I remember during the summer of ’97 at some point I finally had a chance to win something; my partner had worked her tail off, we had the lead and all I had to do was clear the opponents score off the board. I was so nervous I hit the block but just moved it to the other side and it was still good. I was so disappointed, more for my partner than for myself. I went on to place several times that summer so the fire burned on! That fall I played the Zephyrhills schedule which included Area Tournaments, League Tournaments, and Club Tournaments. There were also a number District Tournaments and a State Amateur Tournament. I placed in more than I failed in and got hold of my 1st “Preview” and that helped me become aware that there was a whole big world of shuffleboard out there. That summer of ’98 I decided to go to North Carolina; a place called Hendersonville to play the North Carolina State Amateur Singles Championships, I won, what a shock! That fall I found out that the Central District was going to hold their “Masters” Championships at Betmar where I lived. I suddenly became very interested in the Central District schedule and traveled to every tournament. I did so well I lead all the amateurs in points for the season and was full of confidence come “Masters” time and I won the Championship, my 1st of five. One as an amateur and four as a Pro; no one else has won as many. I went back to North Carolina that summer of ’99 and won the State Singles again and boy were the amateurs ever made at me. I heard words like why cant you stay home and why do you have to come here and win our Championships too; so I knew I was on the right track. Glen Peltier was the tournament director so I asked him if he thought I should stay an amateur another year or try for instant Pro status. He told me another year as an amateur would be good for me. It was at that time I learned about National Tournaments and that they would be held right there at Hendersonville. I decided to enter and I beat Jim Gallard, Karl Matchett and then Dave Minnich in the quarters. Had I known who they were I probably couldn’t have won but then I played Skip McCoy in the semi’s and I did know who he was by reputation because he was the games top player in those days; well low and behold I won and everyone in the place was mad at me because me, an upstart had beaten their hero. Glen Peltier came to me and said I had better turn Pro because everyone was already upset with me and If I stayed an amateur they would surely run me off. I barely lost the championship round. Another great thing happened to me in the summer of ’99. I had been cleaning up in the summer tournaments and a guy by the name of Stan Williamson who had been the Northern District “Masters” Champion several times had heard about me and decided to venture over to Betmar to cool me off, we played and I won; needless to say, that was the beginning of a great relationship, he said if I ever wanted to play a State Pro Tournament to give him a call.That fall, the fall of ’99 I played my only tournament as a State Am in the Central District and won, the following week I played a State Pro Tournament with Stan and we finished 2nd because I made an error late in the 3rd game of the finals. Well, right after the 1st of the year in 2000 Stan and I played the Florida Winter National Doubles Tournament and won the 1st National Championship of the new millennium. I’ve now won 16 which is more than any other male and have more National points than any other male for a lifetime. Who would have believed that could happen in the game of shuffleboard? I went into the last tournament of the ’99 season in 9th place the top 8 qualified for the State “Masters” All of the right people were ahead of me and certainly I wouldn’t catch them. Well I made it to the quarters and sure enough, there stood Ship McCoy; surely he’d stop me from knocking out the big boys well we went to three games and he had me on the ropes but I had one shot. I had to bump a block about four feet to make a double and win the match, somehow I did it and went on the win my 1st of four tournaments of champions. long the way I scored 42 points for the year, and qualified for the “Masters” in my very 1st year, I’ve done it every year since. No one else has ever done that.The next really big point occurred in 2002 when somehow I got picked to play on the USA National Team in the International Team Championships. Believe it or not, I was still pretty green and had no idea how good the players were that I was playing. I won every match and everyone was surprised, none more than me.2004 saw two more big events take place. I qualified for the Florida Shuffleboard Hall of Fame and had both hips replaced. The following year I qualified for the Central District hall of Fame. Since that time I have been inducted into the National OF and the International HOF.Who would have ever thought!!! Earl Ball
Originally posted on 2014 05 01.