One makes hall of fame, nine become pros
By Kyle LoJacono
Gus Bondi is leading a group of 10 Zephyrhills shuffleboard players holding up the city’s strong reputation on the courts.
Bondi, who has lived in east Pasco County for one year, earned enough points this season to qualify for the Florida Central District Hall of Fame, while nine others can claim professional status.
“I actually got enough points at a tournament in Winter Haven in December where I used to live,” Bondi said. “I played doubles with an old friend I have down there (Jim Thurston).
“It was really hard to get,” Bondi continued. “You need 100 points to go in, so you have to play a long time. There are some really good players, a lot much better than me, who aren’t in because they stopped playing before they had the points. I love playing and if you play long enough you’ll get in.”
While Bondi enjoys the social aspect of shuffleboard, the game itself keeps him interested. He said he still plays every morning.
Bondi is most proud of being the only person in the world to be a part of two international gold medal winning teams. He also won the Central District Master’s Tournament, which is for the top-eight players in the district, in 2005 and was invited to play in the Florida Master’s Tournament in 2006.
Bondi has also done a lot to grow the game around the world. He served as the International Shuffleboard Association president from 2007-2008, taking trips to places like South America, England, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Scandinavia to teach more people the activity.
While shuffleboard is mainly thought of as something for senior citizens, Bondi is working to change that perception. He helped organize the first youth team to play internationally for a tournament in Germany last year. He said he also plans to reach out to the schools in Zephyrhills to try and get a club going.
“If we have kids playing here, then maybe we can call the athletic director for Pasco County and have it all over,” Bondi said. “That’s my main goal now that I’m in the Hall of Fame.”
It has also been a special year for Susan Dungey, who moved up in classification from state armature to professional. She has been playing for 20 years and has no plans to give up the game any time soon.
“I’ll keep playing for as long as I can,” Dungey said. She then added. “I’m a sports person. I love competition. As the game goes along, the pressure builds. I love that.”
Dungey said she would someday like to be in the Central District Hall of Fame, but will not be worried if it does not happen.
“I’m happy with being a professional now and if I get enough points to make the Hall of Fame that would be great too,” Dungey said.
Joining Dungey as a pro is Walt Shine, who has lived in Zephyrhills all year since 2002. He played for the social aspect for a long time before making the jump to tournament play.
“The first one I played in was a novice tournament at Oak Side (Mobile Park),” Shine said. “I came in first and was so drained I thought I’d never do one again. It was just a beating over two days. …The next time I did one, I was much more relaxed and had a wonderful time.”
Shine qualified as an instant professional last March. Growing up he played basketball and also did some golfing and bowling in recent years, but he said those activities are nothing like shuffleboard.
“In bowling and golf your opponent is right next to you, but you’re not really playing against them,” Shine said. “In basketball it’s a team. In shuffleboard you can have a partner, but it’s more you against your opponent.”
Joanne Allen compares shuffleboard to another activity.
“My husband (Buddy) and I think of it like chess,” Allen said. “You have to look several steps ahead and set your opponent up. It takes a lot of strategy.”
Allen has lived in Zephyrhills all year for about three years and has played the game for five. She earned instant professional status at an event this season, but is choosing to take the new status at the start of next season.
Allen said her biggest win was in the state amateur tournament in November in Lakeland. Much like the other new professionals, her main goal now is to improve her game while enjoying the activity she loves.
“It’s a great social event to go to the courts,” Allen said. “Anyone who hasn’t given it a try really should.”
For more information on shuffleboard in Florida, visit www.fsa-shuffleboard.org. To learn more about the game in Zephyrhills, visit Zephyrhillsshuffle.com.