This is the story of one of the greatest shootoffs in trapshooting history. Only a few were privileged to witness this epic confrontation between Frank Little and Kay Ohye. After 21 shoot-off rounds, Frank Little had defeated Kay Ohye 525 to 524. by Richard Hamilton
The heat in Thurmont, Maryland during any July is always stifling and this year was no exception. During the 1987 Eastern Zone Shoot at the Maryland TA Homegrounds in Thurmont, the heat was oppressive. Daytime temperatures reached 100 degrees during much of the tournament. Little did anyone know that the shoot would really heat up on the nights of July 25th and 26th on the shootoff traps in front of the old clubhouse. It was here where two of the greatest shooters in the history of this old and venerable game came head to head. It was going to happen sooner or later. That night Kay Ohye and Frank Little confronted each other for a title both wanted and both were determined not to lose. Combined, they have been selected to 64 All American Teams. The classic confrontation. The unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. Two trapshooting pit bulls going at each other in the most memorable shootoff in trapshooting history. It took two days to decide. But let’s not get ahead of the story.
The story starts out innocent enough. At 8:00 AM on Saturday, July 25th, six hundred fifty five shooters took the line in the heat at Thurmont with one object. To win the coveted Eastern Zone Singles Championship. Maryland hosted the Zone Shoot for the first time in 18 years. The shoot was revived in 1948 after it became the victim of the famous Marshall Marathon Shoot. Clyde Taylor of Bradford, PA won the title the year before at Elysburg. Ohye won the year before that in New York. That was his second of four Singles title he has won at the Eastern Zone. Frank Little had won the title three time prior to this shoot.
Somehow you sensed that the winner would boil (no pun intended) down to these two men. The usual suspects started to dot the scoreboard with 200 straights. Charles Doll, a Pennsylvania Hall of Fame inductee and the 1974 Zone Singles Champion (at Parkers Gun Club, NY). Tom Galligher, former Zone Singles Champion (1979 at Elysburg) and former GAH Doubles Champion from Philadelphia. He is also a Pennsylvania Hall of Fame inductee. Larry O’Connor Jr. from Glenn Burnie, Maryland. He would win the Handicap title on Sunday with a 98 from 26 yards. Paul Howes, an AA shooter from Brookville, Maryland. Ron Stinnett, an AA shooter from Calvert County, Maryland. Darrell Dowler, an out of zone AA shooter from Parksburg, West Virginia. Dowler shot with crutches while his daughter would carry his gun for him from post to post. He broke his foot in June. Finally, there was James Broomall, an AA shooter from Christiana, Delaware. Perfect scores were no new experience for these top gunners from the Eastern Zone.
After the event ended, the nine gunners were called to the shootoff line. Missing in the first 25 targets were Galligher, Broomall, Stinnett and Howes. O’Connor left after a miss in the second round, leaving 4 shooters still in the running. Little, Ohye, Doll and Dowler continued until they each broke 200 that evening. They would resume the shootoff after the handicap on Sunday.
At the conclusion of the Handicap Championship on Sunday, won by Larry O’Connor, the shooting resumed in front of the old clubhouse. Charles Doll was the first to miss, ending with 274×275 and taking the Resident AA trophy. Dowler missed in his 12th shootoff round to end with a 299×300 and he was awarded the Open AA trophy. That now left Kay Ohye and Frank Little. They would now do battle for the Resident and Open titles.
It was getting dark and they decided to move the shootoff to a trap field with lights. After the shoot off was moved down to the field with lights and they had already shot another perfect round of 25, John Elmore asked Gene Anastasio (an ATA Vice President) if management couldn’t turn on the lights on the adjacent field so Little and Ohye could see the targets better. Gene’s reply: “They’re already breaking them all. They don’t need more light.” Frank and Kay were still tied at the end of the twelfth round that night, making 500 in overtime over two nights. Lucky Nightingale, a future ATA President, came down and offered to make them co-champions if they wanted to stop. Frank and Kay looked at each other and, as one voice, they said, “Let’s go one more round.”
In the last agreed to round, Kay lost a target near the end giving Frank Little the title 525-524. The shells that both were using were coming from the same case of Remington Premiers. Amerigo Pagliaroli, a Remington Rep, was standing behind the field and would hand them each a box as they came off the line. They were shooting light 8’s. It was all over at 10:45 PM on the hot, humid grounds at Thurmont.
You may remember that Frank won the Eastern Zone and the Clay Target Championship that year. Do you remember that he also broke the 200 at the Pennsylvania State Shoot in 1987, was in the parking lot the next morning when called for the shoot off, but did not report in time to participate? He came down over the bank with the widest eyes imaginable, as if he could not believe that they started without him. He missed his opportunity to shoot off for the State Championship in June. That caused him to miss the opportunity of being the first person and only person to win the State, the Zone and the Clay Target Championships in the same year.
It was a bitter defeat for Ohye. But it shouldn’t have been. There was no loser in the shootoff. People who witnessed the event could not believe what they were seeing. Smoke balls all over the place. One after another.
Frank Little was inducted into the ATA Hall of Fame in 1987. The following year he was enshrined into the Pennsylvania HOF. He was selected to 33 All American Teams. Kay Ohye Hall of Fame induction came in 1995. Little died in 1993 at the age of 57. He has been selected to 31 All American Teams. Kay Ohye is still a world class trap shooter and holds clinics all over the country.
Trap and Field, November, 1987, page 88.
Official 1987 Average Book, published by Trap and Field magazine, 1987.
Conversation with Jim Brown, puller for the shootoff.