Players become friends over domino matches

Published 1:00 am Friday, July 6, 2018

Members of the Andalusia Rotary Club are preparing to host the 43rd annual World Championship Domino Tournament next week.

The tournament, which began in 1976, draws some of the best domino players from across the country, many of whom have been meeting in Andalusia for the second weekend in July for so long they now consider each other old friends.

Take, for instance, Will Matthews of Ozark. Known among tournament players as “Judge Will Matthews,” the veteran player flew to Kansas City earlier this year to speak at the funeral of another long-time participant, Robert Newsome, who died in January. Newsome always came to the tournament in a group led by his brother, Travis Newsome.

“I think I had been to the tournament one time before they came down here,” Matthews recalled. “There was a pharmacist from Ozark who just wanted to go, and he drug me over there. We got all the way to the finals and almost won it.”

In one of those early years, he and his partner played Robert Newsome and one of his brothers in the mini doubles tournament. Later, Matthews and Newsome began playing as partners in the mini doubles tournament.

Robert Newsome won the doubles championship twice – in 1995 with Jerry Newsome, and in 2010 with Jerome Wooten. Matthews won the doubles championship in 2012 with Billy Welch of Tallassee.

Last year, Matthews had a cancer scare and thought he had melanoma, the deadly skin cancer.

“I’d put something about it on Facebook,” Matthews recalled. “Robert called me and said he was praying for me. I told him I appreciated it.

“He called me again right before he died and said, ‘It worked, didn’t it?’

“I said, ‘Well, I guess it did.’ ”

What appeared at first to be melanoma was later determined to be basal cell carcinoma.

There was another difficult time when Newsome called him, Matthews recalled.

“On June 18, 2014, I lost my son. He was 30 years old, three months and three days,” he said. “Robert called me about a week later. He said, ‘Judge, I’m so sorry I didn’t know about our son, or I would have been at the funeral.’

“I told him, ‘I’ve been a Christian since I can remember. Right now, feel like God has let me down. That was my precious child. I wish he could’ve taken me.

“Robert said, ‘I’ll tell you one thing, and I want you to remember it for the rest of your life. It was God’s will that he died. God wanted him. That can make you feel better about it. You’re not going to like it, but you can feel better.’ ”

Matthews said he will always remember the conversation. He said he was surprised when Travis Newsome called him after his brother’s death.

“He said, ‘We want you to come to the funeral and speak.’ ”

Matthews said the service was held in a church that seated about 1,500, “and there wasn’t an empty seat in the place. The music was unbelievable. ”

“Robert was very successful,” he said. “I’ve known him for years and had no idea how successful he was.

“Robert was a great man, and I’m gonna miss him,” he said.

Many other friendships will be renewed when the tournament begins at 8 a.m. next Friday, July 13. The singles tournament is on Friday, and the doubles is on Saturday.

In addition, Rotarians are selling Fantastic Domino Sweepstakes tickets for $100 each. The ticket entitles the bearer to two seafood dinners Friday night, and a chance at a $15,000 grand prize.

Registration and tickets are available at, or from any Rotarian.