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Aldridge and his U.S. Open hardware on display in the backdrop

Among the nation's best

By Michael Butler

"You've gotta work with what you've got," the words of Josh "Tiny" Aldridge apply to his own life. Aldridge lost his left arm when a rifle went off after a hunting trip, but the accident hasn't held him back.

Aldridge still works and performs everyday tasks. He excels with a rifle in his right arm at clay shooting. He is regarded as one of the nation's best in the sport.

"Hunting's been a part of my life since I was a kid, running dogs with my daddy ane everybody around here on the river bottoms," said the Tallassee native.

It was during his younger days when his father gave him the nickname that stuck, although Aldridge is not "tiny," he stands 6 feet 7 inches tall.

"People write checks to me, "Tiny Aldridge," and the bank cashes them."

The opportunity to shoot clays came a few years ago.

"Danny Gray and Danny Ledbetter said, 'Come on. You're going with us.' Instantly, I liked it. It's called golf with a shotgun, and that's what it is."

Aldridge turned many heads at competitions.

"I had dove hunted and deer hunted since I lost my arm. Being my frame and size, holding a gun wasn't a problem. It was the repetition and crossing targets. I held my nub up and set the shotgun on it, and it was pretty much a perfect fit.

"I've talked to some top level shooters that I've met. They look and say it's supposed to be impossible but you've proven that it's not."

Aldridge has participated in clay shooting at the National Skeet Shooting Association U.S. Open and National Championship.

"I started out in D Class. The first tournament I ever shot was in Heflin," said Aldridge, who dominated his competition. He then moved up to C Class.

"(The next event), I got smoked. I came out of there thinking that's about as far as I can go. I started pouring into practicing and honing the skills."

The practice paid off. Aldridge made his was through C, B and A achieving a top ten national ranking. He won three events in A Class National Championship; all-state, all-region and 28-gauge, placing fourth overall.

Aldridge moved to AA Class for the U.S. Open in Illinois. "I won the prelim event, the 28-gauge event, got eighth in the main event and fourth in the super sporting. That punched me into Master Class, so I'm as high as I can go now."

There were 1,700 shooters at the U. S. Open.

"There were some big dog shooters standing behind me," he said of the 'Make or Break' round. "They were just looking at me shaking their heads. I got nervous. There was a crowd. My score was the highest there. I'd run the course. It erupted."

Sponsorship opportunities are starting to come Aldridge's way now. "I've been approached. I've got to meet with some people. I'm not fully sponsored by anybody, but some local people have paid entry fees for me. When I got on that stage at the U.S. Open, I looked down to the left and looked down to the right. There were eight people on the stage and seven of them were fully sponsored. I'm just a peon from Elmore County."

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