TEENAGE Hexham shooter Stephen Sambell defied big-stage nerves to clinch a coveted south-west shooting title.
Sambell, 19, defeated Melbourne's Allan Fuge in a shoot-off to win the high gun award at the Beretta Grand Prix at Woolsthorpe's Wickham Park range.
He shot 89 out of 100 targets during four 25-target rounds to finish level with the more experienced Fuge on Sunday.
They each hit eight targets in the shoot-off, before Fuge missed and Sambell hit on the ninth, settling the result.
Sambell became the first Warrnambool Field and Game Club member to win the Beretta Grand Prix in the event's six-year history.
Event organiser Geoff Morris said he was impressed with the young marksman's ability to handle the pressure-packed shoot-off.
"He's a lad with a mature head on his shoulders. He's a very level-headed young fella. He's just like one of the boys but he has very good technique," Morris said. "We were fairly rapt he took it out yesterday. He shoots a bit around the place and he's a regular out at Laang as well.
"It's all reward for hard work.
"For a young fella to have a shoot-off in front of 200-odd people, and there's just two of you there, the heart rate would've been up," he said. "But he never missed a target."
Morris said the Beretta Grand Prix attracted a record 255 shooters, four more than the previous record set last year. He said the event had become one of the showcases of the Field and Game Australia calendar because of its popularity and $10,000 prize pool.
The work of the club committee was another factor in its success.
"I think it's just become a major shoot in Australia for field and game," he said. "It's just got the prestige now. It's been built up over six years.
"We think everyone has put it in their shoot book now as a must do.
"We would rate it in the top-three competitions, behind the national carnival."
Other winners included Fuge, who claimed the AA grade honours for finishing behind Sambell.
Winchelsea marksman Ross Matthews took out A grade with 86 and Warrnambool's Ian Coyle won B grade with 80.
A score of 68 earned Hoppers Crossing's Derek Pearce the C grade title.
Winchelsea's Neville Johnson, handicap four, was the top veterans' shooter with a net 90.
Geelong's Rebecca Robinson, handicap 31, won the women's section with a net 95. Warrnambool's Isaiah Harris, handicap 36, won the juniors' section with a net 101.
Warrnambool's Mark Hammond shot 74 to win the targets-only grade for non-Field and Game Australia members.
The shooters will contest Field and Game Australia nationals at Seymour on November 3 and 4. They will also head to Laang for Field and Game Federation of Australia nationals on November 16 to 18.