Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2020 TCL Ryder Cup

Those that play or have played golf usually are familiar with the PGA's Ryder Cup. The United States fields a team of 12 players to play against 12 players from Europe. They play several matches in various formats with each team obtaining points for each match they win. The first team to reach 14 1/2 points wins the Cup! It's a pretty cool event as it promotes a team environment for players who usually compete individually. The camaraderie and pride these players display is awesome to watch as they come together and cheer each other on.

In Texas those associated with The Texas Cornhole League know the words "Ryder Cup" as something kind of the same, but not really the same! On January 24th and 25th TCL's 10th Annual Ryder Cup will be hosted by the Denton Convention Center. There are hundreds of players who have taken part in this event and for the newbies, come Sunday morning they won't know what hit them! This event is easily TCL's biggest event of the year, not so much in payouts but due to the amount of people who will be in attendance. Every year it has increased in the number of teams and this year the trend will continue. Last years Ryder Cup had 430 players making up 43 teams in various divisions and this year they are expecting over 60 teams. Over 600 players will be taking part in this years event making it TCL's largest attended event to date. It. Will. Be. Epic!

The TCL version of this event consists of 3 different events, Team 10, Singles and Doubles with players obtaining points for their team as they win games in these events. After all events have been played, points are tabulated and the team with the most points wins the cup!

Team 10 is easily the most stressful game as it has all 10 players, 5 on each end. Players each get 1 bag as they alternate throwing with the other team. Each bag is super important and when you have 19 players all staring at you, it can be a fairly pressure packed scenario for some players. 

Singles is a NCAA March Madness style tournament, win and advance, lose and your done. Players win points as they win and advance. Seems every year the competition in this event gets better and more challenging.

Doubles is a round robin style where each team has 5 doubles teams. The designated number 1 team will play all the number 1 teams in their division. Same for the number 2,3,4 and 5 teams. Strategy comes into play in this event as Captains determine how they will line their players up.

This will be my 6th Ryder Cup to play in with the first one being my first ever TCL event. I left that event blown away by the whole darn spectacle and how good everyone was. The next year I was able to play with the East Texas team led by Brad Jones in what many would say was one of the more exciting Ryder Cup events. I look forward to this event as it is the ultimate team cornhole event and with the "Our area is better than yours" mentality, it can get pretty competitive.

Organizing big tournaments are challenging enough but this event really requires exceptional effort. When you have this many teams and players it can be more work than most realize.This weekend if you get a moment, walk up to Chad, Jason, and Justin and thank them for their time they have invested to help make this event one we all enjoy. It is simply put, "An event like none other"!

Throw 'em straight y'all!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

TCL Mansfield Signature Series

When I think of the name Mansfield I think of a small town just south of Shreveport, LA where I was raised. Possibly the most recognizable person from Mansfield is former MLB Pitcher Vida Blue. Some of you youngsters may not be familiar with Vida but trust me, back in the day he could bring it!

Jayne Mansfield was a Motion Picture Actress in the 50's and 60's and I couldn't tell you much about her. Well I could but I choose to just move on to the next topic...lol.

Mansfield, TX is a suburban city not far from Arlington and as far as I'm concerned is most notable for a softball and baseball complex named Big League Dreams. BLD has several MLB replica fields but more importantly it has an indoor soccer pavilion. That is where my interest is because that is the location for this week's TCL's Signature Series Event.

Texas Cornhole League has fired up it's 10th season with many leagues and tournaments already in the books. This weekends event will be the first of four Signature tournaments held throughout the season and this one will be a good one folks!

Many of us took some time off from throwing bags following TCL's 9th Conference/State Tournament this past June in Abilene while others continued to work on their games and attended various events across the state. Each year the TCL experiences tremendous growth with new players catching the fever of the sport of cornhole. With this being the 10th season of cornhole for TCL, it appears to be more of the same with many leagues across Texas welcoming a slew of new players. I used to go to a tournament and feel like I knew most of the people there but not anymore. On top of all the new players, there are several very talented up and comers! One look at the current point standings validates this as there are many new names in the mix.

