World cornhole champ from Alexandria auctions jersey to benefit V Foundation for Cancer Research

What's his secret to success?

ALEXANDRIA, Ky. -- The first time Matt Guy saw the game cornhole was at a backyard party in southern Ohio around 1994.

"Someone set out the boards and I said, 'OK, what’s this?' " Guy recalled.

A world-ranked horseshoe player at the time, Guy was familiar with the step and motion required to successfully toss the bags.

"It was just a different thing to throw," he said. "I put three or four in right out of the gate."

About six years later, in 2000, Guy officially traded in his horseshoes for cornhole bags. Last week, he won his unprecedented seventh world cornhole singles championship in Knoxville, Tennessee, out of 460 competitors. He also won two other world titles during the week: the doubles tournament with his son, Bret Guy, and a five-person team tournament.

While professional cornhole is barely a speck on the media’s map, Guy wanted to capitalize on his accomplishments to benefit his favorite charity, the V Foundation for Cancer Research (founded by the late basketball coach Jim Valvano). So, when he returned home last weekend, he put the jersey he wore during the singles tournament up for auction on Facebook, with 100 percent of the proceeds to be donated to the foundation.

"I was hoping to get $200 or $300 for it, but the first day it hit $1,000," Guy said. "I couldn’t believe it."

The auction will run until 9 p.m. Aug. 14 and is open to bids from the public.

The beverage of champions

Guy, 45, of Alexandria, is a salesman for a local janitorial and cleaning supply company. He works about 65 hours a week. On Fridays, he and his son hit the road to play.

"We go on the Internet, search for tournaments and play pretty much every weekend," Guy said. "There is also a major once a month. With my work schedule, I don’t get to practice much. My practice time is before and between games."

Guy won his first American Cornhole Organization world championship in 2006, the first year the tournament was held. He proceeded to win each of the next four years before hitting a cold spell from 2011 to 2014. Determined to emerge from his slump, he was crowned world champion again last year and this year after making an addition to his diet.

What's the secret ingredient?

"Beer," he said. "Cornhole’s Gatorade."

Guy said that from 2011 to 2013, he consistently struggled to find a rhythm in his throws, and 2014 started much the same way. After barely winning a match in a tournament just to qualify for the final 64 -- "My opponent had about seven chances to beat me," he said -- Guy told his son he’d be at the bar.

"I wasn’t a drinker, but I needed something strong," Guy said. "They gave me vodka and cranberry juice. I drank three and went out and played great. I didn’t win, but it definitely made a difference in my throws. I was much more relaxed. I switched to Jagermeister last year. Now it’s just beer."

During his struggles, though, all wasn’t lost. In fact, 2013 provided him one of the greatest moments of his cornhole career.

His son won the world championship that year at just 19 years old. He was ranked 27th in the world going into the tournament.

"I still tear up when I watch that video," Guy said. "I got beat in the elite eight. If I had won, we would have met in the final four. Instead, he ended up beating the guy who beat me."

For Bret, that was an incredible moment, but it was nothing, he said, like winning the doubles title last week.

"That was the best feeling in the world. I’d rather win a doubles championship with my dad than a singles one for myself," said Bret, a Newport resident who works for Boone County Schools. "I’ve been playing for 11 years, and my dad is the one who got me interested in it."

Bret said his dad’s idea to auction his singles championship jersey is a fantastic one. Jeff Shepherd, Sr. agrees. As of Aug. 5, he was the high bidder at $1,000.

Shepherd, from Charlestown, Indiana, is also a professional cornhole player. Retired from law enforcement, he travels the country for tournaments and faces Guy regularly.

"I’ve never beaten him one-on-one,” Shepherd said. "I beat him once in doubles, but then he came back and beat us twice in the championship. I guess I made him mad. He doesn’t miss very often. He’s such a great thrower."

Shepherd said he’s lost two people who were very close to him -- a cousin and an aunt -- to cancer. He wanted to do whatever he could to help make Guy’s auction a success. The jersey says "King of Cornhole" and notes that Guy was a six-time world champion going into this year’s tournament.

"I think it will go higher than what I bid, but if I’m fortunate to win it, I’ll probably have it framed," Shepherd said. "If I don’t win, it means even more money will be going to a good cause."

That’s what matters most to Guy.

"I give to the Jimmy V Foundation every year," Guy said. "We all know or love someone who has been affected by cancer. I just want to do what I can to help."

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