Sun City's mah-jongg 'Guinness Girls' celebrate 10th anniversary of setting record

abredeson@islandpacket.comMarch 8, 2013 

Ten years ago a group of Sun City Hilton Head women earned their way into "Guinness World Records" by staying up all night playing their favorite game.

The group, now known as "the Guinness Girls," played mah-jongg for 25 hours. They recently gathered at the home of Chris Pittenger for a reunion.

"It doesn't seem possible that was 10 years ago," Pittenger said. "(The reunion) was great. We had such a great time."

Pittenger said she and her friend Betty Blanton decided back in 2003 that they wanted to have a mah-jongg marathon and thought they might as well try to set a world record.

Pittenger said she contacted Guinness to find out what they had to do and how to do it. To her surprise, no one had ever set a record in mah-jongg through Guinness. So Guinness sent her all the rules, and the two women planned the event.

Every player had to have a written statement from a doctor saying they could stay up all night playing. The group had to have a local doctor present during the marathon. And they had to have witnesses.

Eight women played, and four others were there as witnesses. Pittenger referred to the witnesses as "angels" because they took care of the players, bringing them food and giving them back and neck rubs throughout the marathon.

In July 2003, Pittenger said she got a package with certificates for the eight players. The women made their own certificates for the four witnesses since they were such a big part of setting the record.

The women's names appeared in the 2006 edition of "Guinness World Records," and a photo of four of the women was featured on the inside back cover of the book.

"It was really pretty exciting," Pittenger said. "It was just a very special time for all of us, and the fact that we all stayed awake that long."

The "Guinness Girls" continue to gather once or twice a year to play mah-jongg. Seven of the eight players and two of the witnesses attended the reunion.

"I just think it's a miracle we're all still alive," Blanton said, laughing. "We were all so old to begin with. And we're all still playing mah-jongg."

Follow reporter Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.

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