The usual top players like Brandon Gregor, Eddie Grinderslev, Daniel Vinson, Josh Groce and Stuart Foster, just to name a few will all be in Mansfield gunning for the top prize. There will also be several up and coming players who will have their eyes set on making their presence known. Some of those players are Grant Upchurch, Edgar Cardenas, Kaleb Batson and Blake Holly. All of these guys have been throwing very well and will definitely be forces to be reckoned with this coming weekend. There have also been some impressive performances from the ladies here of late as Jesusa Rodrigues, Brittney Arrington, Amy Valdez and Isabella Surprenant have been on fire. There are others who also are playing really well and I'm certain we will see them this weekend.

There will be many strong Doubles teams present with Groce and Batson, Gregor and Vinson and Grinderslev and Kenneth Johnston who are some of the bluebloods and usually finish near the top. Looking at the results from the State Tourney in June there are several teams who can make some noise including Mark Rubio and Eli Gonzalez and Peyton Welch and Tristan Janca who made great runs in Abilene and will also be tough to beat this week. Earnest Herrera and Grant Upchurch are teaming up for the first time and they will be a hard out for anyone.

There are so many others that have improved so much and will make this event extremely competitive. Each year the depth of talent just gets deeper and deeper and this year is no exception.

Like I mentioned earlier, this weekend will be awesome with many outstanding players in attendance. Safe travels everyone and we look forward to seeing you all soon!

Until next time, "throw 'em straight"!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Player Spotlight - Daniel Vinson

When you think of legendary athletes born here in Texas there are a few names that may come to mind. Babe Didrikson Zaharias...wait...who? Sorry, I saw a documentary on her one time and she had some legendary accomplishments including winning two gold medals in the 1932 Olympics. She then went on to win 31 Professional Golf titles. Very impressive! Ok I'll mention some a little more obvious like Nolan Ryan and Earl Campbell. Ryan threw 7 no hitters and amassed 5,714 strikeouts in 27 seasons. That in and of itself is amazing! Campbell affectionately known as "The Tyler Rose" won the Heisman Trophy in 1977 while wearing the Burnt Orange for the University of Texas. Campbell  then went on to lead the NFL in rushing 3 times with the Houston Oilers and twice was named the NFL MVP.

If you have played cornhole the past few years with The Texas Cornhole League, you undoubtedly are aware of the legendary Daniel Vinson. Daniel has quite the impressive resume with TCL winning a State Title in Singles, Doubles and being the Player of the Year. Only one other player has matched that feat in the Open Division and that is Brandon Gregor, a TCL Legend as well. Vinson started his cornhole career at a tournament at O'Sheas and basically hit the floor running. In his very first time to play, O'Sheas had a bonus for making a Big Tex and maybe that bucket of beers was just the motivation Vinson needed! Daniel indeed won a bucket or two and the rest is history as he has been draining 12's ever since.

Before Vinson took up cornhole, he was an accomplished Horseshoe player being ranked as high as 3rd in the state. Daniel pitched shoes for about 15-20 years before changing his arsenal to bags. The 44 year old Kaufman resident has been playing for about 7 years and says one of his favorite memories was playing in his first Ryder Cup. Vinson who was a fairly new player at this time, hit a huge Big Tex to win a critical game to help his team grab second place behind a tough Roanoke squad. The first Ryder Cup that I attended Daniel was on the East Dallas team that won that event and would also add another Cup win this past January.

One of the things that Daniel said he had to overcome early on was his ability to throw airmails with confidence. In watching Vinson the past few years I've noticed he is very methodical in his approach and strategy. He will rarely rush a meaningful shot as he puts a lot of thought and analysis into his process. A calm looking player during the game Daniel doesn't often show emotion but don't let that fool you. He is super competitive and will throw out an occasional fist pump.

Like many of us, Daniel enjoys the camaraderie and hanging with friends during and away from events. He is a fun loving guy that is well liked and respected by his peers. I've seen him helping new players many times including myself when I was a new player. That's just how he is and TCL is very fortunate to have him around.

Best of luck to you Daniel as you continue to etch your name in the TCL history books as a true legend.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Player Spotlight - Stuart Foster

I've been trying to remember the first time I saw or met Stuart Foster and I really can't nail down the exact moment. I'm pretty sure I heard him at my first Signature Event in Mesquite back in late Summer or early Fall of 2015 and I suppose my very first time to actually be around him was that same year when I joined the Forney League at the River Club. I eventually got to know him and man, what a player. Foster, who doesn't lack confidence is one of the top players in TCL and somewhat jokingly proclaims himself as "Number 1 in the world". Stuart is a fun loving guy when off the boards and when playing he would step on your throat in a heartbeat, demonstrating a massive competitive spirit.  A year or so ago several of us went to Las Vegas to play in one of the ACL National Events and all he did was walk through several really good players to make the Main Stage for a live feed. He was smack dab in the middle of his element as Foster lives for the big moments and thrives on playing against top players. Speaking of top players, did I mention that Foster finished this most recent season as TCL's Player of the Year, a feat he has pulled off 2 previous seasons. Next time you see him just call him "Three Time"!

