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SUN CITY HILTON HEAD -- This gated retirement community glows with a new aura of accomplishment as the home to the longest mah-jongg marathon on record.'
It's official: Eight women have put Sun City Hilton Head on the map for playing a 25-hour marathon of the Chinese game earlier this year. Or better said, they have put their community in the book, since the feat has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.'
So how does it feel to be immortalized?'
"The biggest surprise was how fun this was," said participant Rosemarie Cannon. "We thought it would be a chore, but it wasn't."'
"If somebody decides to challenge us, we can certainly do it again. No sweat, we can do it again," Cannon said. "Nobody of the whole eight foundered at all."'
And they didn't just break the record; they invented a whole new category. At an informal ceremony Saturday morning, the players, aged 59 to 79 and almost all of them grandmothers, received signed certificates attesting to their triumph.'
Chris Pittenger, one of the eight "Guinness Girls," as the group is now known, hosted the ceremony at her home on Hampton Circle. She received the certificates by mail in August and presented them as a surprise this weekend. Up until Saturday's ceremony, only she and another participant, Betty Vance, knew they had made the record book.'
The record is not guaranteed inclusion in Guinness publications, but might be considered for them.'
The achievement actually occurred at Vance's home on Hunley Court from 7 a.m. Feb. 28 to 8 a.m. March 1. There were simultaneous games being played at two separate tables. Each table had four players. Each game lasted from six to 15 minutes. Only five-minute breaks were allowed.'
During that time, players matched combinations of three suits on the engraved tiles -- bams, cracks and dots. Think gin rummy played with domino-sized pieces. The mah-jongg comes from a Chinese word meaning "sparrow" and is thought to date to at least 500 B.C.'
The new world record holders are Mary Ann Blansett, Judy Burt, Doris Mackenzie, Doris Natale, Ann Wells, Cannon, Vance and Pittenger.'
Four witnesses watched over the game, in compliance with Guinness rules: Jewel Bigger, Janet Dowling, Judy Murphy and Charlotte Sieger. Pittenger called them "angels," who fed, massaged and even sang to the players throughout the ordeal.'
"They didn't have to stay up for the whole 25 hours, but they did," she said.'
"Our husbands were supportive," she said. "We had friends that stopped in."'
Since this was a feat of stamina, the rules also required a doctor to be on call.'
The effort was an outgrowth of Mah-jongg Mondays, a community event regularly attended by about 80 residents -- mostly female -- from Sun City.