Golf carts were backed off trucks, then lined up by the dozen last week at Northbrook Sports Club in Hainesville. Pallets were piled high with White Flyer clay targets. Club general manager Brett Seibert and event coordinator Julia Gilman were juggling many pieces, including organizing some 150 volunteers, in the days before the 2019 World English Sporting Championship.
Ahead of the championship, which opens Monday and runs through Aug. 11, club board member and former journalist/editor (Tribune, Bloomberg) Kerry Luft organized a talk and tour with Seibert and Gilman. All three were bursting with pride for their club.
To borrow from Ron Burgundy, this is kind of a big deal.
Northbrook has hosted the U.S. Open in skeet and sporting clays, and in 2012, it hosted the World FITASC championship (the international version of sporting clays) and now the English World Sporting Championship.
Comparing target shooting to golf with shotguns is a bit cliché, but Luft said that NSC is truly like the Augusta of sporting clays.
This is only the second time in the United States that the World English Sporting Championship has been held outside of the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio, Texas. And the first time in Illinois.
To someone with Luft’s worldly political savvy, the incongruity was not lost: ‘‘Here we are in a state reviled for its [firearm] regulations, but you can come here and see the greatest shooters.’’
World champions and the best shotgun shooters in the world will be at NSC next week. George Digweed, who Luft thinks may be the greatest shotgun shooter of all time, and fellow Brit Richard Faulds are expected, as are Americans Anthony Matarese Jr. and Derrick Mein. Hundreds of others with less accomplished résumés also will be there.
An incongruity of the event is the possibility of being put with an all-time great. It is like my batting against Dwight Gooden in a game situation back in the day or a golfer now being paired with Tiger Woods in an event.
Seibert said they expect to have about 1,100 people shooting in the main event and the side events. He and Luft figured about 30 to 40 have a chance to win it. Seibert, who journeys to most top shooting events in the world as part of his job, thought realistically it was more like 15 who could win. About 30 exhibitors and vendors are expected. The list of sponsors is a who’s who of shooting sports. Think Beretta and Winchester. The club has about 150 traps. Promatic will bring in another 250 for the championship.
On englishsportingclays.co.uk, it was noted that English Sporting Clays started in the early 20th century and became the most popular of clay shooting sports in the world. The sport was described this way:
Clay targets are presented to the shooter in ways that mirror the flight pattern of game birds and provide a shooting environment that offers different layouts and a constant challenge. The shooting course is laid out in stands or stations. On each stand, clays are thrown in pairs, either simultaneously, on report or following and generally in three to five pairs per stand. A course consists of numerous stands, where 100 birds or more may be presented. The course setter can use any type of clay and with variation of speed, angle and distance can make a shoot as enjoyable and testing as possible.
Interestingly enough, Gilman is planning the opening ceremonies around a theme related to the history of shooting clays, and she had cool artifacts collected in one barn. But that’s not the only big-time dive into history planned.
An official from the Guinness World -Records will be on hand when an attempt is made Friday and Saturday evenings to set the world record for the farthest distance to shoot a clay pigeon. The goal is 105 yards.
Gilman said plans are to have five current World English Champions, six sponsor-exempted shooters and the top shooters from the qualifying events tackle the world record. The shooters will not be shooting buckshot or No. 2s but are restricted to standard competition loads (7½ shot, 1⅛ ounce). The shells will be inspected by a referee beforehand.
“The shooters will line up at minimal yardage and will then begin to work their way back until we surpass the 105 mark, gaining us a World Record Title Holder,’’ Gilman later emailed.
That would be another accomplishment for the club, which has around 1,180 members, capped at 1,200.
“This is Disneyland if you like to shoot,’’ Luft said.
Gilman said, “When I started, I assumed every club is like this one.’’
Next week, Northbrook Sports Club will be that special place for shotgun shooters.
More information is at northbrooksportsclub.org/world-english-2019.