Throughout the day all eyes were on the 2 Canadian teams, both as a measuring stick to judge ones own level of play, and as a potential finals match. And although there were some close calls along the way, in the end the Protractor and Angles team of Jason and Ray Beierling faced off against The Canadian Cue Balls of Jeremy Tracey and Andrew Hutchinson in what seemed like a dream match up. However, when push came to shove, the Beierling brothers played the best crokinole when it mattered and brought the first US Open Doubles Crokinole championship home.
Although the Beierlings emerged victorious, perhaps the greatest success was the tournament itself. Considering that around a year and a half ago the host Extra Pint Crokinole Club didn't exist, nor had any of the members even heard of the game, it is amazing that they were able to run such a world class tournament. Neither the club nor the tournament would have ever came to be if the founder, Jason Molloy, hadn't clicked on one of the suggested videos (a CrokinoleCentre video) while watching disc golf videos on YouTube. Like so many others, Jason wondered what this game was, but was also intrigued enough to buy a board and introduce it to some of his friends. Those friends started to share the good news of crokinole with other friends, and before long there were 8 players playing doubles around 2 boards all crowded into Jason's shed. And thus the Extra Pint Crokinole Club was born.
As their love of the game grew, their numbers did also, prompting them to move to the local legion, creating a symbiotic relationship where the club had access to space, and the legion made beer sales...lots of beer sales. Falling in love with crokinole, the club was interested to see if there were others in their corner of the country that played the game, so they decided to run a tournament to promote the game in the area and attract fanatics from the surrounding states and beyond. And so not knowing what to expect, they announced the 1st ever US Open Crokinole tournament.
21 teams made up the field in Voorheesville, NY; in addition to the local contingent, players came from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Ontario, and one team even flew all the way in from Texas. Every crokinole tournament has its own feel, but the US Open introduced a lot of unique and innovative elements to spice up the tournament. It's no surprise that a tournament held by the Extra Pint Crokinole Club would include delicious fermented beverages, but the organizers took this to the next level by holding the event at not one, but two great venues. The round robin and initial playoffs during the day were held at the Voorheesville American Legion, and once the finals were set, everybody moved to the Indian Ladder Farms brewery to watch the finalists face off.
The legion proved the perfect spot for a crokinole tournament, providing plenty of space, a great atmosphere including music, an upper hall for the lunch break, and an inexpensive bar to help players calm their nerves. The brewery, on the other hand, provided a perfect place to cap off the tournament, as the finals were live broadcast onto a large screen TV allowing at least 70 fans to cheer on the duelling Canadian finalists. And being held in a brewery allowed for a quick transition into the “after-party” once the finals had concluded.
The day started off with 2 groups each completing a 10 game round robin, and also a few local twists. To decide who would have hammer, the players would complete a “volley” to the middle. This consisted of a countdown leading to all four players shooting at the middle at the same time, where whoever came closest to the middle earning the choice to have the first or the last hammer.
Also, to add to the excitement of the round robin, the tournament added four “jackpots.” Players had the opportunity to sign up for the jackpots ahead of time (usually 1 or 2 dollars per category), and if they were the first to complete the jackpot, they would win the money. The jackpots included first to score a 20 off of a disc in the 5 (won by Brian “Lunchbox” Manaco), first to get a triple take out (won by Jason Beierling), first to get 4 consecutive 20s in a round (won by Jeremy Tracey, who got a perfect 6) and first teams to “shoot the moon” which means to go around the board 2 consecutive times with each player hitting a 20 (won by Jason, Seth from Bowling, Steve Douglas, and Steve Buck).
