BELOIT - While Earl Paulson won his share of tournaments, he never claimed to be the best horseshoe pitcher around.
You'd be hard pressed, however, to find someone more devoted to the sport.
The 89-year-old charter member of the Beloit Horseshoe Club has been a major supporter of pitching since taking it up in 1979.
"I was around 50 when I started pitching, so I was a late bloomer," Paulson said Wednesday afternoon at the Telfer Sports and Activity Center, where he will be saluted during the 35th anniversary of the Team World Horseshoe Tournament. He will be honored prior to the start of the stepladder finals at approximately 2 p.m. Sunday.
"Earl has been there from the beginning and is the heart and soul of the club," said Team World Committee member Kevin Brekke. "He has been recognized on the national level with the National Director Award years ago and continues to mentor others in responsibilities. Earl is known by pitchers across the United State and Canada and his passion for horseshoes and his compassion for people is a great example for all of us."
Paulson served as director of Team World for the first 25 years of the event's link to Beloit. Health issues have caused the Wisconsin Horseshoe Pitching Association Hall of Famer to cut back on his involvement with all the tournaments he has directed in the past.
"I've had Guillain-Barre syndrome (a condition in which the immune system attacks nerves and can cause paralysis) and you just don't come back from that at my age," he said. "I've really been hoping I would get enough strength back to try pitching again, but it hasn't happened. I miss it a lot."
A lifelong Beloit resident, Paulson graduated from Beloit High School in 1947. He attended Gale Institute in Minneapolis, Minn., before beginning his career as a telegrapher and station agent for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad in 1949.
Paulson was also a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1951-53 before returning to the railroad, from which he retired in 1991. He and his wife Myrt have three sons.
In 1979, he began pitching horseshoes and helped found the BHC, which became sanctioned in 1985. The following year he became director of the organization's sanctioned tournaments.
Paulson won a pair of Moose state tournaments in the mid-1980s and began pitching in World Tournament competition in 1987.
"I got a patch for competing in 10 straight," he said. "I think I stopped at 19."
That big-tournament exposure helped him when the BHC decided to take on hosting Team World in 1990.
For his efforts, Paulson received the Wisconsin State President's Award in 1998 and in 2001 he was inducted into the WHPA Hall of Fame.
"Preparing for this tournament takes the help of a lot of people," he said. "Just setting up here requires a lot of hours. I think it will continue here as long as they can find people willing to put in the work."