Stockade-athon: Local golf pro has a passion for road racing
SCHENECTADY Most people who know John Souza picture him swinging a golf club, not running in a road race.
But Souza is not your everyday club professional.
The 32-year-old head pro at Stadium Golf Club has only been running for three years, but he has become quite an enthusiast and continued his new passion by competing in the 35th annual Stockade-athon Sunday.
“It went well,” he said. “I started faster than last year because I was running alone, on my own pace. It was a good experience for me. I saw my splits. I was 28 minutes at 5k and 58 minutes at 10k. For me, that was six or seven minutes faster than last year.”
Souza finished his second Stockade-athon with a time of 1:28. Last year, he clocked a 1:34 and change.
“This experience was so much better than the last race I ran in,” Souza said. “I ran in the Hairy Gorilla at Thatcher Park. That was brutal. It was all ruts and rocks, sand and mud. I was totally in the woods the whole time; I was never in the street. I didn’t really like it all.”
Souza used the Hairy Gorilla as a tune up for his favorite race, the Stockade-athon, but it almost spoiled the main event.
“I didn’t feel that great after running the Hairy Gorilla,” he said. “I was going to go out on Thursday to get another prep race in, but I skipped it because it was such a lousy day, weather-wise.”
Still, even without the extra workout, Souza said he really enjoyed his Stockade-athon experience.
“I felt pretty good most of the day,” he said. “I never had to stop. I made it up the State Street hill pretty strong, and I kept going right to the finish.”
Souza’s only regret was that he couldn’t run with his father.
“My father was sick and couldn’t come up from Poughkeepsie,” he said. “Last year, my father did run the race, but he had chest issues and dropped out before he finished. He had the same cold this year, and he decided not to make the trip.”
Souza’s father, also named John P., was the inspiration for the younger Souza to start running.
“My father has been a runner for a long time. Then he had to stop because he had knee problems and gained some weight. But three years ago, I was in Poughkeepsie visiting my folks, and my father was going out for a run. He usually ran 25 to 30 miles a week. I told him I would run with him about two miles or so. It was right out of the blue. It was a great experience running with him. It was something we could do together.
“Now, I look forward to when he comes up here to visit me or when I go back home to Poughkeepsie to visit him. When he comes up here, we run on the bike path. I was just so bummed he couldn’t make it this year, because even if he didn’t run, we could have talked about the race. I’m sure he’ll try to do it with my next year.”
Just like his running career, Souza got a late start in golf.
“I didn’t play golf until I was 15. I had a friend who was a good golfer, and he got me interested in the game. I played golf my first year, and then I got on the Arlington High School team as a junior. I made all-conference as both a junior and a senior. My first job as a kid was a lifeguard, and I was able to play golf from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day before I went to work.”
Souza graduated from St. Bonaventure University, but didn’t play golf for the Bonnies.
“I tried to get a tryout, but the golf coach wouldn’t give me one,” he said. “So I didn’t play golf through college, and only picked it up again when I got out.”
Souza was the assistant pro at Stadium from 2003 to 2006, and has been the head pro since.
“I’m really into running now,” said Souza, who does much more running workouts than practice sessions for golf. “I plan on running the Cardiac Classic on Thanksgiving.”