They say practice makes perfect, and for J.P. Bourgoin it has certainly placed him among the best.
With copious amounts of practice since he started competing in 2012, Bourgoin was the best horseshoe player in B.C. in 2014 and #10 of his class in Canada that same year, according to Horseshoe Canada stats.
Now at age 81, Bourgoin is heading to nationals in Victoria on August 17-20, where he currently ranks seventh among the 56 ringers from across Canada who are competing in the 30-foot division.
He will compete with the top eight in the ‘A’ class and his goal is to win, he said.
The past president of the B.C. Horseshoe Association, Sam Tomasevic, says looking at the ratings, J.P. Bourgoin has potential to rank quite high.
“I would say he has a chance to finish third or fourth,” said Tomasevic.
“It depends how much he is on his game. I’ve seen J.P. shoot really, really good. He is going to have some pretty tough competition there.”
Bourgoin has an average of landing 55 per cent ringers — a “3-Hi average” based on the top three tournaments he has played this year. During his best year, 2014, he had a 64 per cent average.
This is only his fifth year officially competing in horseshoes, but Bourgoin says he has been a backyard player since he was a boy.
He started tossing shoes onto pegs with his friends and enjoyed it, and in 1972 his brother-in-law showed Bourgoin his throwing technique.
“He showed me his way and I liked it. I have been increasing ever since and I never change,” Bourgoin said.
“I’ve tried to tell people the way I play, and it doesn’t work for them,” he said of his technique. “I know one thing, it’s not good to try all kinds of [throwing techniques]. It will throw you off.
“You have to find out what’s the most comfortable and go at it. Practice, practice, practice,” he said.
When Bourgoin moved to Terrace in 2010, he started playing at the horseshoe pits at Heritage Park.
At one time, over 20 years ago, Terrace had a strong horseshoe club and in 1988 the city hosted the horseshoe provincial championships.
But that club no longer existed when Bourgoin moved in; however, it was at the Terrace pits where he met Bob Price, who was a regular horseshoe player and a competitor in out-of-town tournaments at that time.
Price had won several Prince George tournaments, and invited Bourgoin to travel with him to competitions. The friends travelled to various tournaments around the province a number of times, and it got Bourgoin hooked.
He has won tournaments in Prince George more than 15 times over the last five years, and says he is now bored of competing there because winning is no longer a challenge.
“I always win. In 18 games I never lost, one time… I prefer to lose once in a while, rather than winning everything. You don’t fit in,” he said.
He has won medals in the B.C. Seniors Games (55+ Games) for the last five years, and ranked between third and fifth in six larger tournaments in the Lower Mainland since 2013.
One highlight from his competitions was in 2015 provincials where he played a long, intense game against Colin Nicholson, who was the third-ranked B.C. player in his division at the time.
In horseshoes, both players throw two shoes, and if both land a ringer, they cancel each other out.
“We had seven times, four shoes on the peg. It was all ringers!” Bourgoin said.
“It was like bang, bang, bang… that makes for a long game,” he laughed. “I think we threw 70 shoes to get 40 points.”
Bourgoin says that the competition and the challenge is one of the main things he enjoys about the sport, and he is aiming to have some similar games at nationals this weekend.
He practises every day at 1:30 p.m. at the Heritage Park pits, and says he is eager to compete with anyone in Terrace.
“I want someone to challenge me in Terrace,” he said.