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Tossing ringers

Here are the sounds you will hear if you hang out with the Tampa Horseshoe Pitching Club:

Clunk _ A horseshoe hitting an iron stake.

Thump _ A horseshoe missing the iron stake and landing on the ground.

Pop _ A soda can opening.

Relaxing sounds from a laid-back sport.

"There is no pressure here," said Wade Bordes of Lutz.

Near a thick oak tree at the North Lakes Recreation Center, the Tampa Horseshoe Pitching Club meets the first and third Saturdays of the month at 9 a.m. They unfold lawn chairs, use coolers as end tables, laugh and exchange telephone numbers.

And they toss horseshoes.

Clunk. Thump. Clunk.

Mike Savidge, a technical support engineer at IBM, started the Tampa club in May after going often to Clearwater to pitch. There, courts are paved and lighted. Membership is high. Savidge wondered if Tampa could also have a following.

He placed ads in newspapers and waited Saturdays by the oak tree. Dozens came, and North Lakes Recreation Center has since decided to make the spot a permanent horseshoe pitching ground, Savidge said.

You will find all kinds of people in the club. Some grew up pitching horseshoes on farms. Others had never played but were curious about the sport and whether they could throw ringers, when a horseshoe lands around a stake.

"This is a sport anyone can enjoy," said David Rayburn of Land O'Lakes.

About 15 million people in North America have played at one time or another, according to brochures distributed by the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association.

On the lawn at the recreation center, the metal stakes are 40 feet apart. Teams try to throw more ringers than their opponents. Getting one is harder than it looks.

Savidge demonstrates. He grabs the horseshoe by the curve and swings his right arm back and forth. Gently, he tosses it in the air. It flips once and then lands around the stake. Clunk.

Luck?

"Practice," he says.

For more information about the Tampa Horseshoe Pitching Club, call Mike Savidge at 264-6960.

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