Every St Patrick's Day weekend, you'll find the Shamrock Shootout taking over Cut Bank, where top racquetball players from around the area come to hang out and play ball.
Racquetball might not be the most popular sport in Montana, but go inside the Cut Bank Civic Center for three days straight, you'll hear racquetball thudding against the walls and see how popular it is.
Rod Cline started the shootout in 1984 as a way to play a game he loved, and now, he runs the biggest racquetball tournament in the state of Montana.
"People have a good time and, you know, it's more of a social event, but it's still good racquetball, too," Cline said. "It's fun, it gets people together and everybody enjoys it. And, you know, it's a lot of work, but it's still it's a rewarding, you know, for me just to have everybody here and enjoying themselves."
It attracts not only Montana racquetball players, but players from across the border as well. With both Canada and Montana providing some of the top racquetball players in North America.
"I've been on the Canadian national team ever since I was about 13 years old. Old enough to play for juniors," Lethbridge, Alberta native Coby Iwaasa said. "And then when I was about 17, I made the senior team. The sport itself is fast, energetic. It's exciting to be a part of. So every time I get to play a match, I feel that pressure. And I just love being in those situations where it's make or break."
For many that partake in the shootout, racquetball is not only a sport but a social event where they can see their friends and play the game they love. Cline says there used to be two big tournaments each year. but now it's confined to one weekend in March. Even so, it still draws a crowd. The community gets involved as well by donating prizes. Something everyone looks forward to is throwing papers airplanes to try and land on the prize they want.
"It's always just great camaraderie and lots of fun and the greatest thing about it is just being able to socialize and have a good time," Billings native Andrew Weber said. "You have some tough competition and then go out and grab a drink and hang out afterwards. Just just the camaraderie around it is great."
"The people are great, good people, good hospitality and I'll get to see people I haven't seen in a while," Havre native Lance Reithmeyer said. "It's a lot of fun up here."
Numbers have varied over the years, but the Shamrock Shootout is still going strong up on the Hi Line. There have been more than 100 players in past tournaments, with this year's hosting more than 40 players.
"I've been all over Canada, a lot of facilities and I have to say this is probably one of the best rock facilities I've ever been to," Calgary native Mitch Brayley said. "It's a great set up, a lot of food, drinks. It's a blast. It's got a combination of everything."
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