By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
---- — ELYSBURG -- If ever anyone was born to shoot trap, it would be Ian Darroch.
Darroch, now 20 and an education major at Robert Morris University, never had a chance.
Not that he wanted it.
The story of the Darrochs, of Hopewell Township (near Aliquippa), and their trap shooting success spans three generations.
Ian's father, 54-year-old Ken, said his father, Leo, taught him how to skeet shoot and eventually to shoot trap, and the two of them began a journey that saw them competing -- and competing well -- in the various major trapshooting championships.
Ken introduced a date (and future wife), Pam, to the sport and now the legend of the Darrochs is in good shape with their son, Ian.
Ian's first trip to the Valley Gun and Country Club, longtime site of the nation's largest state trapshooting event, came when, as he tells it, "two or three month after I was born."
Added Ian, "The day after I was out of the hospital (from) being born, I was at a gun club."
He's been an ATA life member since he was one, but didn't shoot until he was 10 or 11 and began shooting registered targets just before turning 13.
"I can't say I picked it up real quick, and (my dad) didn't really push me. It took me a couple years to get any kind of proficient at it".
Now he wants to do all the things his father and grandfather did, plus more, he said.
Added Ken, "He wants to break my records and I'm fine with that; records are meant to be broken and if he breaks them he's shot very well."
Following in the large footsteps of his father (11-time high all-around champion, five-time all-around champion, two state singles and a doubles title), Ian recently learned he made the Amateur Trapshooting Association's All-America team in the junior gold category.
The Darrochs will be on hand to compete and have fun as the shoot continues through (appropriately enough) Father's Day, on Sunday.
Ken, who works in shipping at a nuclear plant in western Pa., started shooting when he was 9, and took aim at ATA registered targets when he was 11, in 1970, also the first year he competed in Elysburg.
Ken shot his first-ever 100 straight in the state shoot here in 1972. Thirty years later, he nailed his first 200 in singles at this shoot. Later he got his first 100 in doubles and then his first 100 in handicap (at the maximum 27-yard mark).
That feat is known as the ATA grand and, according to Ian, only eight people have accomplished it.
"I've been fortunate. I must like this club," Ken said. "I've had all my firsts here."
He added, "My dad and I shot together. It was a good father-son family activity for us to participate in."
Leo Darroch did not live to see Ian shoot trap, but he is still a part of the story.
Ken related that his father took a photo of young Ian shooting at a local skeet club and years later, in a story in Shotgun Sports magazine, an article was accompanied by one of those photos.
In addition, Ian is still shooting one of his grandfather's guns.
"I've had all my best scores (including) seven or eight 100s with his gun," he said.
Added Pam, "So grandpa is still sitting on his shoulders."
Ken said, "It's like history repeating itself: Ian and I go together and my wife, Pam, goes together with us. It's a family affair. It's a great environment and I really believe for kids.
Ken recorded his 41st 100 in doubles in Sunday's Colonial Classic and hopes to shoot competitively as long as his health allows.
The Darrochs have been married 27 years, all of them with trapshooting as their main family activity.
Pam recalls that the day she met her future husband, she asked what he did for fun.
"He said, 'Don't laugh, but I trap shoot.'"
She recalled the only thing that came to mind was watching people shoot off the boat on the television show "Love Boat" and wondering where they could do that.
After they dated for about a month, Ken asked Pam if she wanted to go to the gun club with him. Eventually she gave it a try and, after breaking 55 out of 100 the first time, things got better, she said.
"After that I got better and it was much more fun."
But, she also just enjoys being outdoors and talking to the other shooting families, while reading and doing needlepoint.
Like most, however, she has always preferred toeing the trap line.
Said Ian, "It's a terrible spectator sport."
What it also is, and what Pam loves most, is it is safe.
"When you're shown how to do it correctly. ... Ken is very safe about how he handles his gun and I never developed a fear of it, and it became a family activity."
She never worried about young Ian when he was on the state shoot grounds. "I know all of the people here are very safety minded, and they treat him like he is their kid," she said.
Ian also plans to do the sport for the rest of his life.
"I have a real low tolerance for golf," he said.