Palmetto Shuffleboard Club plays host to state Masters tournament

cnudi@bradenton.comApril 3, 2013 

PALMETTO -- A cool breeze wafted across the green shuffleboard courts at Palmetto Mobile Home Park as the sound of discs being shoved from one end to the other was occasionally interrupted with a referee shouting out the score.

More than 50 spectators sat in the grandstand, speaking in hushed tones as not to disturb the top eight men and eight women in the state compete Tuesday in the second day of the 2013 Florida State Masters Shuffleboard Tournament.

The Palmetto Mobile Home Park Shuffleboard Club is playing host to the notable event for the first time. That this is the 100th year of shuffleboard in the United States makes it more special.

"We're very honored because the Masters only comes to the South

west District every seven years," said John Toole, president of the Palmetto club. "We're known for the top quality of our courts and our very good luncheons."

Tuesday was the second day of the tournament, which will continue until around noon Thursday, followed by a luncheon at the mobile home park clubhouse to honor the winners.

David Earle, one of the first players to finish the Tuesday morning round, said this is his fourth Masters tournament and that they expect a good competition.

"I'm playing against the seven best shufflers in Florida," said Earle, a winter Zephyrhills resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, "and I don't expect any to be easy games."

Although many shuffleboarders are active in the sport with their spouses, Earle and his wife, Glenna, are the only couple to qualify for the Masters this year.

"The competition is very keen at this tournament," said Glenna Earle, who started playing 10 years ago because she did not want to be a shuffleboard widow, "and this keeps my brain functioning at a very high level."

She said many people who watch shuffleboard just see the players pushing a disc down the court, trying to put it in the scoring triangle.

"But you have to use your brain to account for several variables," Glenna Earle said, noting the drift of the disc or the changing speed of the court surface.

Many of the spectators in the stands expressed their appreciation of the plan of attack all of the players are using during the tournament.

"There's more than what people think to the game," said Trailer Estates resident Ben Coy. "There is a lot of strategy involved."

Coy has been playing for 22 years and is in the Florida Shuffleboard Hall of Fame.

Paul Miller, another Hall of Famer, said the game is very competitive and "you have to outthink the other person."

Miller has been playing for 23 years and was in five Master tournaments, winning one of them.

Sarasota resident Faren Van de Grift said a player would want to wait until his opponent would make a mistake and then take advantage of it.

For example, a player would try to knock his opponent's disc into the "10 off" point zone, called the "kitchen."

"If you put him in the kitchen, he has to waste a shot getting out," said Coy.

Although the competition and mental aspects of shuffleboard draw many to take up the sport, it is the camaraderie that keeps them active.

"I belong to the Bradenton club, which has about 300 members and I probably know the names of every one," said Sue Daidone, who also is president of the Ridgewood Palms club in Ellenton.

"It's like a family," Daidone said.

At an opening ceremony preceding Tuesday's games, Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said it's an honor to have the Masters tournament in her community.

"We're proud to have the tournament here in the nicest city in the state in the nicest mobile home park," Bryant said.

Jim Bailey, a past president of the state and national shuffleboard organizations, said the sport is growing in popularity around the world.

But Florida is still the hot spot for shuffleboard.

"It's growing fast in the state because of large number of courts," Bailey said.

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