The 42 year old has been playing for 7 years and the fact that he has won Player of the Year 3 of those 7 seasons is pretty awesome. Stuart told me recently that initially the hardest thing for him to overcome playing cornhole was the slide shot. I was a little confused and then he told me he used to throw only airmails which explains how he can be pretty deadly with his airmail game. He added that the Las Vegas experience making it to the Main Stage was probably his favorite cornhole memory. At this event he had been throwing TCL 450's throughout the tournament and had to change when he made the broadcast because both sides weren't the same color. I'm not saying he would've won his match against Ryan Windsor if he had those 450's but I would've loved to have seen him use them.

The Forney, Tx resident says he'd like to improve on his ability to maintain his focus and deal with fatigue better when making late runs in tournaments. I'm not so sure I would want to be someone who has to deal with the wrath of a focused Stuart Foster as he can get hot and when he does, look out. His spirited and animated displays of enthusiasm are sometimes fun to watch. A healthy Foster fist pump after a great shot is a fairly common occurrence when he gets fired up.

Congratulations Stuart on a great season.

Until next time, y'all throw 'em straight!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Player Spotlight - Eddie Grinderslev

When I first started playing in Texas Cornhole League events, I soon became familiar with who the top players were. Mostly by having them crush me but nevertheless, I was finding out who they were. One of the top players that I met was a slender young guy named Eddie Grinderslev.  A few years ago, before each Texas Cornhole League Signature Event everyone had to throw a SCR which included 13 rounds of 4 bags. I got a glimpse of Eddie's score sheet and I was blown away. He had no rounds of less than a 10 and at that point I knew this guy was special.

The 28 year old Grinderslev grew up in Lexington, TX, a small town of around 1200 people just about 50 miles northeast of Austin. One of Lexington's claims to fame could be Snow's BBQ which was tabbed as the best BBQ in Texas by Texas Monthly. After the season that Eddie recently had, I would have to say he could be the most well known person from Lexington! This past season Eddie was named ACL's mid season Rookie of the Year and finished it off as the number 1 ranked ACL player in the nation. That's kind of a Big Deal folks considering he beat out many ACL blue bloods like Cody Henderson, James Baldwin, Frank Modlin and hotshot young guns like Noah Wooten, Matthew Sorrells and fellow Texas Stud Josh Groce.

The Hutto, Tx resident is a 3 time Texas Cornhole League State Singles Champion and says his favorite memory is winning his first title which allowed him to get "over the hump" which he added wasn't easy! By watching him play I can't help but notice how easy he makes it look!

Eddie not only is a superior cornhole player but a top notch person as well. The first time I approached him he was very courteous and took the time to visit with me briefly. The soft spoken Texan is a fierce competitor but off the boards he is as nice as they come. I can't think of anything negative to say about him and I doubt I know anyone who could either.

Congratulations Eddie, you've made Texas and all of us players associated with TCL very proud of you. Best of luck to you Champ as you continue your career!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

2019 TCL Conference Tourney Observations

By now most of us have gathered our senses and caught up on some rest from the Texas Cornhole League's 9th Conference Tournament held recently in Abilene, TX. I am not so sure I can put my old self in that category as I still have lingering issues...I call it my "Cornhole Coma"! There is so much to talk about with this event I'm not so sure I know where I want to begin. I suppose I can start with Friday which had the Singles Events as well as the Women's Doubles. One thing I've noticed the past year or so is just how good everyone has become. Men, Women, it doesn't matter, everyone can flat out play it seems. If you don't throw well, there is a good chance you will be looking for your keys so you can make your way to your truck! In the Open Singles there were some early round upsets including Stuart Foster losing his 3rd round match and John Watson scoring a big 2nd round win over Johnny Seymour. In the Social Singles Chase Jackson the number 1 seed lost his 2nd round match to Sean Weatherford and Phillip Richardson the number 2 seed also lost his 2nd round match. In the Senior Singles the top 4 seeds made it to the winners bracket semis but maybe the most impressive performance may have been the run Dean Parker made. After losing his first round match to Johnny Seymour, Parker made a bag change and proceeded to win 6 straight loser bracket games to reach the finals. Christina Espinosa again won the Women's title beating Debra Odum who threw very well losing only to Espinosa. A couple of other ladies had very good runs as well including Amy Valdez and Leeann Hartline. Valdez in her first state tourney lost in the 3rd round to Debra Odum then won 4 elimination games before losing to Odum in a game that would have put her in the finals had she won. Hartline also lost to Odum early in the winners side then won 5 in a row before losing to Valdez. This was Friday folks!

