The Redlands Club Championship has evolved into a premier Southern California event in just six short years. Last year, Pacific Sporting Arms, led by John Herkowitz and Jordon Hirschi, stepped in to become the title sponsor, adding an element of prestige to the tournament. Past champions include a couple of World Champions and Hall of Fame members.
Eric Kirk, the 2017 champion, returned, along with 2016 champ, Roman Warren. And the 2015 champion, Todd Bender, also competed. Although Todd has visited us since his win, this was his first return to shoot with us. We were pleased to welcome him home. Todd was fully booked during the week with clinics. Perhaps Warren Liu’s statement sums it up best: “This was my best day ever!” All would agree.
The championship is a 200-target tournament consisting of 100 each 20- and 12-gauge birds. One flight begins on Friday afternoon, and the balance completes on Saturday. Forty-five shooters can be accommodated, and the event was full with a waiting list. In fact, one squad ran 6-man for the 12 gauge on Saturday so Joe Fry could join us from Bakersfield. Mike O’Keefe also made the trip from Phoenix. I guess you would have to do the mileage to figure out who traveled farther. We were happy both made it.
As an added bonus for those who shot the Friday rotation, a mixer was included with sausages, links, grilled onions and peppers, chips and dips, and perhaps a beverage or two. It was a very nice social event that contributed to the always-present camaraderie.
In conjunction with Triple B Clays and Kern County Gun Club, great efforts have gone into developing a group of referees in Southern California. For those of you who have taken on this task, you know that it takes constant effort to keep people trained as well as to develop new talent. Our group of refs were terrific. Tori, Ashley, Sarah, Elijah, and William were on time, courteous, and accurate in their calls. They take ownership of their fields and were spot on.
The shoot starts with the yellow shell. The disks were flying, succumbing to 7/8 oz. of #9 shot. And every one of Mr. Bender’s targets succumbed completely, giving him the lone 100 straight. A pair of 98s and slews of 97s and 96s were right behind. Shoot-offs for the end of the day were tallied by Tina Stephens, administrator extraordinaire.
Lunch is always included at the Redlands events. In all, about 75 people were fed island chicken wings, exotic Asian skewers, a salad provided by Mary Fitzgerald, and a platter of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from Lola Fitzgerald.
After lunch, the 12 gauge commenced. This time, two shooters managed the hundie, two shoulda-wouldas, and groups of others right behind. Shoot-offs commenced promptly following the completion of the 12 gauge on field 3, our “stadium field.” Competitors and spectators assembled beneath the now-famous elm trees to settle things up. Concurrent events are shot off as well, so a full plate was in store.
Bender had already won the 20 gauge. But John Lyman and Richard Wurster had to sort out the rest of the podium, and that they did. In the end, the 20 wound up like this: Bender, champion; Lyman, runner-up; and Wurster, third. Tracy Edwards took AA1 without contest, Larry Schur A1, J.R. Fernandez B1, Neil Vann (Mr. 400K) C1, and Martin Eramo D1.
The 12 gauge had some tidying up to do as well. Lyman took the title over Sifers, runner-up, Andre Frey, third. AA1 went to Bender, Wurster A1, Charlie Miledi B1, Vann C1, and newly returned Keith Cantillon, D1, with a very nice 96.
Handcrafted leather pouches provided by Pacific Sporting Arms were created for the HOA winners, including class champs. Envelopes with some mad money were also tucked into each pouch. At completion of the 12 gauge, Bender couldn’t be caught. He won his second Redlands Club Championship by breaking 199×200. John Lyman was right on his heels with 198 and runner-up, and Sifers’ 195 was good enough for third. Tracy Edwards captured AA1, Wurster A1, Miledi B1, Vann C1 and Tim Schilling D1.
Two new NSSA members were recruited during the event. Welcome Eric Linz and Earl Jones. We’re glad you joined us.
Our generous sponsors also contributed to making the event a success. Take a moment to say thank you to these folks when you see them: John Herkowitz of Pacific Sporting Arms, Rob McCormick of Campus Uniforms, Dennis James of So Cal Pianos, John Lyman of ECCO Sports, Tina Stephens, Keith Phelps, Ron Schaefer, the Buoni Family, Lola Fitzgerald, Kern County Gun Club, Lou Riddle Construction, Dr. Bill Bell, Clay Delay Autopuller, Redlands Shooting Park, and Todd Bender Performance Systems.
There are two other important developments to note. Tina Stephens created the So Cal Youth Skeet Shooters nonprofit last year. She was able to donate shells to youth and new NSSA members who participated. If you would like to know more about her organization, have youth who would benefit from clinics or being involved, she would love to hear from you. Email her at SoCalJrShooters@aol.com.
Lastly, if you have shot in Southern California in the last year, you may have met a fantastic ambassador to skeet. Dressed in pink, with bows in her hair and always a bright smile, Lola Fitzgerald has won over the hearts of everyone she meets. She was recently on the local news telling her story. Imagine a positive story on television in California about the shooting sports. Her attitude is contagious. You can find her video on YouTube by searching “Skeet n Bows.” Be sure to check her out. Look for her interview with Todd Bender (Vlog #10).
And a special thank you to all the silent workers who make events like this fun. Plan a trip to So Cal next summer. We’d love to see you.
– Contributed by Chris Baker