Although these jackpots added an extra element and all players were looking to supplement their incomes by winning at least one of the challenges, of course everybody's focus was on tallying a high round robin score to ensure a favourable seed in the single elimination playoffs. With 10 games played, the maximum score would be 80 points, and incredibly The Canadian Cue Balls (Jeremy Tracey and Andrew Hutchinson) scored 78 points by only dropping one round. The second highest score belonged to the other Canadian team of Protractor and Angles (Ray and Jason Beierling) finishing with an impressive 71 points. The third place finishers, from the local Extra Pint Club, were The Kracken (Magic Mike and Upset Chet) with 59 points. Just behind with 58, and the highest finish among the Boston contingent were Score Off That Braj (Will Moore and Catherine Holland who also were the only team in the round robin to take a round, and almost a couple more, from Tracey and Hutchinson). The top 8 was rounded out with Sinkin' and Drinkin' (Jason and Seth from Bowling with 54 points), For Fook Sake (“Uncle” Dwight and “Is This Your Homework” Larry with 49 points), Tanksgiving (Woulter Kool and Jonathan Phillips from Boston with 46 points), Cold Hand (Justin Perry and John Powell with 44 points), and The Royal We (Brian “Lunchbox” Manaco and John “Dude” Lash with 41 points).
The round robin decided the seeding for the single elimination portion of the tournament, but all 21 teams had the opportunity to participate. The top 11 teams earned a buy into the second round, whereas the bottom 10 teams had to play in the preliminary round to earn one of the final 5 spots in the round of 16. After the preliminaries in round of 16 play, on the one side of the bracket For Fook Sake beat the Moist Muffins, The Kracken beat Helderbergermeisters, Tanksgiving beat Finger Flickin Good, and Protractor and Angles beat Fly 'em and Fix 'em. On the opposite side of the bracket Sinkin' and Drinkin' beat Wonderdawgs, Score Off That Braj beat Stranger Danger, Cold Hand beat The Royal We, and The Canadian Cue Balls beat Fluffy Unicorns.
Notably in this last match, the vast underdog Fluffy Unicorns, comprised of Steady Eddy and Smoken Joe Mcdonnell, won the first two points over The Canadian Cue Balls, prompting Steady Eddy (for more on Steady Eddy's exploits check out this video) to loudly proclaim, disrupting play in the entire legion, that a “Cinderella story” was unfolding and that his local club pairing were about to take down the favourites from Canada; this announcement was met with great cheers, and spontaneous chants of U-S-A. Unfortunately for Eddy, despite the Fluffy Unicorns playing the favourites tough for the next few rounds, The Canadian Cue Balls were still able to prevail 8-2.
As the tournament moved to the quarterfinals, although the number of teams remaining dwindled, the competitiveness increased with some tight games. In the end The Kracken narrowly escaped For Fook Sake, Protractor and Angles took care of Tanksgiving, Sinkin' and Drinkin' used some epic shots to outlast Score Off That Braj, and The Canadian Cue Balls defeated Cold Hand. Thus, the semifinals saw 2 Canadian teams facing off against 2 teams from the local Extra Pint Crokinole Club. And while The Canadian Cue Balls were able to overcome some early tight rounds to defeat Sinkin' and Drinkin', the other match proved to be the most entertaining of the tournament.
The World Champion Beierling brothers of Protractor and Angles started with a hot hand taking an early lead, but before long both Magic Mike and Upset Chet caught fire and before long they evened the first to 7 match at a score of 6-6. By this time the entire legion was surrounding the board watching the tense deciding round unfold. With the 20s even, a few pieces on the board, and the Beierling's hammer, the roller coaster of a match finally ended when Jason hit a peg to keep his shooter in the 15 circle to tally just enough points on the board to defeat the local challengers. So the finals would see the 2 Canadian teams face off, but before everybody moved from the legion to the brewery, the 2 semi-finalists played for 3rd and 4th place. Sinkin' and Drinkin' shot out to an early 4-0 lead, but The Kracken again came from behind, this time pulling off the victory, with an 8-4 win.
With that, the scene shifted to the beautiful Indian Ladder Farms brewery. What to many seemed like an inevitable match-up was about to unfold in front of an eagerly anticipating crowd. The change of scenery helped the Beierlings shake off their close call in the semis. And while Tracey and Hutchinson were filling their stomachs with some of the brewery's tasty dinner fare, the Beierlings were gaining the focus that has seen them win countless world and Ontario doubles championships. And so, unfortunately for The Canadian Cue Balls, the finals became a bit of a let down after such an exciting semifinals match. Although each round in of itself was close, the Beierlings used their superior 20 shooting, composure, and experience to dominate, winning the first 5 rounds of the first to 11 match. Tracey and Hutchinson avoided complete embarrassment by winning the next round making the score 10-2, but any thought of a comeback was trampled out as Protractor and Angles took an early commanding lead in the next round and cruised through to a 12-2 championship victory (you can watch the final here).
