Sassenach Graham Stirzaker swooped in to win a soggy Scottish Open Sporting Championship, reports Murray Thomson
England’s Graham Stirzaker shot a superb 93 ex-100 in shockingly wet conditions to take overall High Gun at the Scottish Open Sporting Championships, held at The National Shooting Centre Scotland, near Falkirk.
Another sassenach, England’s Scott Barnett, recently back from the ICTSF World Sporting, shot a 90 to tie with Scotland’s silent assassin, Lewis Greenhowe, then beat him in the shoot-off to take the runner-up spot, with Lewis lifting the trophy as the overall Scottish Champion.
The centrally located NCSC has gone from strength to strength under the leadership of GB and Scotland international Stewart Cummings, who runs the ground with the MacCaig family.
They have invested heavily in their ground to appeal to a wide variety of shotgun shooters, and have impressive covered Olympic Trap layouts as well as Skeet ranges, Sportrap layouts and a Sporting course that snakes its way from the clubhouse out towards the open moor.
The normal Sporting course runs partly alongside the lake to the rear of the recently refurbished club house. In an interesting and welcome move, this year the NCSC team and guest course setter Graham Clark decided to build the entire course around the outskirts of the lake, using its banks as paths between each stop.
Every stand was shot with your back to the water, with the open fields and treelines beyond used to provide a multitude of targets. One had the feeling that plenty of thought had gone into how the birds would appear to the waiting gun.
The team had opened up new pathways through the woods, which meant that those who regularly attend NCSC immediately had their bubble of familiarity popped, and had to cope with unfamiliar shooting positions. The playing field was level – game on!
The weather dominated everyone’s mind from the beginning. Phone batteries were flattened as those about to take on the course frantically searched weather apps and radar images to see when a band of persistent showers and winds would pass.
Some squads gambled and hit the course at the first opportunity. Initially that seemed like a mistake, but as the afternoon panned out it proved to be the right call.
Just after lunch one gun was heard to say “my radar app shows that’s the rain off for the day” before bounding towards his car to kit-up. Within minutes he resembled an extra from the movie Waterworld. The guns dug their wet gear out of the car and cracked on. At least they had an outstanding Sporting course to take their minds off the weather.
The opening stand was at the clubhouse, and followed the rather odd shape of the lake which formed the backbone of the course. By the time the squads reached stand 14, they were back at the car park, and could retreat for the warmth of the clubhouse to enjoy a steak pie as they waited to see how they had fared.
Around the course, you could gaze across the water to the coming stands. Some spent time trying to read the body language of other guns across the gap, searching for any glimpse of comfort that things might get better for their score card. It was hard to keep discipline and focus on the task in hand – the temptation to peek at other stands was sometimes just too much.
JCB telehandlers from AM Phillip Agrictech had been used for lofting traps, so that a relatively flat and enclosed bit of ground suddenly offered birds at an unexpected height and powered by intelligent levels of spring.
The course offered several simultaneous pairs, and despite the strong winds there was still plenty of time to move to the second without it being sucked into a rogue vortex.
The presentations were varied – for instance, a tight-in bird followed by something that a required a little more courage. Elsewhere there were clays that looked like lots of muzzle speed was required, when in fact minimal gun movement was the key to the desired soot ball.
Inevitably, some targets were wind-affected, but with the wind remaining consistent throughout the day, it was the same for everyone. The course setter had taken care to show the full clay face, so there were no edge-on eye tests – a healthy decision for a day such as this.
As the squads returned, it was soon clear that, although the course looked fairly straightforward, many had fallen victim to Graham Clark’s dastardly planning. Even those who had shot well below their normal average had only themselves to blame for the lost birds scattered across their card.
All in all, this was yet another demonstration of how well Scotland can host such competitions, and a shining example of the skill, determination and hard work of those who set up and ran the event.
For more about events at the National Shooting Centre Scotland see www.nsc92.com or www.facebook/comnationalshootingcentre92