By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- "(The club) wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for him," said Susquehanna Valley Horseshoe Club member Ray Haskins.
Haskins was referring to the late Ken Battram, the founder of the club which calls the East Snyder Park in Selinsgrove home. Battram founded the club in 2007, using much of his own money to fuel a personal passion for horseshoes and provide enthusiasts with a place to play.
The club started playing in tournaments the following year and has evolved into a fully functioning league with 13 registered singles players and 12 doubles teams that meet on Tuesdays (singles) and Thursdays (doubles) every week.
According to club president Jim Brooks, the pins to which each pitcher throws are 40 feet apart with 30-foot lines also used as an option for competitors 70 years of age or older and females.
In horseshoes, each player, called a pitcher, is divided into classes based on the percentage of their throws that result in a ringer (the horseshoe falls around the pin), with Class A being the highest percentage. Last year, the club saw one of its own win a state title in his first year of competitive horseshoes.
Ivan Header, who had started horseshoes at the insistence of Haskins and other members of the club, grabbed a state championship in Class I. Header downplayed the thrill of winning a state title, describing the moment as "no big deal." He added that it always feels good to win.
The club uses a handicap all-count scoring system for singles, meaning that each ringer that is thrown counts for the normal three points, and any shoe within six inches is one point.
Under the scoring system used for the club's doubles play, if each pitcher throws a ringer, the throws cancel each other and neither pitcher is awarded points, according to Brooks.
Under a handicap system designed to level the playing field, in a singles match, the difference in ringer percentage is tabulated and the pitcher with the lower of the two percentages has 80 percent of the difference added in points to their score.
"(The handicap system) gives everyone a fair chance," Brooks said.
For example, if the difference is five percent, the pitcher with the lower ringer percentage entering the match would add four points to their final score.
While a member of the club won a championship away from Selinsgrove, members will be able to add their list of achievements in the sport during two sanctioned tournaments the club will host as a part of the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association (NHPA) schedule.
"We have six or seven members that play (in sanctioned tournaments)," Brooks said.
On June 29, some of the best pitchers in Eastern Pennsylvania will trek to Selinsgrove for the Selinsgrove Open and will return on July 20 for the Ken Battram Open. Brooks described the tournaments as the two biggest events for the club.
In order to play in a sanctioned tournament, each pitcher must have an NHPA membership card, which allows them to play in any tournament across the country except when they are playing in their home state championship.
Brooks said that the club's singles season is divided into three periods and the doubles season is divided into two halves with the winners of each half or section facing off at the end of the year to determine a champion. The season typically runs from early May until the end of August with a $20 entry fee in April to play.
"It's a sport for everybody, young, old, male or female," Brooks said. "It's a good, family oriented game."
Brooks added that over the last few years, the number of participants has risen significantly, from four doubles teams in the first year of play to 12 this season.
"The more people you have up (at the club), the better the league will be," Brooks said.
Brooks added that someone does not have to commit to playing every night the club plays in order to compete.