February 2008 Issue
Febuary '08, Ohio Digest - A Shoe-In
Alan Francis’ passion for horseshoes goes beyond a leisurely game played in the back yard.
For more than a decade, the Defiance resident has been heralded as the Men’s World Horseshoe Pitching Champion. The 38-year-old has earned that title 13 times during the past 15 years at the World Horseshoe Pitching Tournament, most recently at August’s contest in Ardmore, Oklahoma. To take home the title, Francis achieved an undefeated ringer percentage of 81 — meaning that out of the 1,000 horseshoes he tossed during the two-week event, 810 circled the stake.
|Robert Tubbesing's Cassandra.
Photo by Robert Glasgow
“The world championships are the pinnacle of competition,” Francis says. “They draw about 1,000 participants every year. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Francis has been playing the game since he was 9 years old, having mastered it from his dad, Larry, who learned from his father, Leonard.
“Horseshoes have really been a family affair,” Francis says. “It was something I enjoyed growing up on our farm in Blythedale, Missouri. And it stuck over the years. ”
Francis, who won his first junior trophy in 1979 and plays in some 10 tournaments a year, attributes his success to patience and practice. He hopes to raise his percentage to 90 at next year’s tournament, which will be held in York, Pennsylvania.
“It’s a highly competitive sport, but at the same time you’re pitching against people who have become your friends,” Francis says. “You enjoy playing against them and getting to know them. Itâ€˜s like an extended family.”
Francis’ wife, Amy, is also an avid horseshoe enthusiast. She has been the state champion 10 times. “She’s pretty accomplished,” her husband says with a smile.
The game is a common bond for the couple, who have been married 11 years.
“Both of our families were involved with horseshoes before we met at the 1995 World Tournament,” Francis says. “That’s how we got together – through horseshoes. It’s a special sport for us.”