Sunshine State Games returns to Polk County for first time since 2014

The first of three Festivals of the 42nd Annual Sunshine State Games begins this weekend in Polk County with four sports contested over two days, Saturday, May 29 and Sunday, May 30.

Polk County hosts Bowling, Golf, Powerlifting and Taekwondo in four different locations.

Taekwondo, with 295 registered athletes, will be held at the RP Funding Center, the site of the last Sunshine State Games Taekwondo event in Polk County.

In 2014, Polk County served as the host of a multi-sport festival for the final year of an eight consecutive year run (2007-14), with five sports being held at RP Funding Center, the weekend of June 20-22.

On-site registration will be available for Taekwondo on Friday, May 28 at the RP Funding Center, from 2:00 – 9:00 p.m. for an increased fee. Bowling will also accept on-site registration on May 29 and 30 at Cypress Lanes in Winter Haven, beginning at 8:00 a.m.

Prior to the beginning of competition on Saturday, the 2019 Sunshine State Games Athlete of the Year, Paul McFarquhar, of Tampa (pictured above), will be presented with his award. He was unable to be recognized in 2020 as Taekwondo was one of many sports unable to be held last summer.

In 2019, McFarquhar won the 18-29 Male Black Belt 171.6 lb sparring gold medal. He has been competing in the Sunshine State Games with his mother, Ruth, father, Hector, Sr., and brother, Hector, Jr., since 2013.

McFarquhar’s rise through the ranks follows the classic Sunshine State Games journey starting in the sport at three years old. Paul worked his way up from the local, to state championships, and winning an AAU National Championship.

“I’ve known Paul since he was working his way up through the color belts,” said SSG Taekwondo Sport Director, Master James White. “He’s worked his way up to black belt, a state champion and to the AAU Male Senior National Team.”

Among the athletes competing in Powerlifting at the Auburndale Community Center is Suzanne LaForge, of Eustis, (pictured above at right) a USA National Masters Champion and IPF World Champion and Record Holder. At a 2018 competition, she topped a combined 900 pounds total with a squat of 303 pounds, a bench press of 176 pounds and a deadlift of 429 pounds.

“She will likely set all of the Masters 3 (60-64) American Records at the Games Saturday,” said Powerlifting Sport Director Robert Keller. “It’s also likely she will earn the Overall Best Lifter for the ladies. She earned the best overall lifter at the last IPF World Masters Championships, in 2018.”

Also stepping up to the bar will be, John March, from Auburndale, and Vietnam Veteran, who won a Men’s Masters gold medal at the 2019 Sunshine State Games Powerlifting Championships with a bench press of 242.5 pounds.

The Bowling and Golf Championships will serve as qualifiers for the 2021 Florida Senior Games, for participating athletes age 50 and over. The top five finishers in each five-year interval age group, will qualify for the Florida Senior Games, to be held in the Greater Fort Lauderdale Area, December 4-12.

With Florida Senior Games eligible athletes competing in the 2021 Sunshine State Games, 92-year old Dick Cheney, of Winter Haven will be on the course at the Cleveland Heights Golf Club on Saturday.

Cheney, who will tee off at 8:00 a.m., will be the first 90+ age athlete to compete in the 42 years of the Sunshine State Games. At the 2019 Florida Senior Games, Cheney shot a two-day total of 207 to win the gold medal and set a record in the 90-94 age group.

The two days of Bowling competition at Cypress Lanes in Winter Haven will be an intergenerational event with Bowlers competing in 10 and under singles up to Florida Senior Games eligible athletes in the 70-74 age group.

Bowling will accept onsite registration at Cypress Lanes on Saturday and Sunday morning, beginning at 8:00 a.m..

Visit for competition information for the Polk County Festival, presented in conjunction with Central Florida’s Polk County Sports Marketing, and registration information for the upcoming Alachua and Clay County Festivals with approaching registration deadlines. Entry fees vary by sport.

Schedule for Sunshine State Games Polk County Festival
Friday, May 28

2:00 – 9:00 p.m.: Taekwondo On-Site Registration, RP Funding Center

Saturday, May 29
8:00 a.m.: Golf @ Cleveland Heights Golf Course, Lakeland (First Tee Time, 8:00 a.m.)
9:00 a.m.: Bowling (Doubles) @ Cypress Lanes, Winter Haven (Onsite Registration is available)
9:30 a.m.:Taekwondo, @ RP Funding Center; Lakeland
10:00 a.m.: Powerlifting @ Auburndale Community Center

Sunday, May 30
9:00 a.m.: Bowling (Singles) @ Cypress Lanes, Winter Haven (Onsite Registration is available)
9:30 a.m.: Taekwondo, @ RP Funding Center; Lakeland

The Sunshine State Games, Florida’s only Olympic-style Sports Festival, is presented annually by the Florida Sports Foundation, the official sports promotion and development organization of the State of Florida. The 2021 Games are presented in conjunction with Clay County Tourism and Airstream Ventures, the Gainesville Sports Commission, Florida’s Sports Coast and Polk County Sports Marketing. The Sunshine State Games is part of the state’s $57.4 billion sports industry that accounts for 580,000 jobs statewide.