By Kyle LoJacono
Betmar Shuffleboard Club hosted this year’s Summer Nationals Doubles tournament June 7 to 8 and the team of Earl Ball and Stan Williamson earned the championship.
Not only is Ball, 66, a Zephyrhills resident, but the runner-up team of Chuck Moulton, 70, and Jim Barnes, 66, also calls the city home.
“There are a lot of great players in Florida and around the world, but Zephyrhills is where it’s at,” Ball said of the number of good players from the city. “Zephyrhills has great players and is one of the hot spots for the game.”
Moulton agreed with Ball, calling Zephyrhills, “The mecca of shuffleboard.”
Ball and Williamson won the title match in three games 18-80, 79-70, 77-32. It is the seventh national crown for Williamson, of Daytona Beach, and the 13th for Ball, which gives him the second most all time.
“The record is 15 and it’s something for me to shoot for,” said Ball, who was recently elected to the International Shuffleboard Association Hall of Fame. “…There are about nine national tournaments each year around the country and I get in as many of them as possible.”
The duo has been playing together for about 12 years. Back then Ball was just starting to learn the game.
“Both of us worked together today,” Williamson said of winning the title. “It takes two to win and when one of us is down the other picks them up…We have a lot of respect for each other and we don’t want to let the other one down.”
Moulton and Barnes ran away with the first game, but the last two were very close with the third lasting nearly one hour.
“We should have won in the second game,” Barnes said. “We missed a couple shots and that turned the whole game around. They just outplayed and outlasted us in the third game. They’re a very tough team and are probably the best in the world honestly.”
Had they pulled off the upset it would have been the first national title for both Moulton and Barnes, but it was not to be. Despite coming up short, the team had a good attitude.
“It’s just a lot of fun to get together with some of the best players in the world and play,” Moulton said. “After all it’s just a game. A challenging game, but a game.”
Barnes added that his team won the consolation event during the tournament last year. He said it would have been nice to win the title, but felt the better team won.
Ball and Williamson had to defeat the team of Ellen Davis and Glenn Peltier, both of Clearwater, in two games to earn a spot in the finals. Peltier is the president of the Florida Shuffleboard Association and Davis was the only women to reach even the quarterfinals of the tournament.
“It was only because of my partner,” Davis said of reaching the semifinals.
While Davis and Peltier are thought of as two of the better players in the state, they were unable to record a positive score in either of the semifinals games. The Clearwater team attributed that to the fact Ball and Williamson play together throughout the year.
Many of the players at the two-day event live in Florida, but Henry Strong traveled from Canada to participate in the tournament. Strong is the vice president of the Canadian Shuffleboard Association and lives in Zephyrhills in the winter, but returned to Canada in April.
“It was awful hot for a Canadian,” Strong said jokingly. “Those who made the finals really deserve it because they outplayed the rest of us…I mean three of those guys are from Zephyrhills, which shows you the talent of the players here.”
Strong and teammate Chuck Stansburge, of Vero Beach, placed fourth in the consolation event. The team was defeated by Terry Rainwater and Bob Gearsbeck, both of Zephyrhills, in the consolation semifinals. Rainwater, who is president the Betmar Shuffleboard Club, and Gearsbeck went on to win the consolation event.
“Terry (Rainwater) is one of the rising stars of shuffleboard,” said Bob Christen, 20-year Zephyrhills resident and spectator at the tournament. “He’s only been playing about four years and he is already one of the better players in the area.
“Earl (Ball) is one of the best players in the world because of his determination,” Christen added. “Other people need something to get them motivated. For Earl the motivation comes from within and that’s why he is so great.”
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