The team at Atkin Grant & Lang in St Albans made sure the ground was exquisitely well prepared for the English Open, while from an organisational point of view it ran as smooth as silk. Safety rope, hardstanding under the cages, uniformly tidy cages and a homogenous corporate look gave the impression that you were at an event that was something special.
The course itself was very tough. It started softly, but soon became a test of skill that required total concentration, a substantial amount of talent and a large portion of luck. Of course, a major event should be testing, but arguably the 15 stands at AGL were a bridge too far. The CPSA had inspected the course and told the AGL team to stiffen it up, and with hindsight that might be a decision that they would reconsider given a second chance. However it was, as they say, the same for everyone, and pretty much everyone struggled on the same stands with only six, eight and three people managing to straight stands 5, 8 and 11 respectively.
Stand 5 was deceptive with a right-to-left crosser that had proved almost impossible to read, although it didn’t look that hard. Stand 8 saw an on-report looper that was a long way out and under little power, at least until gravity took over. This proved to be exceptionally difficult, though at least it had a friendly first bird in the pair. A few stands later on Stand 11 both targets were pretty extreme. A left-to-right that skirted the treeline before curling away and down at a long range was followed by a battue going in the other direction, at a similar distance but with twice the speed.
After five days of competition, the top shooters came back for the Super Final which would see the champion crowned. With seven shooters vying for six spaces in the final, there would have to be a shoot-off among the five shooters who had qualified on 107 ex 120.
Nick Hendrick, David Gooding, Martin Myers, John Lee and Paul Simpson took to the field, but it was Hendrick who eventually lost out and the four went forward. They were joined by Richard Bunning who had qualified on Thursday with 110 and James Attwood who had managed a superhuman 114 during the closing minutes of the Saturday qualifying.
Rain was falling as the 30-target final began and with Bunning and Attwood carrying over their lead into the final, they pulled clear of the rest. Bunning took two targets from Attwood’s lead on Stand 1, and on the next 10 targets he managed to take another three which saw him lead by one clay going into the last stand.
The last 10 targets were very shootable and both men erred just once, so the gap remained as it was and Bunning took a historic first win. Attwood couldn’t hide his disappointment as he finished one behind on 131, but with age on his side and talent to spare it seems almost a certainty that he will be back in the near future. Martin Myers finished the podium on 127 while Simpson took AAA 1st place and 4th overall.
Ladies went to Cheryl Hall ahead of Emma Stacey by one target, while the Somerset youngster also took Lady Junior and won Parent and Child with her father Shaun. Henry Collins triumphed in Juniors as Josh Bridges couldn’t get back for a shoot-off, and Carl Bloxham’s 106 was enough for the Vets win.
James Attwood’s performance was world class
Bunning was delighted to take the win