By TERRY JONES, Times correspondent
NORTH LAKES -- For people who grew up in small towns, pleasant memories of summertime often include a shady place in a park where families gathered to drink glasses of cool lemonade and picnic.
People talked about politics, the weather, the new family that moved into the neighborhood. And they tossed horseshoes.
Mark Westerfeld and Marty Findley are trying to establish that same laid-back family atmosphere at North Lakes Park and Recreation Center through the Tampa Horseshoe Club.
They've made it possible for novice pitchers to compete with seasoned pros by using a handicap format to level the playing field. In this format, each player throws 40 shoes, and opponent's shoes are not eliminated. In regular horseshoes, players can knock opponent's shoes out of scoring position.
Three points are awarded for a ringer -- when a shoe completely encircles the stake -- and one point is earned for each shoe within 6 inches of the stake.
Although the rules vary among clubs, stakes in most pits are 40 feet apart. Women, those younger than 16 and those older than 70 are allowed to play on 30-foot pits.
Westerfeld, the new club president, and Findley, vice president, set goals to increase the membership and establish a family atmosphere. In three months, the 5-year-old club has added 14 new players, pushing the total membership to more than 40. Players, who come from around the bay area, range in age from 22 to 79.
"The family atmosphere is very important to us," said Findley, who lives in Carrollwood. "Right now, we have four father-son members and we also have ladies coming out to play. Some guys come out who are big-time tournament competitors, but they play with us just to have fun. We have been talking to county officials about some space for us at Radice Park."
Findley said there is still room for about four additional courts at North Lakes, off N Lakeview Drive. If space is provided at Radice, there could be enough room for 10 spacious courts of a quality that could attract large tournaments, he said.
The four father-son members include Ernie and Ron Kruder, Jeff and Adam Lunsberg, plus Westerfeld and his son Justin, and Findley and his son Phil.
Westerfeld, 45, got involved in horseshoes in his younger years in St. Charles, Mo.
"I just like the sport for the fun involved," said Westerfeld, who now lives in Wesley Chapel.
"It is not only a good exercise but also a good stress reliever. We are working on some programs to reach out to children, even preschoolers and elementary schoolers. Nothing has materialized yet, but it is such a great activity for the whole family."
Tampa Horseshoe Club
The Tampa Horseshoe Club plays at the North Lakes Park and Recreation Center off N Lakeview Drive. They play at 6 p.m. on Thursdays in the spring, summer and fall, and at 3 p.m. in winter months. They also meet from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.
The club is holding a social to attract new members at 6 p.m. May 30 at the courts in North Lakes Park. They will also be scheduling another six weeks of league play.
Anyone interested in playing horseshoes or just looking over the courts and meeting new people should call Marty Findley at 963-7620 or Mark Westerfeld at 991-7477.
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