many of this year’s 154 competitors were here in the first year, but he knows the majority of them have been here before.
“We have a lot of good people from all around the Midwest that will be in Danville this weekend for this tournament,’’ Bratland said.
Included in that group are all three defending champions in the top divisions from last year’s tournament.
Randall Grady of Benton, Mo., will attempt to repeat in the Men’s Class A division, but Grady is the No. 2 seeded thrower behind Alan Francis, a 16-time world champion.
Francis had won the Danville Open for 11 straight years, but missed last year’s tournament because of a family obligation.
Also returning to Danville this year is last year’s women’s champion, Joan Elmore, who has won the title seven times and Class A-Elders champion Bobby Fields of Pikeville, Tenn.
“We have been very fortunate here in Danville to get some of the best throwers in the world,’’ said Bratland, noting that Francis and Elmore have combined for more than 20 world titles. “I think the credit for that goes to our club for putting on a good tournament.
“We also have to give credit to the City of Danville and Steve Lane for supporting our club.’’
The action will get started at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, with the Men’s Class A, Women’s Class A and Men’s Class A-Elders scheduled to throw at 5:30 p.m. today with the their finals set for 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Admission to the Danville Open is free to everyone and the tournament is sanctioned by the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association. Over $9,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded this weekend.