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Kenmare man is champion archer

Phil Kelly may be best known around Kenmare for his work at Gooseneck Implement, but now his friends should probably call him the 2011 ISAA Pro-Am Tournament Senior Male Bowhunting Freestyle Champion.

2/02/11 (Wed)


Phil Kelly may be best known around Kenmare for his work at Gooseneck Implement, but now his friends should probably call him the 2011 ISAA Pro-Am Tournament Senior Male Bowhunting Freestyle Champion.


Kelly earned the title in Mason City, Iowa, during the weekend of January 14-16 at the Iowa State Archery Association’s annual Pro-Am event, shooting a score of 641 out of a possible 890 with his Mathews bow.


He competed with 12 men in his division, but the sectional tournament attracted over 575 shooters from 30 states and two foreign countries. “It’s the closest tournament around,” he said, “but now it’s outgrown Mason City and it will be moved to Des Moines next year.”


The event is almost as much about poise as it is about skill. Kelly explained he started the first day shooting at a 5-spot target among random groups of people including men, women and kids from ages 12 to 70-plus. “It’s just packed and you’re nervous,” he said. “You don’t shoot near as well as you do at home.”


He had to shoot 12 ends of five arrows each at 20 yards, with a timer set at four minutes in each end. In fact, although he hit the target every time, he actually scored a zero at one point because he released an arrow after his time was up. He had been jostled by a nearby competitor and reset his aim before taking the shot, which occurred after the buzzer sounded.


Kelly finished the day in fourth place among his division. He had competed in the tournament four different times and actually placed 10th in a different division two years ago, so the performance should have been satisfactory.


He wanted to do better.


The second day of competition pitted Kelly against the other men in his own division, shooting at the Vegas Target which has three small, round, colored circles to hit. Competitors shoot 10 rounds of three arrows each at 20 yards, with three minutes allowed per round. The center bullseye on each circle spans about one inch and scores 11 points any time an arrow pierces it.


Kelly hit 16 of a possible 30 bullseyes, with the rest of his arrows scoring 9 or 10 points within the next rings. “I was nervous that second day,” he said, “but I shot so well, I caught up to everybody. I gained some confidence and thought I’ve got a chance.”


He edged out the second place winner, Bob Shipman of Iowa, by two points and third place winner, Richard Mohr of Iowa, by only five points. “There were some good shooters there,” Kelly said. “Hopefully, it was the cream of the crop!”


Kelly shoots in the amateur category so no prize money is involved. “I’d rather shoot for a trophy than money,” he said. “Anybody can enter the professional rounds. I watch them compete and I always pick up things from those guys.”


Longtime interest in archery

Kelly prepares for tournaments by shooting four or more days each week, starting last October for the ISAA event. “When I practiced for this tournament two years ago, I shot a thousand shots a week for ten weeks, which was about two hours a night,” he said. “This time, I concentrated more on shooting better than so much. I used every strategy I could think of.”


He started shooting competitively about six years ago and won the senior Indoor 3-D, Outdoor 3-D and 5-Spot Target Round at the North Dakota State Tournament in Fargo last year. His wife Janie, who accompanied him to the ISAA Pro-Am event, was the state Ladies Outdoor champion for 2010. “It helped when I got to be 55,” Kelly said, laughing. “Now I compete in the senior league.”


He first became interested in archery when he was about 20 years old, after a friend convinced him to try bowhunting. “I’ve never put it down since then,” he said. “It’s a lifetime sport.”


Practice at the Bow Zone

He still spends time in the field going after deer, but most of his archery hours are logged at the Bow Zone in Bowbells where he shoots with Jay Hass. “He’s the push behind this,” Kelly said. “He knows his equipment really well and he’s a real perfectionist. It’s good to compete with him.”


Kelly invited other people interested in archery to join him and Hass at the Bow Zone. “Membership dues are $75 for the year and that gets you a key so you can go in and shoot when you want,” he said.


The heated building on Main Street in Bowbells is set up with targets and backstops, and archers of all ages are welcome. “We just had the Boy Scouts there, 18 or so kids,” Kelly said. “They had a blast! We shoot there for fun and for practice, and we’re always looking for people to shoot with us.”


For more information about shooting at the Bow Zone, contact Kelly at 701-848-6933 or Hass at 701-377-2989.


More tournaments to come

The competitive season for archery begins in January, so Kelly has plenty of other opportunities to add to his trophy collection this year. He’s already thinking about tournaments in Hazen and Williston and plans to return to the state event in Fargo, but he’s also waiting for a new bow, the 2011 Hoyt CRX, to arrive so he can break that in on the targets. “I like competing and I know most of the guys I compete against,” he said.


He would like to try his luck at the national tournament in Las Vegas, where about 900 shooters typically enter the competition, but he hasn’t scheduled any vacation time for that event yet. “I’d just like to go someday,” he said.


In the meantime, he plans to laminate his Vegas target that resulted in the ISAA Pro-Am title. “I want to keep it,” he said. “It may never happen again!”

Archery champion . . . Phil Kelly (seen in reflection) of Kenmare

overcame his nerves to win the Senior Male Bowhunting Freestyle Championship at the ISAA Pro-Am tournament in Mason City, Iowa.

He described the event as the "Daytona 500 of archery"

with over 575 shooters competing.