If the billiards community in Colorado Springs is like a family, then Keith Costigan and his wife, Sandy Chamberlain, are the out-of-town cousins who return every year.
Chamberlain and Costigan made the trek in their camper once again this year to compete in the Rocky Mountain State Games, as they have all but once for nearly a decade.
"We're actually playing for a hunk of medal," Chamberlain said. "That's it. There's no money involved in this. It's just that gold trophy."
Chamberlain's trophies are strewn out throughout the couple's home in Broken Arrow, Okla.
"They are everywhere," Costigan said. "And I mean everywhere."
The trophies have accumulated since Chamberlain first began playing in 1963. Costigan was not a player until he met his wife 18 years ago and quickly had to pick up the sport.
They now have three tables in their home and spend most of their year organizing and running tournaments in the Tulsa area.
The attachment to the Rocky Mountain State Games began with Chamberlain's first trip.
In that year billiards was held in a large venue, under the same roof as gymnastics, foosball and even fly fishing. She loved the larger feel of the event, not to mention the opening ceremony that included all participants.
"I tell everybody, when you go there you're an athlete," Chamberlain said. "Have you ever been an athlete in our sport? No. You get to walk in behind your flag with the athletes and the lighting of the big caldron. Most of the time when I tell them this stuff I'm choked up."
That first competition in Colorado Springs came when the Rocky Mountain State Games was part of the State Games of America, a stepping stone on the way to a national event. But after Chamberlain won here, she was told by organizers in San Diego that billiards would not be part of the national competition.
"I was hot," she said.
Ever since, the games in Colorado have granted a special invitation to the couple that allows them to bypass the rule that competitors must have an in-state address.
And so they return every year, making the meandering trip over two days. This year they came despite Costigan's double-hernia operation just two weeks ago.
The out-of-towners were the last ones standing in the winner's bracket at the conclusion of Friday's competition Friday at the Corner Pocket West. Only a pair of losses in the finals would prevent them from winning the competition when it resumes early Saturday. Both entered into the singles competition on Saturday at the Corner Pocket West. The couples play eight-ball, alternating each shot. Underscoring the familial feel, the bracket included only first names.
Chamberlain takes about five or six weeks out of each year to travel to tournaments. She routinely competes in Las Vegas and recently traveled to Illinois. The trips admittedly take longer than they need to, but that's because she detests interstate travel and likes to experience every detail of her surroundings.
In Colorado Springs she has grown fond of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Garden of the Gods and she never misses a chance to eat guacamole at The Loop in Manitou Springs.
This year they even convinced friends, Darci Long and John Swift, to make the trip. Long worked 18-hour shifts over the past four weeks to finance her first out-of-town competition.
Who knows how the experience at the State Games will go for the newcomers? But you never know, the extended family just might grow a bit more.