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They're the best at pushing pucks

Every Wednesday from November until the first week of March, the Inverness Shuffleboard Club's traveling team made its rounds in the area, playing against some of the area's other top teams.

When the season was over, the Inverness club had won the league championship for the second consecutive year.

The club has approximately 52 members, but only 12 make up the traveling team. Opponents include Brooksville Clover Leaf, High Point, Brooke Ridge and Delta Woods in Spring Hill.

The championship is based on the entire season instead of a post-season tournament. Team captain Boyd Long said the clubs attempted to put on a tournament one year, "but it didn't make much difference" in the outcome.

Long spent 22 years in the Navy and another 22 years in an Ohio school system before retiring to Inverness five years ago. He started playing shuffleboard when he came to the area.

"A friend of mine was playing and he asked me to join the club," Long said. "I had played some as a child, but I hadn't played for years. But when I started playing again I enjoyed it right off."

As captain, Long is in charge of selecting team members.

"I just watch the ones I see play and see how their skills are," he said.

Other members of the team are Helen Long, assistant captain Jack Butler, Helen Butler, Joyce Sumner, Larry Sumner, Mert Fall, Alice Fall, Dick Dewitt, Bea Hewitt, Frank Hewitt and Bud Coles.

Shuffleboard is a game that involves four players _ two at one end and two at the opposite end of the court _ who shove pucks between them in an attempt to score points.

"You try to either get 10-plus points or one of two eights or sevens on the court using four pucks," Long said.

At the end of the court, there also is a 10-off spot _ an area where players can quickly lose 10 points.

"That's where everybody tries to get everybody," Long said. "The name of the game is you try to score more points that the other guy."

Before retiring to Inverness, the extent of his wife's participation in shuffleboard was on the machine you see at bars and restaurants. Helen Long hadn't planned on taking up the game live, but said she's glad she did.

"After we got going, it was really nice," she said. "I walk, bowl, line dance and shuffleboard. I just like to keep active."

The Longs point out that the game is a fun way to stay fit. Before he began playing shuffleboard, Long underwent quintuple heart bypass surgery in 1993. And they say the club is a nice social activity.

"(By playing) we stay active and try to socialize together," Boyd Long said. "Most of us go out about once a week."

The Inverness Shuffleboard Club is always seeking new members. For more information, call 726-8335.