2019 ACL Pro Invitational Series: Dennis and Haydon

Another ACL National has passed and another ACL Pro team has qualified for the 2019 ACL Pro Invitational. Daymon Dennis and Philip Haydon join Derrick King and Jordan Camba as the only two current teams to qualify for the invitational. Not only have Dennis and Haydon qualified for this event, they have now taken over the #1 ranking in the ACL Pro Division. These two are slowly becoming legends in the ACL, having already won a 2016 ACL Doubles title and a few Senior's titles in both singles and doubles at the 2017 and 2018 ACL Championships. Both players rank in the top 40 in Overall Standings as individuals, but like King and Camba, Dennis and Haydon seem to excel in doubles tournaments, as evidence by their strong performance at the end of March.

Both Dennis and Haydon reside in Kentucky, just outside of Louisville. Their southern charm and laid-back attitude embody the great individuals that they are, but on the boards, they are some fierce competitors. I had a chance to chat with Dennis and Haydon coming off of their recent National win and I can assure you it is always a pleasure to spend time with these two. Their interactions with each other are nothing short of brotherly. Even though they've been playing cornhole for less than ten years, it feels as though the pair have a lifetime of chemistry that is truly remarkable to watch. It was an honor to interview the two of them, they had some great things to share.

What does it mean to you to be going to the 2019 ACL Pro Invitational?

"It is a great honor to be one of the twelve teams that will get to play in the ACL Pro Invitational.  Considering the high level of talent that the ACL players possess, quite honestly, it is a little bit of a surprise.  When you reach these nationals and see not only the number of players but the level of competition that these players will bring to the game, you always know that a win in these situations will be an uphill battle.  That being said, this win meant a lot to me and my partner and we are thrilled to gain the automatic bid to the tournament. " -Daymon Dennis

"From the beginning, I think all teams set their caps for the Pro Invitational and this was definitely a goal we wanted to achieve.  While winning the St. Louis National was extremely exciting it was at the same time humbling. We were aware of the importance of winning the tournament in order to receive the automatic bid. Knowing there are numerous capable and competitive teams playing at a very high level and to get to be one of the twelve teams to participate, as well as, being considered as one in those ranks is a great accomplishment. " -Philip Haydon

As the current #1 ranked pro team, do you think there's any additional pressure?

"Yes, being the #1 ranked team does seem to add additional pressure, however, there is always a certain amount of pressure present in my game.  I am continually learning to deal with different types of pressure.  A lot of this is self inflicted so that is a battle within.  A lot comes from knowing the capable games of my competition and trying to put those thoughts aside and play the board/situation as it comes.  Long story short: Play the game at hand and hope for the best outcome instead of beating yourself from the onset " -Daymon Dennis

"I never approach any game and feel no pressure, however, when you achieve the #1 ranking it seems to be magnified. You do become the team with the target on your back. The #1 team becomes the ones with something to lose and the other teams have it to gain. They will, without a doubt, try their best to do so and I would expect nothing less. We most assuredly cannot stay idle, we must step up our game to hold on to that #1 spot. " -Philip Haydon

How did you both become ACL Pro Partners?

"Phillip and I are compatible both as players and in life.  We both hold a lot of the same ideas and values to a high importance: God, Family, Country and the game of Cornhole.  We had played a few years as a team before we started to play in the Pro division of the ACL organization.  We had been fortunate enough to win games against some of the top teams and really enjoy the competitive play.  However, it became more difficult to devote as much time as was needed playing in more than one organization.  When the ACL contract presented itself, Phillip was on board first in considering it's value to us as a team.  After much consideration we agreed that if we could focus more of our time on one goal, it would benefit us and our game in order take our play to it's highest level. " -Daymon Dennis

"This is our 4th season competing as partners. Daymon and I share many of the same traits.  We are both focused on being competitive and we both enjoy the competition. We were successful in both leagues but did not have the time necessary to contribute to being as successful as we wanted to be in both. When the ACL contract was presented we re-evaluated our team goals. We came to a joint decision that we should concentrate solely on the ACL and strive to get our game to a higher level " -Philip Haydon

How often do you change your game strategy as a team? If you change it, what dictates the change?

"The experience of playing together for several years has made us comfortable enough to just trust each other's judgment.  Criticism has no place in our game.  I know he is always giving his best and he knows the same about me.  Phillip knows his game and plays it well.  I know my game and the shots or situations that I am comfortable with and our confidence in one another is not questionable.  I try to take care of my end and he takes care of his  Therefore, I guess we don't change our game a lot we just adjust to the game we are playing and try our best with every pitch to gain as much ground as we can until that game is finished. " -Daymon Dennis

"As a team we hardly talk about strategy for one another. We evaluate our game and try to learn from it. I try not to think about strategy through a game and just play what the board gives me. That being said, I do have some guidelines for my game that I try to follow: a) Play Smart; there is a difference between a missed shot and a “dumb” shot. I know what and when I am comfortable with shooting certain shots. I also know when not to take those shots. b) Minimize Points; if you are going to give up 2 points then don’t take a “dumb” shot and give up 5. We also have confidence in one another. Daymon has the green light and takes care of his end, therefore, there is no second guessing on my end. We know our games. " -Philip Haydon

Do you ever still get nervous? What do you do to calm your nerves?

"Yes, I am not sure that will ever completely go away no matter how many games I play.  Being a little nervous actually benefits my game.  It will cause me to have a greater focus on the game I am playing.  I realize that a lot of the nerves are self inflicted and therefore am constantly reminding myself of the importance of focus and concentration. " -Daymon Dennis

"In the middle of the big tournaments with 100 boards set up and teams playing on all of them, nerves are not a problem. As I stated before, we enjoy the competition. When people crowd around to watch a game you are playing it becomes a motivation to win. However, when you are put on that center stage with the bright lights and ESPN cameras rolling, it is next to impossible to not let the nerves bother you a little. I have to keep reminding myself to slow down and stay focused. I have made some improvement with handling the nerves in these types of situations. " -Philip Haydon

What do Dennis and Haydon need to do to win the 2019 ACL Pro Invitational?

"Haydon and Dennis need to strive in every match to improve their game.  To accomplish this we must do what any team that expects to improve must do:  Practice, Practice and Practice.  Take nothing or no one for granted.  Put the time in to reap the benefits.  If we can continually do this our chances of winning become greater.  " -Daymon Dennis

"In my opinion, for us to win the Pro Invitational we have to stay true to our game: Minimize Points. No “dumb” shots. And in the end have fun and Hope for a little luck. If all these things can come together then maybe, just maybe, the Dr.s of Cornhole (PH Double D) will get the victory. " -Philip Haydon

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