A windy Southern Counties saw lower results than expected at the English Open Skeet and an unexpected face in the shoot-off, Paul Fallon was there there
The English Open Skeet at Southern Counties in May witnessed plenty of targets blown away in more senses than one. Despite some difficult conditions, Nick Marsden managed to maintain his grip on the Skeet circuit to take the championship title for the third time with an awesome display of shooting.
The championship got underway on Friday with near perfect conditions greeting just 35 entries (a little over a third of the day’s capacity). Richard King was out early at what is his local ground to post 99 – a score he was sure would be improved upon as the weekend progressed.
Kelvin Walsh and Tim Webster were also out on Friday and I would guess neither of them expected their 98s to be enough
to fi gure in the results for AA Class; yet remarkably for an English Open they would finish up in equal fi rst place with third place in the class being split among four shooters, who each posted a 97.
Just one category was settled on Friday as Bill Moussalli posted a 97 that proved sufficient to secure the Veteran trophy.
The entry on Saturday was improved with 64 competitors taking to the ranges to record their scores; among them just five
AA contenders looking to knock Richard from the top of the leader board. Again the conditions were fair, and in the fi nal analysis most of the classes and categories would be decided on the second day.
Among them was Amber Hill replicating her score here last year in the British Open with a 95; Amber took home an armful of silver, securing both the Ladies and Colts category titles on Saturday and following a shoot-off on Sunday afternoon against Alejandro Garcia-Mayol, in which Amber prevailed 24 to 22, she added the B Class championship trophy to her hoard.
The Junior High Gun was won on day two by Chris Papworth: not a regular on the Skeet circuit, but a very competent shot
and competitor, Chris is more often found shooting Sporting. He cleared the first three layouts to go into the fi nal round straight. As he made his way around the final layout station by station he kept up the standard and looked set to be going into the number one spot. He called for a low target option on station seven and fi red only to watch target 100 fly off unharmed. That left him tied with Richard overnight on 99 with little expectation that he would be shooting-off for the championship on Sunday.
Other places secured on Saturday were first in A Class for Alec Phillips with a 97, meanwhile the C Class top spot would be left undecided as both Jordan Babbage and Nicholas Pardoe shot 92 – neither of them were around for a shoot-off on Sunday, expecting their scores to be improved upon during the final day. Sarah Quinn posted a 94 to collect the Ladies Runner-Up spot and Pete Collins made his trip down from Scotland pay off with third place in the Veterans.
Day three saw 78 of the 176 entrants take to the ranges. But, there was so much wind it looked as though it might succeed in ripping some of the flags from the poles. It was not just strong and gusting but was coming from behind the layouts rolling into strong eddies as it came across the top of the bank and the buildings sheltering the trap stands before grabbing hold of the Skeet targets.
One of our top shots, and an almost permanent member of the England team, was quoted as saying that any score posted
with a nine in front that day would be an achievement – he later posted a mid-90s score. Another competitor was overheard talking about the loss of his fi rst target out: “It just came out and turned left” he said of the high one target that was grabbed by the wind and thrown wildly off line. Thus the scene was set for the final day.
Stanley Baughan is a remarkably talented and consistent Junior; despite the targets he carded the second highest score of the day with 97 securing equal third in AA and third place in the Junior category. J Simpson put together a 91 on Sunday morning to take a share of third place in C Class.
Among the final squad out on Sunday was Nick Marsden. Emerging from the first layout just Nick was still straight and with the wind unabated it looked as though the spoils were going to be fought for by Richard and Chris with their 99s safely on the score board.
After three layouts Nick was still straight and word had got around the ground. There was now quite a gallery watching in
disbelief that he might just finish them all off. It was a high two that was to get away and leave him with a 99 – the highest score on the day, and a remarkable achievement all wind considered.
The three contenders made their way to the open layout with the grandstand seating for the shoot-off. Nick Marsden shot
fi rst followed by Chris Papworth and then Richard King. There was hushed disbelief as Marsden missed the fi rst target out. Chris followed him onto station one, broke both singles but then missed the high target of the pair. Richard stepped up and did exactly the same and as they moved away to station two it was all even again.
High two cost Chris another target and he went on to fi nish his shoot-off round with 18. Richard was next to drop a target as the second of the pair on station four kept on fl ying. A low six lost for Nick and Richard saw both fi nishing the round on 23 and so it was pairs on station four to settle it. They both cleaned up their fi rst two pairs: Richard stepped onto the station for the second time to see the high target from his second pair continue on. Nick stepped on, crushed all
four targets and secured the English Open Championship for the third time.
The story of the championship was the wind on the fi nal day – it had a real influence over the results and left many wishing they had booked one of the earlier days. The entry of 176 was disappointing – considerably down over recent years – I thought that last year was poor but this was 25 per cent down again. Perhaps a more realistic comparison would be to look at last year’s British Open at the same venue where 215 entered but it was still 20 per cent down on that fi gure.
The team at Southern Counties did a tremendous job of hosting the event with everything running like clockwork. The referees in particular had a very difficult job on the Sunday given the conditions and all credit to them, I did not hear a single complaint.