With the premier young shots trophy in his cabinet, and an array of other championships an accolades in the books, Ronnie Green explains to photographer Huw Hopkins how he is on track for clay shooting superstardom…
Getting a teenager to smile on camera might be the toughest thing a professional photographer has to do. And when that teenager is the modest Ronnie Green, who only cracked the rarest of grins when he won the British Schools & Young Shots Championship, you can sometimes mistake his respectful, subdued emotion for arrogance. But meet him, and you’ll find someone who loves shooting and buzzes with a competitive spirit: “I don’t really think about what others shoot. If they beat me it’s a fair win, but if I beat them…”
Ronnie’s quiet persona turns into a supreme focus in the shooting cage. Even when he finishes shooting the best score on the course, he isn’t as demonstrative as a group of lads that have been shooting together for 20 years, but there is good reason for that. However, just as you’d expect when asked about it, Ronnie didn’t wax lyrical about them. Instead, his mother, Jo, said: “We live in a three-bed semi in Bexleyheath, so we’re not the prototypical shooting family.”
Along with Ronnie’s father John – who can often be seen carrying cartridge bags, gunslips and additional kit at most big shoots – Jo is one half of the parenting superteam that supports their son, despite having no links to the community before, and, therefore, no pre-existing friendship groups to go shooting with. They could be seen a successful case study on how to get non-shooting people into the sport. She said: “If it was up to me, Ronnie wouldn’t have ever touched a shotgun, not even guns for toys when he was younger. I thought it was too dangerous, but John had been game shooting and done some clay shooting, so we bought Ronnie a Red Letter Day.”
Since then, Jo’s feelings have changed. “It’s just so nice when your child finds what they love and what they’re good at. It gives them confidence and it’s what they’re good at and interested in.
“Education is everything. If you don’t know much about a sport then it’s dangerous. But when you start to learn about the safety rules and guidelines that you use, you realise how safe it is. These days, I think I get more excited than Ronnie does, because he’s as cool as a cucumber, and I’m waiting by the phone for the results. Every week all my friends know his scores.”
Ronnie spoke up and reminded his mother how often he used to get injured when he used to play football every week. He said: “After I had the first lesson at JJ’s Clay Shooting Club, I just wanted to keep going back, take it seriously, enjoy it and get what I can out of it. So I went to different clubs and got to where I am now. None of my friends have an interest in it, not for any particular reason, that’s just the way it’s gone.”
After I had the first lesson at JJ’s Clay Shooting Club, I just wanted to keep going back, take it seriously, enjoy it and get what I can out of it.
Not long after that first lesson, Ronnie entered the British Schools & Young Shots Championship at the age of 12. But now, five years later, he said: “I always wanted to win the whole thing. I won the Under-14s and thought I’ll go back and win the main event. I shot it, thought I did well and waited to see how the score held up.”
And when it came to the shoot-off? “We were all out there to win it, and just did the best we could. I was happy with the win. All competitions are the same in my head, I don’t change how I do things much. I was really happy with the result of it.”
Since those first few months and years, Ronnie has obviously grown – in confidence, height and talent. And this has helped capture the eye of helpful people along the way, as he explains: “Tom at Starkey Shooting helps me out with the Pilla shooting glasses. And my coach at Dartford Clay Shooting Club, Scott Batcheldor, split the cost of my cartridge pouch with Starkey through his company Airbrake Connections. Westerhill Homes helps me out with money towards cartridges because I’m still looking for a cartridge sponsor, and I get support from Southdown Gun Club as well.”
Ronnie also earned himself a spot on the Beretta Young Shots Programme a few years ago, which he still works closely with. He started using a 686 EVO, then moved on to a DT11, but it was a chance purchase last year that made him switch things up. “I shot the Benelli last year and needed a semi-auto for it, so I bought this one. It was the first time I shot with it and I did well and ended up winning the Juniors with it, so I kept going and shot higher scores with the semi-auto than I did with my other gun. I thought I’d continue and it’s been getting me extra clays. I don’t really know what it is about it, but I like the 32in barrel. I picked it up in the shop and they said that nobody was buying it, because it’s got a 32in barrel.”
I always wanted to win the whole thing. I won the Under-14s and thought I’ll go back and win the main event
The semi-auto purchase is another example of the family sacrificing to get the best for Ronnie, as John had to trade in his personal shotgun to get it. But it has since brought Ronnie added success, and led to him winning the biggest young shots event in the country.
This growth and development is set to continue, but Ronnie has already had a stark reminder that other successes won’t come all at once. His foray into Olympic Trap after being spotted by British Shooting was put on hold pretty quickly. He said: “I went with British Shooting to do Olympic Trap but I couldn’t afford to do it. They want you to travel to different countries to train and it’s too expensive to do. And I enjoy my Sporting too much to give up entirely.”
But that hasn’t slowed his short or long-term ambitions: “I want to try and get into the England or GB team for FITASC and Sporting this year. I want to represent my country and wear the badge.”
And Ronnie is doing all the right things to get to where he wants to be. He knows how to physically prepare with the best food, and avoids fatty, sugary items like bacon sandwiches in the clubhouse.
With a good head on his shoulders, the enduring love of fantastic parents, and support from generous sponsors, his success is already making rivals of Ronnie green with envy. And it is promising to be a bright and colourful future for this rising star.