Yet in true Extra Pint fashion, the champions had one more obstacle to overcome. To truly earn the first US Open Doubles Crokinole Championship, the partners had to finish 32 ozs of the brewery's famous IPA from the Extra Pint's soon to be famous Yard. Luckily for the Beierlings, drinking has never been a weakness, and through their characteristic teamwork finished the beverage in style. After a rousing round of Oh Canada, the beautifully crafted trophy's were handed out and thus ushered in an evening of great food, drink, and well, more crokinole!
Interesting and Noteworthy:
- The Extra Pint Crokinole Club has some entertaining customs that made the weekend all the more enjoyable for everyone. In addition to their hospitality, their love of good beer, and love of crokinole, they also have some of the best nicknames (many of which you have read in this article). For the tournament they all had custom made t-shirts with their name and team name and logo, and all participants were given a US Open beer glass.
- In addition to the Saturday tournament, the Extra Pint club hosted a Friday night social at the Indian Ladder Farms brewery full of delicious food (especially the smoked pulled pork), cider and beer, live music, and a lot of crokinole. During the social they organized an innovative “20s Survivor” shooting competition where 4 people would sit at a board, with each player would having 3 discs. Players would take turns shooting, and if they made a 20, they returned the disc to their pile, but if they missed it went into the ditch. The last person with discs remaining was the winner and would advance to the next round. 24 players signed up, and eventually the final saw Magic Mike of the local club face off against Andrew Hutchinson. Magic Mike missed a couple of his shots early but then went on a hot streak putting the pressure on Andrew who missed two shots later on. However, Magic Mike eventually missed and Andrew made his final shot clinching the 20s competition and the initial prize of the weekend.
- In bringing competitors in from different states and Ontario, the tournament saw multiple different crokinole dialects. In addition to the Southwestern Ontario mainstream crokinole terminology of “20s,” “Dunbar Positions,” and “Double Take Outs” the local New York club also introduced the term (and concept) of “Volleys” and the New Hampshire representative brought over the use of “Steves” and “Super Steves.” However, by far the most difficult “crokinole accent” to decipher came from the group from Boston: while the rest of us were happy to talk about 20s and the hammer, they kept on dropping mentions of “Js” and “Who has the h?” not to forget references to bikes and trikes, and trucks and tanks that left their opponents a bit baffled. However, with a bit of explanation it became clear that just as a Boston accent is indeed still English, similarly, the Boston Crokinole slang was indeed still crokinole terminology, just a lot different than anyone had ever heard before!
- Although I don’t doubt that Albany is a nice city, I hope I never ever visit it again at 1:00 a.m.
- Building on their success from the inaugural US Open Tournament, a handful of Extra Pint Crokinole Club members will be making their way up north for the 1st Saturday in June to participate in the 21st World Crokinole Championship – look for them in their custom made t-shirts!
- The inaugural US Open tournament was such a success, it might be time to start thinking about creating an informal “Triple Crown” of doubles crokinole tournaments. Currently the Beierlings are defending champs for the US Open, the World Championships, and the Ontario Doubles Championships; however, to truly be a Triple Crown winner, one must win all 3 in the same calendar year. If something like this ever comes to fruition, as first doubles event in the calendar year, the US Open would become the “Kentucky Derby” of the crokinole world! Perhaps someone would be interested in designing and creating a Triple Crown trophy?
In spite of all the fun had, all good things must come to an end. And so all competitors went their own way, near or far. But the crokinole world doesn’t rest for long, as the Ontario Singles Crokinole Championship takes place in St. Jacobs the first Saturday in May, closely followed by the World Crokinole Championship a month later.