Don Brunt watches events unfold at the English Open, and sees shooter after shooter defeated by one of the trickiest Sporting stands ever seen.
The 2019 English Open Sporting took place on 22-26 May at West Midlands Shooting Ground, Hodnet. More than 1200 shooters entered the five day event, enjoying the twists and turns of the course, designed by ground owner Tom Jones, as it meandered through the wooded banks of the ground.
The highlight of the 120 target 15 stand layout was the final station which featured a unique target presentation. This was the fruition of a long standing ambition of Tom’s. He has been hoping to put on a vertical “reverse teal” driven downwards into the ground so Promatic built him a one-off trap that allowed him to do exactly that.
With both gravity and a tightly wound spring working together the speed of the clay was quick enough to ensure that the vast majority of misses were well behind it – or rather over the top – as it accelerated into the ground.
It was followed by an awkward going-away teal that needed a fairly steady gun and a big movement from one target to the next, with the result that neither was a comfortable shot.
Despite the horde of shooters taking part, only two of them managing to straight it and the average score was 2.6 out of 8, so it’s safe to say it was probably a touch too hard. It was also perhaps a stand too late; had it had been on stand 14 then people would have had a chance to finish their round on a high and head home on a positive note.
More than a few shot the rest of the round well only to be tripped up at the last hurdle, their hopes dashed. That said, there is no doubt whatsoever that stand 15’s place in English Sporting folklore is guaranteed.
The day 1 leaders Ben Husthwaite and Chris Childerhouse both managed 6 out of 8 on stand 15 and finished on 111 apiece, but the expectation was that the course would prove to have a little more to give than that.
James Bradley Day took to the course on day 2 and shot the round superbly, arriving at Stand 15 poised for a possible 116 if he could straight it. However, when it came to it he only broke three and so joined Ben and Chris on 111.
That score was beaten later in the day by Richard Bunning, who managed a 112 thanks to a 7 on the final stand. Sam Green looked to be in even better shape, having finished stands 1-14 with only three errors.
This gave him a shot at 117, but like so many others he struggled on 15. He managed to kill half the targets, ending up on 113. An amazing performance, even if it again underlined the difficulty of that tricky final pair.
The rest of the layout was relatively straightforward; anyone expecting the round to start easy and get harder would have been surprised, as much of it was pitched at a very similar level. Stands 1-4 were all there to be broken, presenting a mixture of birds that needed good timing, planning and attention to hold points.
The fifth stand was on a raised platform jutting out over a fern covered bank. Here, a white quartering-away target was pretty simple, but it was followed by a treacle-slow pink teal that punished anyone who let their gun speed take control.
It needed to be a very measured shot, and some shooters opted for the one-eye-closed ‘rifle it’ approach. Next up was a pair at range, both of which needed a bit of gap; plenty of shooters found this hard going, but it was the driven stand that followed that was the second hardest on the course.
A slow-then-fast driven pair at different heights proved awkward, though it could be shot as either a driven or crossing pair depending on the shooter’s plan.
The third and fourth days of the competition saw no change at the top of the leader board; there was no lack of quality shooters trying to shoot their way into the top six, but nobody could string a potentially winning score together.
Everything came down to the last day, when the last of the big hitters took to the course. The wind, which had played little or no part through the week, was definitely stronger and was influencing the trajectory of some of the birds.
Martin Myers started well but faded as the round developed. Richard Faulds shot the course extremely well, but faltered in a couple of places, dropping three birds on stand 6 and three more on 15 to finish on 111.
Mark Winser, still mining the rich vein of form that saw him walk away with the Essex Masters, fought his way around the layout and arrived at Stand 15 on course for a 116. However, even he wasn’t immune to its ‘charms’ and he dropped three there to equal Sam’s 113.
With the super final lineup complete (less Bradley Day, who couldn’t make it back) it was time to decide the champion over a 30-target course of big birds that were not for the faint hearted. As it turned out, there was only one horse in the race.
Mark Winser looked pretty much unstoppable from the first stand onwards, tearing his way through the three stands and making the targets look ordinary.
Finishing with an unbelievable result of 25 ex-30 on the super final stands gave him a final score of 138, a whopping six targets clear of Bunning’s 132. Green finished third on 131.
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