Ami Hedgecock, CPSA Emerging Shooter of the Year 2020, talks training, trophies and Toyotas with Jasper Fellows
For the past nine years, illustrious members of the clay-shooting community have gathered every February to celebrate the best of the best at the CPSA Awards.
This February was no different. All the big names were in attendance from the nation’s top shooters to the best coaches, target setters, charitable fundraisers and representatives from some of the most important businesses in the clay-shooting world.
There was one young lady in attendance who may have flown under the radar of many of those at the event: 16-year-old Ami Hedgecock. Sitting at a table with her family, it would be easy to presume that she was there to accompany them for a glitzy night out. But any who have been following her blossoming career knew one thing; this young shooter is on track to become one of the country’s greatest.
She walked away from the evening as the CPSA’s Emerging Shooter of the Year, a solid nod from the industry that she has a promising career ahead of her. The story begins in 2015: “My brother Taylor, dad Jon and granddad Gordon are all keen shots.
“Listening to how well they did every weekend made me want to take part and strive to be as good as they were,” says Ami. “My brother, in particular, was a huge inspiration to me and when I was 11, I finally got the chance to give it a go at High Harthay Shooting Ground in Cambridgeshire.”
Having a family packed with quality shooters certainly helps to keep the instruction costs down. “In the early days my brother and my dad did most of the coaching. They were always trying to correct any little errors I made and eventually I started to put it all together.” And put it all together she did, picking up her first piece of silverware in 2015. “My first competitive win was at a Cambridgeshire County Sporting competition at Cambridge Gun Club.
“I came first in Ladies and Colts, with my brother taking home the Junior prize and grandad the Veterans prize,” says Ami. “It was amazing seeing everyone in my family doing so well and having a good time, and it made me want to shoot more competitively.”
So Ami put her head down and, with the help of her family, her shooting continued to improve. Then in 2017 Ami was ready to shoot at The Oxford Gun Company’s The Schools Challenge (TSC). “My brother had competed at the event previously, so I thought it was a good idea to follow in his footsteps and give it a go,” she says.
Ami shot her way comfortably through the competition and into the super final, where one clay was all that separated her from her final rival, Naomi Chapman.
But one clay was all that was needed to seal victory for Ami and leave her walking away with a brand new Toyota Aygo – walking because, at just 13 years old, it would still be another four years before Ami would be able to legally drive. “The Schools Challenge was the first major competition I won,” explains Ami, “and I consider it to be one of the most important wins of my career to-date.”
Undoubtedly, winning The Schools Challenge helped to boost Ami’s confidence and caused the shooting industry to take note. Since then she has continued to scoop up wins across a wide range of events and competitions across the country.
In 2018, she picked up an impressive array of silverware in Sporting, Compak and Sportrap events, including taking the Ladies Colt High Gun at the World English Sporting Championships at EJ Churchill – not bad for a young shot with only three years’ experience!
Arguably, Ami really came into her own during her 2019 season. She started off by picking up Cambridgeshire County Skeet titles in both the Ladies and Colts categories, before taking on the rest of the country to claim both the Colts and D class title at the English Open Compak Sporting Championships, in the rain and occasional snow at Orston, and that was just March!
She continued the rest of the year in much the same manner, scooping up wins at the British Schools and Young Shots Championships, the Benelli SP’Auto Championships and Ladies Colt High Gun title at the English Open English Sporting Championships, before rounding the year off by being crowned Ladies, Colt and B Class Champion at the 2019 CPSA Premier League.
“2019 was a really fantastic year for my shooting,” says Ami of her ever-expanding trophy cabinet. “Taking the British Schools and Young Shots Championships Ladies title was definitely one of my highlights of the year, alongside the fantastic Premier League which stands out as one of the most important wins of my career so far.”
After such a successful season it seemed only fitting that Ami found herself a suitable coach to help guide her through the world of top level competition shooting – and who better than multi-award winning World FITASC Sporting Champion Sam Green.
“I really feel like I learned a lot of lessons throughout my 2019 season. Perhaps most importantly I started to understand the clays more and how I should line up my movements to score more consistent hits, rather than just swinging my gun.
“In December 2019 I started working with Sam; he’s been helping me to analyse my shooting and gives me tips on small improvements I can make to my form, that I can then go away and work on. I find that if I miss a target, the most important thing to do is to understand why and think about how I can fix that problem so I don’t repeat the mistake again.”
Readers may remember Sam’s article in a previous edition of this magazine where he helped to drive home the importance of gun mount training and how getting this seemingly simple task right every time can take the pressure off during an event.
“I do practise my gun mount when I can,” continues Ami, “I think that working out in the gym can be beneficial too, but I don’t do any particular gym exercises related to shooting.”
Ami is also a practitioner of the Korean martial art Kuk Sool Won. “It is a martial art mainly based on self defence,” she explains. “Kuk Sool Won helps me to build up strength and improve my focus, so it compliments clay shooting nicely. I teach as an assistant instructor too, which also really helps to boost my confidence.”
Aside from Sam Green and her Kuk Sool Won friends, Ami has built up an impressive support network. “I simply wouldn’t be able to shoot as much as I do without the help of my sponsors and those around me,” says Ami. “My family have always been my biggest supporters, but I am lucky enough to have a great group of sponsors who help in a big way.
“Laporte CPC give me plenty of clays to smash, Eley Hawk and GMK have helped massively to supply me with guns and ammunition, Robert Newsham, the Royal Oak team and Fidelis have all helped to get me to where I am today.”
With world class competitions to shoot, practice sessions to maintain, martial arts to teach and sponsors to keep happy, it’s easy to forget that Ami is still at school and, at the time of writing, battling her way through GCSE coursework in the midst of a global viral pandemic.
“I have always had good time management skills,” explains Ami. “I keep everything organised in my calendar, though sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
“Luckily my school have been very supportive of my shooting, allowing me to take time off to shoot competitions when needed. At the moment my plan is to just keep progressing with everything I am doing, get good GCSE grades and then decide if I want to go to university or try something else.”
“As for the future of my shooting career, personally I don’t feel like I am shooting at a high level. I would love to shoot for Team GB as a Compak shooter, but I feel that the most important thing is for me to enjoy the sport. Just like school, if you don’t enjoy a subject you won’t put in the effort to learn it, whereas when you are having fun, the difficulties simply become an enjoyable challenge.”
With the impressive list of titles already against her name, her passion for clay shooting and such a prestigious nod from the CPSA there is little doubt that Ami will follow in the footsteps of previous CPSA Emerging Shooters of the Year to become a force to be reckoned with. We have no doubt that we will be hearing a lot more from this young shot in Clay Shooting magazine!