Despite rainfall rendering the Soboba Springs Golf Course unusable for the 11th annual Soboba Charity Golf Tournament, most players who had signed up to support the event were not disappointed. Thanks to some great teamwork, the Soboba Switch Cornhole Tournament was able to be created as an indoor alternative.
This year’s golf tournament director Jason Cozart, who is also the assistant general manager of the Soboba Casino, said he was fortunate to have recently met William Howell, co-owner of Pitch Bags and part of the American Cornhole Organization and the West Coast Conference Commissioner. Howell is a certified official, a former professional player and a broadcaster. His company, Left Coast Cornhole, is an affiliate of the ACO.
For the Soboba Switch tournament, he served as director and provided the Pitch Bags. The tournament was run with a software called Scoreholio. Howell, who began organizing cornhole tournaments locally in 2013, said he participates or organizes about 100 events annually.
“In the past 10 years, I’ve run about 1,500 tournaments,” Howell said. “I really didn’t have any concerns. I only wanted to provide the best service possible for such a prestigious event. The Tribe took a big chance on hiring me at the last minute and I wanted to earn their respect.”
He explained that the game is similar to horseshoes except it utilizes wooden boxes called cornhole platforms and corn bags instead of horseshoes and metal stakes. Contestants take turns pitching their corn bags at the cornhole platform until a contestant reaches the score of 21 points. A corn bag in the hole scores three points, while one on the platform scores one point.
Howell said scoring can be swift and the lead may change hands several times in a match before the winner is decided. The game is generally played tournament style with an individual or team being named the champion at the end of the tournament.
Cozart said in the days leading up to the tournament, they were obviously worried about finding a group or individual with access to enough pro-style bags and boards, as well as the response from those who have grown to love the annual golf tournament. “The one thing I wasn’t worried about was our team’s ability to adapt and overcome. Our SCR staff, Soboba Tribal Staff, Foundation and Council members, along with all of our volunteers, once again showcased their resourcefulness and resiliency,” he said.
Although some of the players who had originally signed up for the charity golf tournament were unable to attend due to the weather or other factors, the event was still a huge success. The tournament was held on seven courts indoors at the Soboba Springs Golf Course.
Soboba Tribal Council Vice Chairwoman Geneva Mojado said, "I love to golf and look forward to our charity tournament each year to have fun playing with so many supporters for our local nonprofit community. So, when the heavy rains threatened our event, I was disappointed. But to see everyone on Tribal Council, the Soboba Casino Resort and the Soboba Foundation work together to find a way to move forward made me proud of the employees and leadership we have. I was thrilled to see everybody make it work and just go with the flow, no pun intended."
Cozart said, “With 150 players the first day and 158 players the second day, we had a 72% and 75% response rate respectively. That actually ended up being a pretty ideal number, ensuring we could run the event in the same or less time than it would have taken to play an entire round of tournament golf.”
Two people make up one team so there were 154 teams that played during the two-day event. Each day had a round robin (random play) with two games into a single elimination bracket. There were a total of 243 matches during the tournament, which lasted a combined total time of 10 hours. The top four teams from each day received great prizes.
And the 10 nonprofits that benefited from the event were more than happy to volunteer their time at the two nights of awards banquets on March 21 and 22. Since they were held at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center, they were not affected by the inclement weather. And representatives from each of the organizations were on hand to receive a $10,000 check to help them fulfill a dream project or program that will further their service to the community.
Soboba Foundation President Dondi Silvas said, “When it looked as if the weather might impact our annual charity golf tournament, Jason brought us this alternate plan at an emergency meeting the morning before the first day of the tournament. We were all on board and so amazed by the vision he had and the dedication of his team to pull it off. The nonprofits were so grateful that we were able to pivot so they could still benefit from our amazing participants and sponsors, who blessed us with their support despite the change of plans."
Nonprofits who were chosen as benefactors this year are the 7G Foundation, Boxing for Christ, Carol’s Kitchen, EEK Fitness, Four Directions Club, Friends of Valley-Wide Foundation, Grandfathers for Golf, Inter-Tribal Sports, Oak Grove Center and the San Jacinto Mountain Bike Team.
Soboba Tribal Council Chairman Isaiah Vivanco said the dynamics were different for this event, but participants were complimentary to the changes. “I talked to people who were unsure about coming out in the bad weather but when they heard we were having a Cornhole Tournament, they were on their way. Many said it turned out to be a great way for them to network.”
He added that although this is Soboba’s first cornhole tournament, it certainly won’t be the last. “We were happy that we were able to turn this into a different type of opportunity for everyone,” Vivanco said.
One of those players was Keith Kauffman, a project executive with general contractors C.W. Driver, a company that has been a major sponsor of the charity golf tournament for many years. Although he wasn’t sure how the switch in sports would turn out, he said it was a lot of fun with many more opportunities for networking. “I played in the tournament and the other half of my team won the grand prize (on the first day); everything turned out amazing!” Kauffman said.
Cozart said, “I loved the fact that I was able to connect with everyone at the event, rather than my own foursome and maybe a couple others, which is more typical of golf tournaments. You always have the chance to catch up at the banquet and during registration pre-round, but this event provided an extended opportunity to meet with old and new friends alike.”
Howell said that many of the participants had not played cornhole before so he made it a point to make himself available the entire time so everyone felt comfortable and had fun.
“Personally, this is the greatest tournament that I’ve ever experienced on a charitable level,” he said. “My cheeks hurt from smiling after the first day. I met so many great people that had such a blast. There were zero complaints, and everyone was so gracious!”
For more information on cornhole tournaments, visit www.Americancornhole.com or contact William Howell at 951-392-4167 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He said that folks who would like to purchase corn bags can use the code PITCHACO at www.pitchbags.com for a big discount.
Photos courtesy of Robert A. Whitehead