Roughly 2,500 sets of eyes were fixated on Jonathan Scott on Sunday as he attempted to hit yet another perfect shot.
But this one was different from the 90 consecutive on-target shots he had hit in the three previous days: This was the championship round, and the pressure had been turned up a notch.
Scott’s string of accurate shots came while competing in the World Archery Festival, a competition in Las Vegas that hosts some of the best dead-eye shooters in the world.
The 262 men competing in the professional division hailed from more than 60 countries and all 50 states. By the final day the field had been trimmed to 17, with an $80,000 grand prize on the line.
“That is when you really start to feel the pressure,” said the 27-year-old Scott while standing in the living room of his home in the town of Johnstown on Thursday. “Everyone is watching you, and the pressure really reaches another level.”
In the packed arena in Las Vegas, Scott stood 20 yards from the target, pulled the arrow back and let it fly, just like he had thousands of times before. This time, it missed the target.
“I can’t remember how far off of the target it was,” he said.
Scott finished 12th in the competition, putting him among the world’s elite shooters. The rest of the field, Scott says, are professionals, meaning they participate in competitions like this one “just for the money.”
“These guys are really good,” he said.
Chuck Cooley of Watkins Glen is a good friend of Scott, and they often practice alongside each other. Cooley described last week’s event in Las Vegas as “The Super Bowl of archery.”
“The guys Jonathan was competing against do this all the time. This is all they do,” Cooley said. “For him to finish where he did is like an amateur going to the biggest golf tournament in the world and losing to Tiger Woods by four strokes. It is really insane he was able to do that.”
Scott said he pocketed enough winnings from the competition to cover his airfare and other travel expenses.
Scott, who confessed he rarely smiles and is a “level-headed dude,” doesn’t seem like the type who would be rattled by pressure-packed situations.
“I didn’t even smile when I was standing on the podium with the other finalists,” he admitted. “That type of pressure is a lot. You have to do anything you can to not think about the people watching and just focus on the target.”
Cooley described Scott as “a big goofy farm kid who just consistently hits the center of the target.”
“He has a lot of natural talent, and he isn’t fazed in those big moments,” he said. “He just goes up there and does what he does.”
Scott’s dedication to his craft is remarkable. On top of working a full-time job in Clifton Park, he spends roughly 20 hours per week shooting, practicing for some of the biggest archery competitions in the world.
“I drive out to Geneva two or three times per week,” he said, noting the 130-mile drive takes close to 21⁄2 hours each way. “I have some buddies out there that I practice with.”
Scott, who is originally from Amsterdam’s south side, said he started shooting a bow and arrow when he was 14.
“I wasn’t on a team or in a club, but I always really loved the sport,” he said.
Rarely does Scott take a break from competition, planning to compete in Elmira this weekend and San Diego in April.
“This is what I love to do,” he said. “I’m going to keep doing it.”