From the backyard to the pros: Rapid City cornhole players make the big leagues

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 12:18 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Cornhole, bags, or bean bags. Whatever you call it, a group of people from Rapid City have mastered this fast-growing sport; and two members of the team recently signed to go pro with the American Cornhole League (ACL).

“You want the lead. You want the first bag, and you want to put the first bag in the hole that way they have to figure out: either they have to follow you or they’re going to miss,” explained Ruben Martinez, who started his first season as a professional cornhole player with the ACL.

Martinez has been playing cornhole since he was young. “Played camping with my dad and family. My dad made the boards and the bags and just throw them when we went camping.”

The other pro cornhole player’s first experience was similar to most people’s.

“Just an annual backyard BBQ and we did that. My wife, Bunnie, was my first partner and we played together for about four years,” said Lonnie Williams, a professional cornhole player with the ACL. “Immediately that very first BBQ, the first thing that grabbed me about this game, kids can play, and the grandpas can play, everybody in between.”

Since then, Williams joined a local cornhole team and says it’s something he looks forward to. “For me, it’s like being 10 years old again and going out and playing with my friends,” described Williams. “We get together and we practice.”

The two share their strategy: to throw and keep the bags flat, either hitting the board and sliding in or making a “hole-in-one”.

“A few times Lonnie’s probably looking at it and by the time he looks up at me, I’ve already let the bag go,” confessed Martinez. “I’ll ask for forgiveness later.”

Before going pro, Martinez says they were just a group of guys showing up. But after winning a recent title, they are proving to be the team to beat. “I didn’t realize we were getting to that point where we would be playing in the championship, and you know when we got there I was surprised and I’m sure a lot of people were surprised ‘Where are these guys from?’”

While they keep it professional on the field, after the tournament there is some mudslinging, but the team enjoys it. Martinez and Williams will keep shucking corn until their next win.