On August 8, 2004, Philadelphia Daily News reporter George Miller traveled the 2 hours to Rexmont, near Lebanon, Pennsylvania, to interview five Quoit players instrumental in the conception of the USQA World Quoit Championship. This Quoiting tournament is held annually just outside Boyertown, PA and is the largest of its kind in North America. The winning team members of this event are crowned the World Champions in Traditional American Quoit pitching. Troy Frey, Willie Wandress, and Jerry Reitmeyer are all founding members of the United States Quoiting Association, and Mark Snoberger and Ben Bernard are the reigning 2003 USQA World Champions.
Below are photos of the August 17, 2004 edition of the Philadelphia Daily news, including the front Cover and the pages the story appeared on, and a full reprint of the article with enlarged photos and captions. This is by far the best newspaper coverage to date for the USQA, and is excellent publicity for the upcoming Championship on August 18th.
players work hard to attract more to the ancient sport
WILLIE WANDRESS arrived in Rexmont, Pa., for a game of quoits against the reigning world champions with a cooler of beer in his hand. Wandress and his teammate, Jerry Reitmeyer, both from the Pottstown area, greeted their hosts, Ben Bernard and Mark Snowberger, and then discussed the house rules. They swapped stories and laughs with friendly camaraderie and congenial sportsmanship. As the game progressed, they opened beers, lit cigarettes, made jokes. Beneath the jocular banter and smiles of the easygoing bunch, however, was a fierce competition.
"There is no question about it," said Wandress. "We'll be gunning for them at the World Championships." Reitmeyer gravely added, "I'm lining them up in my sights right now."
The Second Annual World Quoit Championship will be held in Boyertown in September, and Snowberger and Bernard, known collectively as the Master Quoiters, will defend their title against an expected 150 teams, which includes the dynamic duo of Wandress and Reitmeyer, aka the Ring Lords.
Quoits, a distant cousin of both discus-throwing and the popular backyard game of horseshoes, is an ancient sport that predates the birth of Christ. The game was played by the Greeks and then the Romans, who spread the game across their vast empire. British colonists eventually brought the sport to the New World, where it flourished for hundreds of years.
In America, the sport fell out of favor early in the 20th century. There are only a few areas in which the game is still played. Quoit pits can be found in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but only sparsely beyond the Eastern seaboard.
The hotbed for quoits (locally pronounced kwaits) is the Pennsylvania Dutch region between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. In 2003, members of three Southeastern Pennsylvania quoiting clubs formed the United States Quoiting Association and developed the World Championship as their signature event.
The tournament is open to the public - men and women of all ages. The top eight teams win cash prizes totaling up to $2,000. Those who don't want to play are welcome to watch for free.
"We took home some money last year," said Bernard, "But more important was that title. As soon as I got home, I called my mom and told her to check out the standings on the Web!"
Snowberger, 39, and Bernard, 47, do not look like world-class athletes.
When I met the pair, Snowberger was sporting a T-shirt with the sleeves cut off and he had a chunk of chewing tobacco tucked in his lower lip. Bernard was casual as well, wearing jean shorts and a white T-shirt. He offered me a beer as he lit up a cigar.
The pair seem more like a couple of guys you'd chew the fat with at the local bar, exaggerating the sporting exploits of their youth. But don't let the appearances fool you: These guys take their sport seriously.
Bernard's backyard features two pits separated by a long wooden bench with spotlights aimed at the pits so night matches can be held. Both men play for several hours every Wednesday in a competitive league that has existed for nearly 15 years.
Each quoit pit is a pair of boxes set in the ground, 3 feet by 3 feet, with a 4-inch-high pin set in clay in the center. The pins are 21 feet apart.
One pitcher from each team stands at each box and they take turns tossing the 4-pound discs. Quoits are concave doughnuts made of steel, bronze or brass, and are thrown like a slow-pitched softball. Teams score one point for a quoit that lands closest to the pin. A quoit that leans on the pin is worth two points and ringers earn three. A quoit that lands upside-down is disqualified.
The first team to reach 21 is the winner, but you have to win by two points.
The premise is similar to horseshoes but quoit pitchers consider themselves much more advanced than the average backyard horseshoe tosser. They believe there is greater skill and more strategy involved in quoits.
When a quoit lands in the clay, it can stand, like a dart in a dartboard. Pitchers can use this to their advantage, hurling the quoit so that it lands on its side, blocking the opponent from the pin. Quoits can also be used to knock other quoits away from the pin, like in bocce ball. Points are often won by fractions of an inch.
The first championship was held last year on a rainy Saturday with 60 teams vying for the title.
"After we won, my daughter asked me if there were any teams from China," said Snowberger. "I told her, 'No, but there was one guy from Missouri.' "
Frey has already been contacted by players from Indiana and Arizona who might be interested in competing this year. "Anybody who thinks they are good enough to compete is welcome," said Frey. "You don't have to be an expert or a pro. We don't have pros...yet."
Everyone involved in the sport is an amateur, playing for the love of the game. Prize money is generated through tournament entrance fees.
"I'm expecting a call from Nike or Adidas," joked the champion Bernard.
"Or Bud or Miller Lite," Wandress added.