The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

June 14, 2014

Trapshooting: Fritzges retiring at state shoot

ELYSBURG — Already an avid golfer, Chuck Fritzges became hooked on a sport which claimed him as its own for 41 years.

The long-time Milton resident, educator and administrator, showed up at the Valley Gun & Country Club, near Elysburg, in 1973 to have some fun shooting trap with his friends.

The club annually hosts the world’s largest state shoot, held every June by the Pennsylvania State Sportsmen’s Association.

Fritzges was persuaded to work at the state shoot. He served in numerous capacities at the huge event, the last 17 years as the manager/director of the state tournament.

His responsibilities left him less time to enjoy shooting.

That will soon change.

Fritzges’ retirement was announced Friday night at the PSSA’s annual meeting at the Valley club and the board also announced that current vice president Skip Klinger, of Palmyra, will be his successor. Klinger, an accomplished shooter and manager, is president and chief executive officer of the Palmyra Sportsmen’s Club.

Fritzges said that, now that he is 70, he thought it was time to start looking to do something else.

“I play a lot of golf and I’d like to play a lot more, and I’ve been doing something here at one spot or another since 1973,” he said.

Fritzges said that, although he still enjoys working at the club (he is also there for the other PSSA shoots during the spring, summer and fall), he doesn’t have the same enthusiasm he once had.

That is why he eventually retired from education, after serving as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, director of special education and director of curriculum for the Milton district, along with superintendent at Sullivan County.

Fritzges was born in England (his father was a soldier in World War II) but lived most of his adult life in Milton.

His wife, Becky, a cashier at the shoot, is an accomplished trapshooter. She has been named to 10 Pennsylvania all-state teams (eight second- and two first-team selections).

PSSA president Mike Shuler, of Bradford, said, in a statement, “Chuck has been a vital part of the PSSA for countless years. His straight-forward and fair attitude is appreciated by shooters and employees.”

Shuler added that he has enjoyed working with Fritzges over the years and that the PSSA will be left in excellent condition when he leaves, because of his hard work and dedication.

Fritzges was introduced to trapshooting in 1972 by then-assistant principal Doug Erickson and the principal — the late Paul Confair — while teaching at Milton.

They tried their hand at the sport at the Buffalo Valley Sportsman’s Club. Later, Fritzges went to the Norry Gun Club where Neil Mertz, a veteran shooter and long-time line facilitator at the state event, asked him if he could give him some time in the office to help with some registered shoots.

“And I’m still doing it today,” he said with a laugh.

His tenure at the state shoot began when he worked on the old manual scoreboard in 1973 and eventually took on other jobs, working and learning from the late Bill Shutt, of Elysburg, a longtime PSSA secretary.

Fritzges became the first person to hold his current position when it was decided that the facility and the event were so large that it needed a manager.

Fritzges said his duties take up most of the year, with the most time-consuming being handling the purchase and delivery of the approximately 600 trophies that are awarded during the event, and producing the program.

“There are a lot of little jobs, but if you don’t think about them, the shooters will think about them when they get here,” he said.

The PSSA employs about 300 people for the major shoots, including young people who work on the trap lines and in the trap houses.

Fritzges said what he will miss the most is the relationships with all of the people — the shooters and the employees.

“That’s why I am still going to come here,” said Fritzges, noting that he will come to the event to shoot and to socialize, but not in any official capacity.

Fritzges said the reason the state shoot draws shooters from all over the U.S. and other countries is, “We have the reputation of running the best tournaments in the country, and we pride ourselves on that.”

He said the grounds are top-notch, the machines are in good shape, the staff is well-trained and friendly, and the events run on time.

“That’s a key point to me. If our program says we are starting at 8 a.m., then we are starting at 8 a.m., unless there is (bad) weather,” he said.

And the young people are trained, beginning six weeks before the first event.

“I’ve been to some clubs where they get their first training at 8 o’clock on the day of the shoot,” he said.

He added that they treat the young people well and they in turn come back. He believes three-fourth of them start as high school freshmen and return every year through college graduation.

It’s a similar situation with the other employees.

“We have no turnover,” he said. “I think the cashier with the least amount of time on the job has been here 12 years.”

But it is more than just hitting 70 that made Fritzges feel like it was time to move on.

He has started to see the sons and grandsons of shooters participating in the events.

“That makes me feel old,” he laughed.

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