Corn hole craze hits Bluffton

info@islandpacket.comSeptember 27, 2010 

Business at Monster Pizza on Wednesday nights used to be as ordinary as a plain pizza. Foot traffic was fairly light. Sales were so-so.

But since owner Ryan McCarthy organized a cornhole league at his Bluffton restaurant, Wednesday at Monster has become a mega attraction.

"How much did my business improve on Wednesday?" McCarthy said one night before league players started trickling in. "It's big -- 100 percent. Cornhole is our Wednesday night."

It's been more than a year since the Bluffton Corn Hole League was formed, an idea of McCarthy with help from some of the Burnt Church Road restaurant regulars.

"It started out when they wanted to do something more on Friday nights,'' McCarthy said. "They'd be outside drinking beer, smoking. People started bringing cornhole boards."

Friday night's entertainment soon turned into an eight-week league that meets every Wednesday. The sixth season started a month ago and will wrap up with an all-day tournament on Nov. 6.

McCarthy said the average season has 25 teams. There are 19 teams this time around.

Players pay $50 per team and get a T-shirt and a free beer every week. Along with some creative team names such as Thanks for Chucking, Children of the Corn, Drunk and Stupid and Sod Monkeys, there's also no shortage of colorful folks who never miss a night of competition.

"It's a great game," said Mickey Finn, a Bluffton resident who has been in the league since it began. "With horseshoes, it gets to be too tiring of a game, throwing those heavy horseshoes. This is just a real social thing to do."

For those who haven't been to a tailgate party, stepped inside a bar or have been out of touch since the late 1990s, cornhole is a simple yard game that involves good aim.

It is played with two raised boards that have holes near the top. At Monster Pizza, the boards are 27 feet apart and set up in a grassy area behind the building. Players relax at picnic tables or hang out at the tiki bar. Lights have been installed as league play lasts until after dark.

The goal of the game is to the throw the bag through the hole, although there are other ways to score points.

The origin of the game varies, depending on who's telling the story. One account claims it was first played in Germany in the 14th century. Kentucky, Champaign, Ill., and Cincinnati all take credit for its resurgence.

One bit of information that everyone agrees on is that cornhole boards have been sprouting up outside bars throughout the Lowcountry.

He and his wife, Leah, also own Monster Pizza in Okatie, but there is no room outside for cornhole.

McCarthy said because some people don't play in winter due to the weather, he's considering organizing a Saturday afternoon league during the cold months.

"When you sit and drink four beers by yourself, you kind of feel bad," McCarthy said. "But when you're playing a game, you don't feel so bad. It takes your mind off things."

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