TERRE HAUTE —
It took Bob Sampson of northern Vigo County quite a while to capture his first national championship in the sport of archery.
Almost 72 years, to be more specific.
On Feb. 2-3 at Newberry, Fla., the steady-handed Sampson took home a first-place plaque and contingency money from the Senior Masters Class (male amateurs 69 and older) in the Archery Shooters Association’s (ASA) Easton Florida Pro/Am tournament.
Sampson actually tied for first place with a Bedford competitor with 413 points (out of a possible 480), but Sampson earned the tiebreaker based on more “12” scores.
“I shot really well,” reflected Sampson, who used a Ben Pearson bow and Black Eagle arrows on his way to the triumph. “I could have shot better. … But it’s the first national tournament I’ve ever won.”
After being serious about the sport in his younger days (mainly 1975 to 1980), he took a lengthy break from it before he became interested in the modern form of archery in 2004.
“Back then [in the 1970s], we shot at pretty much spots at known yardages,” Sampson recalled. “We called it field archery. … I traveled [to tournaments] quite a bit back then and there were several people in the Terre Haute area who were active in field archery.”
But Sampson said that type of archery rarely exists anymore.
“The 3D archery has really taken over since then,” he pointed out. “We’re shooting at life-form 3D targets at unknown yardages. They vary from 20 to 50 yards. There is an organization that has moving targets, but I’ve never been into that.
“One of the main aspects about the type of shooting I do, based on your eyesight and what image you see, is to determine how far away that target is. Because even though you know it’s somewhere between 20 and 50 yards, you don’t know exactly how far it is. It makes a difference how you shoot it, just between 30 and 32 [yards]. It makes an inch-and-a-half difference. If you miss the yardage estimate by 3 yards, at most of the yardages we shoot, you’re probably not going to hit a dead-center good shot. Your arrow will either be high or low because you misjudged the yardage.”
Sampson, who wore glasses while being interviewed, explained the importance of good eyesight in successful archery.
“As you approach my age, that’s a real challenge, trying to figure out how I can see better,” admitted Sampson, who will turn 72 on May 27. “I intended to shoot with contacts on this year and I have shot with contacts up until the last two tournaments, but I put the glasses back on because even though I can see the target a little better with contacts than I can with my prescription glasses … my depth perception was not as good. So I went back to glasses because I can judge the yardage better. But there are other aiming devices that we use, which amount to magnifying glasses that you put in different places, to try to compensate for poor eyesight. So the person who can see at whatever yardage — and the better your eyesight is, in my opinion — the better you’re going to shoot.”
Sampson finds time to practice shooting in his backyard (or indoors at Gander Mountain on bad-weather days) and travel to tournaments because he’s retired from his job of 35 years with the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.
In addition, it doesn’t hurt that he has a supportive wife, Nancy, who sometimes accompanies him on trips.
A devoted Christian, Sampson also emphasized that he “thanks God for everything” when discussing reasons for his success.
And he’s enjoyed plenty of success, particularly this season.
Before 2013, Sampson’s highest finish in a national tournament was fifth in his age class in the 2008 Mississippi Pro/Am.
Sampson followed up his 2013 Florida Pro/Am class title with another national victory in the Master Hunter Class (70 and older) of the International Bowhunting Organization’s (IBO) Winter National tournament Feb. 22-24 at Wetumpka, Ala.
So far in 2013, he’s entered six major tournaments — posting the two above-mentioned firsts as well as a pair of second-place finishes to his résumé — which makes this his best year ever for archery. His next major will be the ASA’s TRU Ball/Prime G5 Kentucky Pro/Am at London, Ky., on May 31-June 2, plus he plans to travel to other ASA tournaments at Metropolis, Ill., and Cullman, Ala., later this year.
Asked how many more years he thinks he can continue to compete at a high level, Sampson replied: “Health permitting, there’s no reason it couldn’t be another 10 years.”
Sampson is currently in the highest age group, although he hopes the sanctioning bodies will add an even higher age group that includes him as he gets older.
“Right now, 70 and over is the old-guys class,” he mentioned with a chuckle.
Looking ahead, Sampson’s remaining goal in archery is to win a world championship. He’ll get an opportunity Aug. 7-10 when the 2013 Rinehart/IBO World Championship and Archery Festival takes place at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, near Pittsburgh.
Sampson said if other Wabash Valley archers are interested in trying their hands at tournaments of any level, they can ask him for advice or visit Lonesome Elk Archery on Head Avenue or Gander Mountain for entry information.