Saturday was..well, Saturday. I arrived at the venue early to find the parking lot fairly full and I thought it was odd that this many players would be there this early. I soon found out that there were several...I mean several people already dressed in Renaissance type garb and others were getting dressed either in they're vehicles or putting on the final parts of their costumes outside their cars. As I walked towards the front door I saw many others in full blown musketeer outfits and medieval dresses. For a moment I thought I may have been in the wrong building but I eventually made my way to the tournament, without having any run ins with any wooden sword toting dudes or having any Knights wanting me to joust!

Saturday was mostly filled with Doubles Events along with some drop down Singles Events and ending with all the Championship matches. Mark Rubio and Eli Gonzalez had the most impressive run finishing second to Josh Groce and A J Sims in the Open Doubles. They took out several really good teams including Stuart Foster and Joe Arrington, Eddie Grinderslev and Kenneth Johnston and a hot throwing duo of Peyton Welch and Tristan Janca. In the Social Doubles Brittney Arrington and Toni Cranford made it to the winners bracket semi finals before losing to Ernest Monarca and Mitch Ryan. I'd say this would be the best finish for Arrington and Cranford in a TCL Signature Event. In the Open Singles Josh Groce beat Todd Bridgeman to get the win after losing to Bridgeman on Friday. These performances were what I'd say were the top highlights from the weekend.

Abeline provided us with many exciting moments and was once again a great host. I personally enjoyed my weekend getting to see many friends from all across the state and meeting new players as well. This was the end of the 9th TCL season and man it was a good one! Lots of new players stepping up and competing as well as all the top players who continue to get better. Have a good summer everyone and I look forward to seeing you all again soon at the next event!

Throw 'em straight y'all!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

State Championships

Sometimes when I write I like to start out with something informative, clever or maybe even nostalgic. I really just want it to be entertaining and interesting in hopes of having people read more than just the first paragraph! As you can tell by the title of this blog, I'm writing about State Championships. With the Texas Cornhole League's State Tournament in Abilene looming this week, I figure it would be fitting to write about some of my past State Tournament experiences, including my first TCL State Tournament.

Many of you know that for the past few years I've been a regular in the Texas Cornhole scene. I love the game, competing and maybe more than anything, seeing the group of friends that this game has introduced me to. The game provides me with the ability to satisfy my competitive urges that I have in my blood! I've been playing organized sports for around 50 years...yep, I'm not a spring chicken! I started out with little league baseball and was fortunate to be a part of a really good team that included a friend that I still talk with a few times a month. He and I played many various sports together including our first Championship team, a Shreveport City Basketball title in basketball as 6th graders at Atkins Elementary. I scored 1 point all season...and it didn't even count as my foot crossed the line on a free throw. We had a couple of real tall guys, Jimmy Blackwell and Keith Grant and some guys that could handle and shoot the ball well making our team very strong. I got to play late after those guys had built up big leads...mop up duty or whatever you want to call it, I didn't care, I was on the team and we were good!

I went to Woodlawn High School which had a tremendous athletic tradition. In the 60's Terry Bradshaw led the Knights to the State title game losing to Sulphur and couple of years later Joe Ferguson led them to the State Title with a perfect 14-0 season. That same year the basketball team fueled by Melvin Russell won a basketball title. The Track team won the state title that following spring and in 1972 Robert Parish led the Knights to another State basketball title. As a sophomore I watched as our team lost in the state semifinals to Covington High on a last minute interception touchdown return. My senior year I thought we had a chance for a title as our basketball team lost in the State finals and a few months earlier our football team made another run losing in the semifinals. The 70's were filled with many sports memories but most of which were sports I wasn't participating. That would soon change!

