COLUMBIA — Competitors in this weekend’s Missouri State Senior Games shooting competition said they were there more for each other than winning medals.
“One of the neat things about shooting sports is the camaraderie is more important than the scores,” Ralph Gates said.
Gates, the commissioner of the shooting section of the senior games is also the owner of Cedar Creek Rod and Gun Club. He competes in the sport along with his wife Mary Ann, and loves to see people enjoy shooting. The two have hosted the event every year at the club since the senior games started 14 years ago.
Shooting competitions such as the senior games bring shooters together from across the state. Most are friends and travel together to different shoots to have a little competition but to mostly to have fun and enjoy doing what they like most, shooting.
The competition also shows how deep rooted the sport is in families.
Jeff Marlow of Columbia, 53, came out with his father Vern Marlow, 81, to participate in the competition and hang out with fellow shooting buddies. Jeff Marlow has been shooting for more than 47 years now, thanks to his father and his grandfather. Vern Marlow’s father was also a professional shooter for Federal Cartridge Corporation and won several championships including the state championship in California.
“My grandpa drug my dad along to all the shoots and got him into shooting, and then he started a lot of competition shoots in the ‘60s, and I ended up tagging along with my dad,” Jeff Marlow said.
Jeff Marlow plans on adding another generation to the sport by getting one of his sons involved.
“My son and I shot in the Food Bank fundraiser out at River Hills Sporting Clays out at Boonville,” Jeff Marlow said. “We didn’t place but we had fun.”
Jerry and Jim Morgan, brothers from Lebanon, were also drawn to the event to see old friends and have a good time. The brothers teamed up with their neighbor Larry Price to ride up for the weekend.
“We are often called the loud bunch because we like to have a good time and laugh it up with each other,” Jim Morgan, 60, said.
The Morgan brothers have shot for the National Sporting Clays Association for a few years. The senior games also brought out several other professional shooters.
“I’ve shot professionally for several years now,” Lawrence “Curly” Cannon from St. Charles said. “Even for several leagues on the national level and for professional teams including the Budweiser team.”
Shooters like Elmer Hawse from St. Charles competed mostly against himself in the 75-79 age group on both days.
“In nine events in two days, I won nine gold medals, mainly because I was by myself and old guys like me shoot traps and clays,” Hawse said.
Forty-seven athletes competed in the annual shooting competition portion of the games in nine different events.
Mary Ann and Ralph Gates are now looking ahead to the Show-Me State Games at the end of July. Mary Ann Gates hopes for a better turnout than this past weekend and partly blames the economy and higher gas prices for the drop in attendance this year.
“We usually have over 120 contestants over the three days that we shoot for the Show-Me Games. I just don’t know what gasoline prices will do because we are doing it on three consecutive weekends,” Mary Ann Gates said.