World champs in Windy City

Chicago played host to the 2019 World English Sporting Championships, where competitors from 19 nations assembled – Don Brunt was there to watch the action

Northbrook Sports Club is without doubt one of the premier grounds in the US, located to the north of downtown Chicago not far from the shore of Lake Michigan. It is set amongst 700 acres of beautiful Illinois countryside.

Part of its appeal is the variation in terrain; from Oak woodland through to swamp and marsh, open grassland and to its impressive “berm” course, where huge man made banks allow for some interesting target setting. 

Having previously held the World FITASC in 2012 and the US Open in 2015, the club is no stranger to holding large scale events. 

The scale of the facilities, the organisation, preparation and warmth of the welcome were all exceptional, with an atmosphere that really did make the entire week feel special.

The Blue course, set in oak parkland, saw some tricky target combinations

An opening ceremony that plotted the history of Sporting clays with demonstrations of early glass ball shooting; free food during the Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and even 25 free practice targets for every one of the thousand entrants made for a fun entertaining experience that few will forget in a hurry. 

As ever in the US, there were plenty of side events, and for those with stamina, there were 1400 competition targets available during the week of shooting.

Although there would be no SuperSporting, there was instead a 200 Target new system FITASC event as part of the Kolar US Tour, which effectively replaced the World Cups for 2019. 

The main event was the focus of the weekend, but before that much of the talk was about the Guinness World Record attempt for the furthest distance to shoot a clay target. 

Aside from a select few who had been invited to take place in the attempt, there were “wild card” slots available for those who wanted to try and qualify in the days leading up to the attempt. 

The target in question was a chondel teal trap, and although those looking to qualify could start at 70 yards, the World record wouldn’t be awarded on the Saturday night until a target had been broken at 105 yards. The attempt saw more than a dozen shooters taking part, with some great names of the sport, as well as plenty of long bird specialists who had shot well enough to earn a place.

A few names fell at the first hurdle, but as the hopefuls moved back towards the magic 105 yards, the numbers dwindled. Eventually Bobby Fowler, Richard Faulds, Jon Kendall and Silvana Mangano remained.

All three of the men tried and failed at 105 yards, but on her second shot Silvana broke the target on the drop and put her name into the history books with the longest Official World Record shot in history. All of those who took part used 32gram 7 ½’s (2.4mm) which is a legal load for English Sporting in America. 

Cory Kruse emerged the winner, with Joseph Fanizzi second and UK’s Richard Faulds third

In the main event, which began on Friday, the course had been split into three as opposed to the usual two. That in itself raised the level of difficulty, because with two courses of 66 and one of 68 targets there were a massive 36 stands and 72 individual presentations to shoot. 

Add in just two or three pairs, and nobody present had much time to “find” a tricky target. 

That in itself made lower scores a probability, but in addition the three courses were plenty tough enough. Blue was set amongst Oak parkland and saw some long combinations that in places were tricky to see; it presented a superquick sim pair from a scissor lift that saw a standard heading into the ground at speed, with another quartering out standard also at pace.

It could be shot both ways, but neither was comfortable and required a quick first barrel. If that wasn’t tough enough, then stand one on the white course saw a huge number of zero’s over the three days, it saw a wound up 70mm chondel fired into the ground, placed alongside another wound up standard as a crosser from a lift.

The 70 needed more gap than most expected, while the awkward transition meant that plenty opted to throw two barrels at the standard clay and walk off with a good chance of getting 50% rather than end up with a zero.

Richard Faulds finished on 200, just two targets behind the World champion

Club manager Brett Seibert had set the Blue while his son Tommy had been the face behind the White course. David Neiderer set the Red, which was amongst the Berm course, and this required plenty of attacking shooting, but it did seem to some to be a little easier than the other two. 

The lead see sawed as it always does when people are shooting different courses, but at the close of play Brett Seiberts prediction that people would be shooting off for a place in the Super final at a score of 184-186 seemed a bit optimistic.

Four – including David Gooding, Wendell Cherry and Brad Kidd – had made the cut on 173, while Zach Keinbaum and one other had got in on 174. Martin Myers was through on 175, as was Colt Joseph Fanizzi on 178. Ben Huthwaite and Richard Faulds both finished on 179, while Cory Kruse was the only one to finish in the 180’s with a 181.

Those scores were an indicator that the shoot had indeed been tougher than Churchills in 2018 and that had been no walk in the park. Many suggested it was harder even than the World English at South Florida in 2015, which had been relentless from start to finish.

Emma Stacey (right) took third in Ladies

The Super final was shot over 25 targets and Todd Hitch, Gooding, Faulds and Kruse all managed 21. Myers managed a 22, and both Joseph and Wendell shot 23’s, however Cory’s lead was enough to see him prevail by just one target over Fanizzi 202 to 201, while Faulds was one clay further adrift on 200. Husthwaite finished on 199, undoubtedly ruing what might have been if he hadn’t missed three 70mm’s on the last peg. 

Cory has been at the top of the game for many years in America – he has been on the second step of the podium at the World Sporting before, so this win was undoubtedly well deserved.

He won the US Open in 2018 and has been enjoying a resurgence in fortunes over the last couple of years. He clearly has the talent to win again and will be hoping to retain his title in 2020. 

In the individual standings, USA took a clean sweep; James Bradley Day took Juniors second behind Tom Seay, while Emma Stacey (151) took third in Ladies behind Annabelle Ayres (162) and Diane Sorantino (155). Mark Bowes managed second in veterans behind Bill McGuire, while expat Brit John Woolley’s 160 was enough to win Supervets. 

Justin Barker from the podcast ‘Behind the Break’

Another whitewash for USA followed in the team event, with a winning margin of 20 targets over England in Seniors, 98 targets in Juniors over Runners up Italy with England third, 10 targets over second placed England in Ladies. In Veterans, they finished 15 targets clear of Italy while in Super Vets England once again took Silver some 12 targets adrift. 

The host nation had turned the tables on England’s strong performance on home soil in 2018, and undoubtedly revenge will be the aim of team England when the event returns to Churchills next June. 

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