- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—WINCHESTER — For many, horseshoes is a casual game played with friends or family.

For Denise Daly of Winchester, it is serious business.

At 18, she’s been participating in the sport for five years. She has three state title victories and has competed in the World Horseshoe Tournament three times, the last time taking home the Junior Girls Champion title.

Now she has added a World Horseshoe Tournament victory.

The two-week competition earlier this month drew around 1,400 “pitchers” to Topeka, Kansas. Contestants ranging from ages 12 and under to 60 and older competed on 50 indoor portable clay courts for a collective $200,000 in prize money, trophies, scholarships and patches.

Although there are different styles of play, the competitions all involve trying to throw horseshoes closest to a stake. A ringer — in which the horseshoe encircles the stake — brings the most points.

Competitors must be a member of their respective state’s horseshoe association and must compete in a minimum of four sanctioned contests. For Daly, who competes in roughly 20 competitions a year and recently was elected an officer of the Illinois Horseshoe Pitchers Association, this was not a problem.

She also competes regularly in league play in Springfield. Competitions have taken Daly around the state and country, something she’s glad to do because it gives her a chance to see all of her friends who also are pitchers.

The World Horseshoe Championship victory is something for which she has worked hard, she said, so taking the win was a great moment.

“It felt really good,” Daly said. “I finally accomplished what I’ve always wanted to accomplish. You spend all your summer practicing to get the title. It felt really good to do so.”

The win landed her a 3.5-foot-tall trophy, a $600 scholarship and a patch. Patches are big in the world of horseshoes, she said, so the globe-shaped patch is sure to garner some appreciation from other players.

Daly credits her grandparents with showing her the basics. She said she fell in love with the game and started practicing as much as she could. Her mother, Christa Long, and her grandparents provided a lot of support.

“I kind of taught myself everything,” she said. “(Grandpa) taught me the basics and then I started holding it differently. I was the only girl in the junior championship that threw a turn [a particular grip used by pitchers].”

Daly said she plans to continue her craft when she starts at Illinois State University, which has a horseshoe court. She’ll be facing stiffer competition next year because she will move out of the junior leagues, but she said she’s ready to take on the challenge.

Nick Draper can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1223, or on Twitter @nick_draper.


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