Out in the potato fields of western Martin County (yes, there are potato fields in Martin County), there will be a lot of activity the next few days. Nearly 500 shooters from all over North America and England will compete in the 2019 Krieghoff Classic 200, the first of three prestigious events in sporting clays.
Over the course of four days, which began Thursday, shooters will be competing in eight different types of events.
But when the last clay target is dusted Sunday, that won’t be all for the shooting sports action on the Treasure Coast. Two more large tournaments will take place in the area before those who enjoy the highest level of the sport move on to North Florida and Georgia to continue tournament season.
The Caribbean Cup, beginning Feb. 6, will draw several hundred competitors to the facility at the Vero Beach Clay Shooting Sports, formerly known as Indian River Shooting Sports, and recently purchased by new ownership. Longtime managers Mick and Emma Howells will still be welcoming Caribbean Cup shooters.
A few days after its completion, it will be time for the Gator Cup at Quail Creek Plantation in Okeechobee. The largest field ever assembled for a Gator Cup — there were 762 registrants as of Wednesday with more expected to sign up — will compete for cash and prizes under the pine trees.
“We’re expecting just under 500 competitors, and those who traveled here from up north are happy to get out of the cold,” Fasulo said.
Some shooters have traveled from places so cold their local weather experts were warning of eyeballs freezing. Instead of worrying about being snowbound for days, they eagerly exchanged the ice for balmy days in the South Florida palmetto scrub.
Fasulo said South Florida Shooting Club has grown in five years from a membership of 320 to 630. The club is open seven days a week and provides amenities such as a pro shop, instruction and even a daily lunch catered from Manero’s, a popular Italian restaurant in Palm City.
“We are always trying to improve by listening to our customers and making sure our staff takes care of every detail,” Fasulo said.
Champion shooter Joseph Fanizzi, 15, of Fort Pierce, explains the difference between the major types of shooting competitions. The Treasure Coast hosts three shooting competitions each year. Ed Killer, Wochit
It’s the secret to securing repeat business whether there is a big shoot or simply a weekend family outing.
Mac McDaniel, of Ponte Vedra Beach, planned to compete Thursday and Friday. He is new to shooting sports, but has enjoyed his visits to the Treasure Coast clubs.
“What I like most about the sport is that in Florida, season is all year long,” McDaniel said. “Unless it is raining with lightning, I can shoot.”
McDaniel has been competing for about a year.
“I’m meeting a lot of nice people from diverse backgrounds, but who share a common interest,” McDaniel said. “I like that I can take it up at 56 years old and still improve and enjoy it.”
McDaniel said he returns because the customer service invites him back.
“It’s like any service business — great customer service creates loyalty,” he said. “I’m the customer, paying money. It’s nice when there is a good attitude.”
The three tournaments have built upon each other. The proximity of the events in the schedule and in location has helped draw shooters from far wide. Some choose to stay here throughout the duration of all three events. Some drive down in recreational vehicles and stay on the properties. Some stay in hotels. Others rent houses and bring their families who shop, dine and take advantage of other entertainment available.
The whole time they are here they are generating revenue for community businesses and governments.
“We are really blessed to have many great facilities in South Florida,” said Maria Fanizzi, manager of Quail Creek Plantation. “It has helped us to be able to recruit people who enjoy the sport as much as we do.”
Champion shooter Joseph Fanizzi, 15, of Fort Pierce, breaks down his process for shooting a pair of targets. ED KILLER/TCPALM, Wochit
Krieghoff Classic: Thursday through Sunday at South Florida Shooting Club, Palm City
Caribbean Classic: Feb. 6-11, Vero Beach Clay Shooting Sports, Vero Beach
Gator Cup: Feb. 12-17, Quail Creek Plantation, Okeechobee
Pull For The River, Florida Oceanographic fundraising shoot: Feb. 8 at South Florida Shooting Club, Palm City
Coastal Conservation Association fundraising shoot: Feb. 22, Quail Creek Plantation, Okeechobee
Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation Charity Shoot: Feb. 23, South Florida Shooting Club, Palm City
Vero Beach Clay Shooting Sports, Vero Beach (formerly Indian River Shooting Sports): http://indianrivershootingsports.com
Indian River County Public Shooting Range: www.goshootingirc.com
Quail Creek Plantation, Okeechobee: www.quailcreekplantation.com
OK Corral Gun Club, Okeechobee: www.okcorralgunclub.com
Okeechobee Shooting Sports, Okeechobee: www.okshooting.com
South Florida Shooting Club, Palm City: www.southfloridashootingclub.com