cornhole

Lynda Oglesby is banging the drum for cornhole in Tipton County.

Lynda Oglesby never imagined a chili cook-off could change her life. Now she hopes to use that good fortune to help the entirety of Tipton County.

Oglesby went to a neighborhood cook-off one evening. As they are wont to do, the organizers of the event held a raffle with the prize a set of customized cornhole boards. Later that night, they announced the lucky winner: Lynda Oglesby. She chose the St. Louis Cardinals for her customization and soon developed a fascination with the game.

For those, like me, who did not know, cornhole is the official name for bean bag toss (I really did not know). Two boards are spaced 27 feet apart with two players on either side of the board. They toss four bags apiece toward the opposing board. If you land on the board, you score a point. Land in the hole on the board, you get three points. At the end of each inning, you and your opponents points cancel out. The first player to 21 wins.

“My neighbor Matt King played and helped me learn and improve my game,” Oglesby said. “The only time I wouldn’t play was in the rain.”

Her days would be spent at her day job with Dixieland Contractors, 40 hours per week, followed by about 20 hours of weekly cornhole practice.

Her game rapidly improved and Oglesby joined the American Cornhole Organization. This membership opened the door for her to participate in tournaments throughout the country.

“My first tournament was in Tupelo,” Oglesby said. “I couldn’t even hit the board because of the pressure! You play and you think you’re good, but then you head to these competitions and wonder, ‘What am I doing here?’”

She overcame her nerves and soon saw her name alongside winning marks. In January 2019 she won the women’s title and almost found herself in joyful tears. She returned to Tupelo in March to take the women’s division.

As it stands, Oglesby ranks 158th in the ACO world rankings, 16th in the world women’s division, and first in the state of Tennessee. She will travel to Las Vegas in July to take part in the 2019 ACO World Championship.

Oglesby does not look only to the national stage, though. She wanted others to experience the same sense of safe, clean fun and stated the Tipton Count-chapter of the ACO in September 2018. She became a certified official at the same time and started to organize events at the Garland Community Center. Part of her first major’s winnings went toward the purchase of seven sets of boards and bags for the organization.

The first event in Garland drew 15 players from across the county. February 2019 found 39 players from west Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky and Mississippi who competed in the local divisions for men, women, seniors and juniors. Events are posted on the ACO website and the Tipton County chapter’s Facebook page and are open to anyone with an interest in the game or who wants to reach out and meet new friends.

There are Sunday games held weekly at the Haystack on Highway 51. These games are not ACO events, but just local friends who get together to catch up, grab a bite to eat and toss some bags.

“Waves of people will come in,” Oglesby said. “We start at 3 p.m. and can go on until about 1:30 a.m. if we’re not careful.”

Oglesby also organized an eight-week league held at the Munford skating rink with 15 local teams with a cash prize and trophy for the winners. She organizes the Millington Goat Days cornhole event, but keeps a strict personal rule: If she is involved in the organization of an event, she does not participate. While she loves the sport, she sticks true to the spirit of absolute fair play.

What Oglesby wants for the region and the sport as a whole is the chance to spread the camaraderie it helps build. While ESPN might show matches and big pots await winners in major tournaments, cornhole remains a neighborly game played for a good time with good friends.

“Tammy Williams is one of my favorite players,” Oglesby said, “And every encounter with Karen English has been with open arms and so welcoming. We can’t wait to see each other again - and, of course, compete.”

Locally, Oglesby would relish the chance to meet with school children and talk to them about the sport, perhaps even get a school league established. Everyone knows a good pitcher can go to college on a baseball scholarship or a linebacker can get a full ride through football. How many know the American Cornhole League offers to pay out at least $25,000 in scholarship money?

“These young players have everywhere to go,” Oglesby said, “and me? I’m still going places, but I don’t want to go alone! If these kids want to go to an event but can’t find a ride, we’ll get them there.”

Who would not love another avenue for young people to build support systems among their peers, to extend their families? Or to build lifelong memories?

The game helped build a memory for Oglesby herself just last year.

“I played at the 2018 BBQ Festival in Covington and there was the little boy, maybe 8 or so,” she said. “He didn’t have a partner and wanted to play, so I said, ‘I’ll be his partner.’ We played against his stepfather, who happened to be a good player himself. This year, though, we won. It was the first time that boy played and he won. He was so proud.”

Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email jireland@covingtonleader.com.​

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