Arts & Culture

My Old Corn-Tucky Home

Cornhole is having a moment—and Kentuckians are leading the way

photo: Tim Bower

People don’t dispute the location origins of football (New Jersey) or baseball (New York). But cornhole? The beginnings of backyard bean-bag toss spur hot debate. Ohio fans believe Matthias Kuepermann, a fourteenth-century German cabinetmaker, developed the game, which eventually arrived in Cincinnati with nineteenth-century immigrants. But in Kentucky, players claim a pioneering hill farmer named Jebediah McGillicuddy came up with the game to pass time with friends in his barn.

What’s not up for argument: Cornhole is having a moment. The pastime, generally played with a cold beer in hand, is now a professional sport complete with endorsements, a championship broadcast on ESPN, and genuine stars such as Jimmy McGuffin and Greg “Fear the Beard” Geary, together named the 2019–2020 American Cornhole League Team of the Year. The two Kentuckians, a handyman and a foreman lineman, respectively, are known as some of the league’s top airmailers—cornhole talk for players who perform the sport’s version of a swish.

“I got ninety-six out of a hundred in a row,” Geary says, a stat wild enough to make him and McGuffin legends themselves. See them next at the ACL Kickoff Battle in Winter Haven, Florida, February 5–7, which airs on ESPN.