Four years ago, Christopher Sousa gave up competitive archery and picked up a set of golf clubs.
Now, the Lancaster resident is headed across the country to show how far he's come in a relatively short amount of time.
The 46-year-old Monoosnock Country Club member recently qualified to participate in the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships at the La Quinta Resort in Palm Springs, Calif., after winning the Turning Stone Classic in Verona, N.Y.
"I'm really excited to have this chance," Sousa said. "I'm looking at this first and foremost as an experience. Win or lose, how many other people are going to be able to experience something like this?"
Sousa took top honors at the Turning Stone Classic in the Snead flight, designated for players with a handicap in the 20s. In the two rounds of the tournament, Sousa shot a 181 to win his division by four strokes.
"It was really cool to win that," he said. "Even though the field was only 21 people, it was great knowing that I was the best of them."
Sousa gives much of the credit for his success to Monoosnock pro John Novak, who has worked extensively with him in preparation for the 78-man competition he's about to face in California.
"He's done all the work," Novak said of Sousa. "He was as green as grass when he started, but he has certainly made a drastic improvement. He's very smart and serious about what he's doing. He's got a great attitude and I'm proud of what he's accomplished."
The Leominster club has also seen several other golfers -- among them Ayer's Jim Santiago, Lancaster's Peter CampoBasso and Leominster's Paul Grant -- all participate in Golf Channel Am Tour events in other flights.
The 72-hole competition will run Saturday through Tuesday. Sousa teed off on his first practice round yesterday, and will have another today.
"It will be great to see some different competition," Sousa said. "And we're playing some great courses."
The national championship will be decided by the four La Quinta courses: the Mountain Course, the Nicklaus Tournament Course, the TPC Stadium Course and the Greg Norman Course, where the PGA Qualifying School is held for pros looking to get their tour card.
Sousa credits his wife Pattie with getting him on a golf course in the first place. She was the one who urged him to take up the sport.
"I wouldn't have done this without her," Sousa said. "She's been so supportive. I Just got back from a trip to
Norway and she made all the arrangements for me to go to California. It's absolutely amazing to have that support."
As for predictions, Sousa said he's unsure of what to expect, but that he's hoping for the best.
"I'm hoping to shine," he said. "I hope that when I come back, I can bring the trophy with me."
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