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Backyard game goes big time with NC cornhole tournament

Brian Fleming, right, of Greenville, and Harry Bray, left, of Blanch, N.C. play cornhole in the parking lot outside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville while tailgating before ECU's game with N.C. State.
Brian Fleming, right, of Greenville, and Harry Bray, left, of Blanch, N.C. play cornhole in the parking lot outside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville while tailgating before ECU's game with N.C. State. 2007 News & Observer file photo

If your cornhole skills are too big for the backyard, the City of Goldsboro invites you to compete at North Carolina’s American Cornhole Organization State Championship tournament, to be held June 23-24.

Frank Geers, president of the Ohio-based ACO, cornhole’s governing board, said North Carolina is one of at least 20 states that host championships in the game that many people know only from summer cookouts and tailgate parties.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” said Geers, who founded the ACO 12 years ago as a way to promote the game. On its website, americancornhole.com, the group offers official cornhole rules, tournament listings and information about events across the country. The group also sells the gear required to play.

While the game’s origins are murky – it might have been a Native American pastime, or possibly a German import, Geers said – its popularity is undeniable and growing. It seems to appear at every children’s carnival and any outdoor gathering where open containers of alcohol are allowed.

While seasoned players employ some strategy, the basic goal of the game is to toss a bag filled with dried corn or beans into a hole cut through a sloping board.

All players are welcome at the N.C. championships after paying a $30 entry fee in advance or $40 at the door. Players can compete in juniors, seniors and women’s events, with games for singles and doubles, and there will be an invitation-only tournament called the Rosemann Cup, named for the late Betsy Rosemann of Goldsboro Wayne Travel & Tourism, who helped bring the state cornhole tourney to her town four years ago.

Players in the Rosemann Cup will be invited based on points rankings from tournaments held around the state. Geer’s organization lists 20 players from North Carolina as among the best in the country based on last season’s scoring.

Cash prizes will range from $200 for the invitational to $1,000 for State Singles.

The Goldsboro event will run from 4 to 11:30 p.m. June 23 and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 24.

While his organization takes the game somewhat seriously, Geers said competitive cornhole remains true to its tailgating roots.

“We don’t run from our DNA,” he said. “We absolutely have players who will be drinking a beer.”

Martha Quillin: 919-829-8989, @MarthaQuillin

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