Bright lights await: New Britain's Lugo off to Las Vegas for professional cornhole tournament

Published on Tuesday, 26 May 2020 21:03
Written by DAVID GLOVACH

@DavidGlovach

NEW BRITAIN -Tyler Lugo knows the car ride will be long, but he also knows the importance of the nearly 40-hour drive.

The New Britain High School senior is getting ready to depart on Wednesday for his trip out to Las Vegas. There’s sure to be some down time to take in the lights and the sights of the city, but for Lugo, this is more of a business trip.

Las Vegas is hosting one of the seven ACL pro invitational qualifiers and Lugo has his sights set on making the national tournament for the American Cornhole League - the sanctioning body of professional cornhole - in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in July. And with good reason. The national tournament has a purse of about $65,000 and a good showing there means a possible trip to the world championships, which are set to take place in Rock Hill, South Carolina in August. That’s worth $250,000.

Lugo, a 17-year-old set to graduate in a few weeks, is a professional cornhole player and has been for nearly a year. And a win at the Las Vegas qualifier, which will be aired on ESPN on Saturday at noon, will go a long way.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Lugo said of the upcoming tournament where he’ll be paired with Charles Prew of Massachusetts for the doubles portion of the event where the competitor’s are often older than Lugo, ranging from their mid-20s to their 50s. “I really hope we do well. This is my second [qualifier]. I need this win big time.”

Lugo was in Galveston, Texas outside of Houston two weeks ago for his first qualifying tournament, which also aired on ESPN. Inside an empty arena and wearing a mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he made it to the second round of the winner’s bracket with his playing partner Jackie Sayasone before being knocked out in the fourth round of the consolation bracket.

Lugo’s highlights from the Texas tournament can be watched on the Central Connecticut Cornhole - the professional league in the state - Facebook page and included a number of difficult shots. It left a number of people impressed, some of which Lugo had never met, including Prew, who is considered one of the top players in the Northeast.

“After I had gotten off ESPN, I looked at my phone and I had over 100 notifications on Facebook, 60-70 new adds on Snapchap and everyone was just sending me videos of me on ESPN,” Lugo said. “As I’m sitting there, my phone just keeps buzzing and I’m like, ‘oh boy.’”

The notifications came as a pleasant surprise, but so too has been the journey for someone who just learned how to play the game a little more than two years ago. Lugo all but stumbled onto the game by chance, getting his first introduction to the game through his uncle, Matt Marin.

“He invited me and my dad to his place to play and at first we were like, ‘what is cornhole?’” Lugo said. “He was like, ‘just show up and I’ll show you.’ This was like two years ago. We show up and he’s beating us 21-0 and my dad had gotten mad about it and went out and got his own set. We then played him again and beat him and it went from there.”

There has been pretty expansive for Lugo and means 18 professional tournaments between state competition, conference play (Central Connecticut Cornhole is in the Northeast Conference) and regionals. He’s also currently the third-ranked player in the state and practices every chance he gets.

“It’s pretty competitive,” said Phil Lugo, Tyler’s father. “It’s like a big family. But he likes it. He’s good at it. I’m like as long as you keep your grades up and you do well in school, I’m cool with it.”

Now, all there is to do is to get ready for a trip to Las Vegas and make sure enough of his bags land in the cornholes. But until the tournament begins, Tyler is simply taking it in stride.

“I think we’ll be alright,” Tyler said. “The ACL has a saying that anyone can play and anyone can win. We’ll see how it plays out.”

David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or dglovach@newbritainherald.com



Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Tuesday, 26 May 2020 21:03. Updated: Tuesday, 26 May 2020 21:07.