As a student at Helias High School in the early 1980s, Steve Bruemmer tried his hand at many sports with little success. He grew up watching his brothers play horseshoes, and started entering tournaments at 16. Now he enters around 30 tournaments each year.
“I love sports, and I wasn’t really good at any,” he said. “This was one activity I was pretty good at. It’s something I can do the rest of my life.”
Bruemmer said that when he started playing, weekly tournaments in mid-Missouri would attract 150 competitors. Larger tournaments today draw approximately 80 participants. So Bruemmer decided to form the Capital City Horseshoe Club when Jefferson City held the state horseshoe tournament in 2005 and 2006.
“Years ago when I was a kid, there were tournaments all over the place,” he said. “They died off, so I was trying to revitalize it. This is our fourth year, and we’re trying to get more people involved.”
Bruemmer, 42, who now lives in St. Peters, said about 30 people joined at the start, but now the group boasts close to 50 members and holds tournaments once a month from March to October. The 2008 series starts with the second annual March Madness Mixed Open at 1 p.m. Saturday in Washington Park in Jefferson City. Washington Park is located at 711 Kansas Street, just off Missouri Boulevard.
The tournament is open to any member of National Horseshoe Pitching Association, which Bruemmer estimated has about 5,000 members. There will be membership forms on-site for last minute entrants. The cost to join NHPA is $20. Bruemmer said he thought Missouri has about 900 NHPA members, the second most in the country behind Minnesota.
Bruemmer said he expects between 25 and 30 participants. He said the competitors will be divided into four classes.
“We rank them into categories by their ringer percentage,” he said. “Every shoe that’s thrown in this organization is kept track of.”
Ringer percentage is the average of ringers per shoes pitched. A ringer, which is worth 3 points, is when the horseshoe surrounds the stake on three sides. Any shoe that stops within six inches of the stake is worth 1 point.
Games are played in innings, which consist of four pitches, two by each player. NHPA rules allow for games to be played either to a certain number of points or a certain number of shoes. The March Madness Mixed Open will primarily be played to 40 shoes.
“The A class, they like to play a little more, so we let them go to 50 shoes,” Bruemmer said.
It costs $15 to enter Saturday’s tournament. There is no registration cutoff, and Bruemmer welcomes all participants.
“If you want to come play Saturday, let me know,” he said. “We’ve got room for you. We have 12 courts, and we can use them.”