Clay pigeons were sitting ducks for Idaho archer

Harbaugh gets perfect score in "GoForIt" at Big Sky Open

Tony Harbaugh shoots at a target Saturday during the Big Sky Open at the DoubleTree Hotel. Harbaugh’s score of 579 leads the senior men’s freestyle division, but it was another score of Harbaugh’s that was impressive. Harbaugh scored a perfect 50, hitting all 20 clay pigeons, in Friday’s “GoForIt” competition, the first time in three years a perfect score was registered in the event. Harbaugh’s score was the 12th perfect score in the “GoForIt” competition, which is just for fun, in the 32 years of the Big Sky Open. The tournament ends today.

A perfect start to the 2012 Big Sky Open didn’t count toward his points in the annual archery tournament. What Tony Harbaugh did was impressive, nonetheless.

Harbaugh, from Jerome, Idaho, picked off clay pigeon after clay pigeon, 20 in all, regardless of size and distance to notch a perfect score of 50 in the just-for-fun “GoForIt” event that launched the three-day tournament Friday evening.

Event organizer Tootie Brabec said 11 others have accomplished the feat, and Harbaugh’s was the first perfect score in GoForIt in three years.

“It’s just put your pin on it and pull through it,” Harbaugh said, adding the event is not easy and requires a little luck to be perfect. “It’s a lot of fun. You just have to have fun when you’re doing it. A lot of guys tense up because they’re trying so hard.”

The reward for his effort put $68 in his wallet and plenty of congratulations from impressed, fellow archers.

The real competition, where the real money is to be made, began Saturday, and the archers were greeted by near-perfect weather through the morning and early afternoon.

Such conditions aren’t always the case in Grand Junction, as Harbaugh and 71-year-old Bob “Jake” Jacobsen attested while sitting under a tented area in the shade, watching others compete after they had completed their rounds in the men’s championship senior freestyle division. Both recalled some windy days during past tournaments, Jacobsen many more than Harbaugh, because he’s been coming to the Big Sky Open for 30 years, while Harbaugh said this was his fifth or sixth time competing in it.

“This is perfect,” Jacobsen said. “I’ve been here when there’s been lots of wind ... saw one guy hit the shed down there.”

Jacobsen pointed to the shed, sitting well behind the targets, that received the wind-swept arrow.

“And he was a national champion,” Jacobsen added about the man who shot it, his point being: Even the best archers aren’t immune to wind.

Perfect weather doesn’t bring perfect scores, though, as the Big Sky Open has never had a perfect round in its previous 31 years, Brabec said, and Saturday’s results showed there wouldn’t be one this year.

But Harbaugh said score cards should reflect the conditions.

“Scores should be up,” he said. “You should see higher score counts now.”

Was that the case for Harbaugh in the first round? He shrugged off his score Saturday as normal for him.

“I’m doing what I expected to do,” said Harbaugh, who notched wins in the pro senior division at the World Archery Festival in Las Vegas and the indoor nationals in Louisville, Ky., earlier this year. “I came in expecting I would shoot about 10 down on each side, and that’s where I’m at.”

Standings hadn’t been posted yet, so he didn’t know where that ranked him.

“I think I’m up there,” he guessed.

Actually, he leads the seniors going into today’s finals. His score of 579 is nine points better than Dee Wilde, another Idahoan and the two-time defending champ in senior freestyle.

But the first round is only half the battle. Harbaugh and Jacobsen said a poor showing on the first day can be overcome on the second.

“It’s still anybody’s game,” Harbaugh said.

Salt Lake City’s Steve Anderson, competing in the Big Sky for the first time, had a good start, finishing his round in the men’s championship freestyle division with a score of 587 out of a possible 600. Without seeing the results, he guessed he would be in the top three going into today.

As a friend chimed in to say Anderson’s score was pretty good, Anderson quickly responded, “One day doesn’t mean anything.”

Turns out, the only person he trails is Braden Gellenthien, of Massachusetts, by a point.

Bill Pellegrino, who won the men’s freestyle title at Big Sky in 2008 and is sixth in championship freestyle going into today with 578 points, said Gellenthien is probably one of the top five archers in the world.

“He competes all over the world,” said Pellegrino, a Colorado Springs firefighter and owner of Bill Pellegrino’s Archery Hut in Colorado Springs. “If there’s a favorite here this year, it would be him. He’s one of the absolute best.”

Having an archer of Gellenthien’s stature on hand adds to the challenge and fun of the tournament, Anderson said.

“It’s easy to get nerved up,” he said, “but at the same time it’s fun to compete against someone like that. ... At the end of the day, you’re measuring yourself against (the best).”

The fact a world-class archer is in the field shouldn’t affect anyone’s approach, he added.

“You come to shoot good scores, and that’s all you can do,” Anderson said. “You can’t play defense.”


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