Shuffling at Reflections
Neil Simpson Speaks: Very comfortable weather greeted the Heartland Games shuffleboard players at Reflections on Silver Lake, Tuesday. The wind was strong and, contrary to what many might think, that does affect the games.
The tournament was coordinated by Max Tate, a highly respected Sebring winter resident who has always taken a leadership role in shuffleboard here in Highlands County. Back in his home province of Ontario he has served as the president of the Canadian Shuffleboard Association.
The Heartland Games tournament saw far more players competing this year than in the past. Among those competing on Tuesday were a couple of highly respected players in the world of shuffleboard.
Michael Zellner served in the U.S. Air Force, including a stint with the Special Air Missions Crew based in St. Andrews where he was with Air Force One during the Reagan and elder Bush presidencies. He then spent the past 21 years as an English professor at the University of Sao Paulo. While in Brazil, Zellner introduced them to the game he learned as a young lad in New Jersey where he accompanied his grandfather to the courts and served as a disc polisher and fetcher. Not only did Zellner teach the Brazilians how to play, he also built the first courts in the country.
The team he assembled in Brazil came to the World Shuffleboard Championships in North Carolina in 1997. They went home with lots of new found knowledge despite finishing dead last. 19 years later he brought the much improved Brazilian team to the World Championships in St. Cloud, Florida where they took the silver medal.
Zellner recently retired to Riverview in the Brandon area. He came to Florida as he wanted to be active in retirement in a location where there were abundant opportunities to stay busy.
Stan McCormack, who also served as president of the Canadian Shuffleboard Association, has spent many winters in Highlands County. This year he is just here for a month but was able to compete in the Heartland Games and will be taking part in the Hall of Fame Classic in Winter Haven. McCormack was inducted into the Hall of Fame at each of the District, State and National levels for his efforts to promote and help grow the sport, particularly through his blog, “The Shuffler.net”
Gary Sorko was the host at Reflections, ensuring that the courts were ready for play and that all issues were looked after promptly. Nancy Sorko and Linda Vanisacker were on hand all morning to dole out the doughnuts which were provided compliments of Dunkin Donuts in Avon Park. They also kept the coffee brewing and served up the lunch of sandwiches, chips and soda provided by the Heartland Games major sponsors; Newsom Eye, Edward Jones/Alan Holmes, Drs. Thakkar and Patel, Turner Furniture and Florida Hospital.
Sebring Village brought a team of ten players while nine came from Adelaide Shores and five from Reflections. There were also four Sun n Lake residents and two each from Buttonwood Bay, Lake Bonnet Village, Leisure Lakes, Highlands Mobile Village and Woody’s R.V.
The doubles competition, pic above, saw the following teams take gold; Jacques Poitras and Max Bonkoski, Stan McCormack and Michael Zellner, Bruce and Cindy Shidler, Bill Courtney and Bill Reed, Dean Shoup and Tom Stonecash, Harry Gray and Merle Schimke. The following teamed up to win silver medals; Gale and Larry Harvey, Randy Johnson and Marc Zahn, Bob Banyard and Whitey Fisher, Bob Cyr and Chuck Slupe. Partnering for bronze were; Joseph and Julie Oblon, Walt Pickerell and Dudley VanMeter, Donald and Joan Brisbane.
In singles, Mary Temoke, Cindy Shidler, Carla Larsh, Carol Weise, Jacques Poitras, Randy Johnson, Walt Pickerell, Paul Strong, Jack Emmendorfer, Don Fredley and Merle Schimke were champions while Julie Oblon, Marg Strong, Karen League, Joseph Oblon, Bob Banyard, Jim Jones, Bill Menheere and Harry Gray wore silver medals home and Michael Zellner, Art Truss, Jack Harpin and Max Bonkoski were bronze medalists.
Those who finished in the top five in their age/gender category have earned the right to advance to compete in the Florida Senior Games in Clearwater/Pinellas in early December.
On Thursday, teams from twelve local 55+ communities will compete in the 15th annual invitational tournament at the Sebring Recreation Club. Nine years ago, the tournament was renamed the Tate Invitational after Max and Ruth Tate who initiated it.
The Heartland Games, organized by South Florida State College, continue with doubles pickleball on Saturday and mixed doubles pickleball on Sunday. The 2017 Games wrap up with swimming at the Highlands County YMCA on Monday afternoon.
Neil Simpson, Heartland Games Ambassador. 2017 03 07.
Kudos to Neil for such a rapid and extensive report. Look for it in the local newspaper > minus the pix. Stan McCormack.
Stan speaks: Sorry if I missed some pix. Click on any pic to expand. 2017 03 07