In the 80's I played softball and flag football...a lot! I was lucky enough to be a part of a few state title softball teams as well as 3 flag football championship teams. The first is probably my favorite as I finally won one as a player. I remember the long drive home back from south Louisiana and being exhausted but inside I felt so proud. Our team was a close knit bunch of rag tag guys who simply outwilled most of our opponents that weekend.

In 1990 I was a part of a National Championship flag football team that was loaded with talent. I really don't even remember how I got to be on this team but Coach John Lewis gave me a spot on the team as a defensive rusher and I took it! Fun times, fun times.

Fast forward to a few years ago with a body that wouldn't allow me to play softball much less try to run, I bowled some to satisfy my competitive cravings. The beatings my wore out body took from playing sports most of my life were taking it's toll. Everything seemed to hurt so much that I wasn't able to compete like I felt I could. That's where cornhole came into play!

In late 2014 I went to a friend's birthday party where they had some boards set up. I didn't know much about the game but I liked it. A few weeks later I built some boards and started playing some. I found a guy in the Longview area named John Towery, who allowed me to play in his weekly random draw events. After a couple of weeks he asked me if I would want to play in a big event in Dallas called the Ryder Cup. Not sure what I was getting into, I eagerly said yes! Not ever having played in any type of event like this I really didn't know what to expect. Once I was there, I realized very quick that I was outmatched...by a long shot.

That was in January and I knew I wanted to play in more of those type of events against those type of players. I also knew that I wasn't good enough at that point to compete. Mission accepted. I practiced as much as I could and played locally when I could and felt as if I was somewhat ready to give it a try against the best that Texas had to offer. Being a new player I didn't really get to play against the best and that was a good thing at that point! I did however play in the Social Division winning a State Title in Doubles and it was on baby! Now I wanted to get even better and play more which I did. Starting that next season as a "newby" I played in the Open Division at my first Signature event in Mesquite. I won a game or two until being matched up with a guy I knew was really good. I really didn't even know him or why I thought he was good other than he was wearing one of those jerseys and when I watched him throw, his bags kept going in the hole! I lost that game to Jason Andrews by 21-12 or something like that but I can remember being very nervous. The next event I attended was the Houston Signature where I felt deja vu. I won a game or two then played Adam Utz who beat me but again, I was super nervous. I came home that weekend and told my wife, Betty that I had to try to do something to get over my nerves. I figured I had to play more and against the better players. I joined the Forney League and each week I went up against guys like Stuart Foster, Daniel Vinson, Jason Andrews and Joe Arrington. I got crushed… a lot...but I was getting better at tuning out my nerves. I still couldn't beat those guys but it wasn't because I was nervous, I just wasn't good enough. I had more work to do!

Fast forward to now as the State Tournament is upon us and I still can't beat most of those guys but now I can score a few here and there!

This State Tournament is loaded...I mean loaded with talent. The field is as deep with good players as I've ever seen. Let me see...Josh Groce, Eddie Grinderslev, Stuart Foster, Daniel Vinson, Todd Bridgeman, A J Sims, Brandon Gregor, Eric Weathers, Christina Esopinosa, Jason Andrews, J C Nekuza, Adam Utz, Chad Jacobson, Justin Fowler, Joe Arrington...whew. Then we have guys like Earnest Herrera, Greg Kilmer, Mark Rubio, Mark Bitner, Nik Gemmiti, Kenneth Wright, Justin Gore, Justin Bennett, Justin Winschel, Nick Knabe, Jeremy O'Connell, Steve Stowe, Dallas Berthuime, Buddy Gotee...I mean Beaird, Frank Stockton, J D Thompson...the stinking list goes on and on with people that are really good!

That's not including the Senior's with guys like Tom Allen, Steve Wendling and Ken Wright. The Women's field will be super competitive as well with Espinosa, Betty Seymour, Jennifer Young, Trista Zonker, Veronica Vinson, Allison Appleton, Taylor De Leon, Amy Sledge, Ashley Conway...easy Rogge...Brittney Arrington, Amber Groce, Tracey Chamberlain and Caroline Johnston. This will be fun to watch!

All the years of playing sports has allowed me to compete but it has also introduced me to many wonderful people, some who have become life long friends that I consider family. I look forward to every event as I get to see my TCL family!

If you like competition, and I do, then you will love this year's State Championship in Abeline. It's going to be a great time and like many of us, we are on a mission to grab the title and hoist the hardware proclaiming ourselves as State Champions!!

Good luck everyone and be safe in your travels.