Daniel Whitener had to cut back some on his travel and costs for archery competitions as family became his primary focus.
The Grovetown resident and his wife, Kelly, have 3-year-old twins and another child on the way, but he still enjoys competition, and he's gotten some important backing this year that's helped him continue competing.
Whitener picked up a sponsorship from American Sportsman, an Evans outdoors store, that gave him a new bow, all the equipment he needed and money toward entry fees.
Since the partnership began, Whitener won the Georgia State Indoor Championship, the Georgia State Target Championship and, most recently, the Southeast Outdoor Field Sectionals.
"I've always known Daniel and known he's ... probably the best shooter around here," said Casey Crawley, the general manager at American Sportsman. "And nobody's ever really given him the chance to go out and shoot in some of the bigger tournaments, I guess you could say."
The Southeast sectional was held in Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida so that shooters did not have to travel far. Whitener recently completed the sectionals in Clemson, S.C., which was held a week after the other two sectionals. He didn't look at the other scores until he was finished. He didn't want to know the number while he was trying to focus on his targets.
"It's just a mental thing when you're competing," Whitener said. "It often can be detrimental to you if you know what kind of score you have to shoot."
The tournament was broken into three rounds -- field round, hunter round and animal round. The last presented paper targets shaped like animals, with specific "kill zones" marked on each.
Within those kill zones was a dot that served as a target and a bonus point if hit.
Whitener earned nine of the possible 14 bonus points for a score of 289 in the final round. As soon as he turned in his final card and saw the other scores, he knew he had won.
To prepare for tournaments, Whitener read books on mental management. He hones his technique at American Sportsman's indoor and outdoor ranges, but says the biggest reason for his success is between his ears.
"Basically, I have just a mental process that I go through when I'm competing," Whitener said. "I approach it as shooting 112 one-arrow tournaments. That's putting every ounce of energy and focus and concentration possible on each arrow as if that's going to be the only arrow I shoot."
Whitener was able to put in extra work after meeting with Crawley when Crawley was named general manager in February. Crawley's store had a 20-yard shooting range in the basement that had been used as a clothing store. Whitener helped straighten up the space and create an indoor range to go along with the 50-yard outdoor range at the store.
Now the store plays host to archery leagues throughout the year.
There was a problem when Whitener started frequenting the ranges. For more than five years, he had been using a bow made by Hoyt. American Sportsman carries only Mathew products. Crawley got Whitener to make the switch and provided him a new bow, sights and everything else he needed to compete.
In turn, Whitener wears the name of the store and his bow company on his shirt.
"The biggest part of my success this year, I owe it all to my sponsor," Whitener said. "I have the utmost respect for Casey and the crew there."
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