One man. Four bags. Over 320 tosses. And in the end, a failed attempt at breaking a world record. But Ricky Fitzpatrick will try again.
Inside a church gym in Jefferson on Sunday, June 23, Fitzpatrick was determined to break the Guinness World Record for the longest cornhole toss, currently set at 50 feet. His family, three witnesses, one surveyor and two “specialists” from the North Georgia Cornhole Association gathered in the gym for over an hour, watching and waiting.
Ultimately, Fitzpatrick didn’t make it. But his story goes beyond the failed record-breaking attempt. So does the culture of cornhole.
More than a game
As co-owner of Apple Valley Farms, Fitzpatrick and his wife, Cretia, started making and customizing cornhole boards about a year ago, as part of a new avenue of business for the Farm called OT2 Games. In addition, the Fitzpatricks provide wood pallet removal and repurposing, handmade and reclaimed furniture, painting classes and an Etsy shop full of handpainted signs embodying the decor of Southern charm.
From a business perspective, the Farm’s specialties bring in good money. For the family, it’s a way for some bonding time.
“He does a lot of really cool things, mostly for the kids,” Cretia Fitzpatrick said. “Kind of set a standard, kind of let them know that you can do anything you set your mind to.”
The carpentry projects get the kids away from screens, she said. And though the cornhole attempt was a first-time endeavor for the family, Cretia Fitzpatrick wasn’t surprised that her husband decided to take it on.
“Anything to get some people together,” she said. That’s how Ricky approaches life.
For Korey Harkins and Trever Schramm, cornhole is more than just an activity. It’s a sport, in which some dedicate hundreds of hours to practicing.
“When you get that good it ain't all about putting it in the hole. It’s all about playing strategy,” Harkins said. “Me, I throw a hard bag.”
A hard bag can turn into a blocker bag, keeping an opponent from getting his sack into the hole. Or sometimes an air mill works best, to get over a blocker.
Harkins and Schramm were called in by Fitzpatrick to make the record breaking process “official.” Both are members of the North Georgia Cornhole Association, with Harkins being a manager. Through tournaments and other events hosted by the NGCA, the organization provides a networking and advancement opportunity for players of the sport.
And it can be a big deal. Harkins said his tournaments typically attract cornhole players from all over the Southeast, states like Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. He’s seen some people walk out of tournaments with over $600. The most he’s ever won from playing was just over $1000.
“Why have a job at that point?” Harkins said.
But Harkins does have a second job, at a pharmacy. It’ll take more time, years probably, before the sport becomes professional, Harkins said.
In the gym, two different IPhone cameras were meticulously placed. Fitzpatrick’s surveyor measured the exact length needed to break the record. The cornhole bags were weighed on camera to ensure they followed the specifications of between 15-16 ounces.
Then he started throwing. And the cameras ran for about an hour and a half.
“Would it help if I pray?” Fitzpatrick said at around 188 throws.
“Do you want us to massage your arm?” Cretia Fitzpatrick said in response to some frustrated grunts.
Jude Fitzpatrick, Ricky’s youngest son, just wanted a turn at the toss.
It was never all about the record breaking. Partly, it was about giving the family something to do on a hot Sunday afternoon. About getting people together on the sidelines to hoop and holler for a common goal.
In the end, everyone gave the 55 foot toss a shot, for fun.
“I thought I was gonna come in here and just like, crush this in half a dozen tosses,” Fitzpatrick said in a Facebook video posted later that day. “We are gonna do it again. We are gonna do it again.”