LEE -- Paddy Sullivan is fast becoming a top, young gun.
In his first year of out-of-state scholastic competition, the 14-year-old has won three individual titles in the Steel Challenge event of pistol shooting at tournaments in Maine, New Hampshire and most recently, Texas.
On Super Bowl weekend outside College Station, home of Texas A&M, Paddy had a combined score of 50.02 seconds in the Steel Challenge -- the best 16 of 20 rounds of shooting --beating out 110 other teenage male and female shooters from around the country.
"I was so excited, I ran next door to tell my neighbor and quickly posted it on Facebook," said Shawn Sullivan. Paddy's father stayed home, his wife JoAnn accompanying their son to Texas.
Paddy's individual victory also led his five-member team from the Holyoke Revolver Club, to a second place finish --- within five seconds of the team title.
"It was so close, the scores were added up three times to make sure it was within five seconds," said JoAnn Sullivan.
Paddy was surprised by yet another win, but not Andy Swanton, a fellow pistol shooter at Lee Sportsmen Club. Swanton says the freshman at Lee Middle and High School has shown great promise since he began competitive target shooting two years ago.
"Any time we have a youth shooter, you pay close attention to the techniques and, particularly, safety habits," Swanton noted. "It did not take long to realize that Paddy is a serious competitor who knows the rules, pays attention and keeps his focus.
Paddy was eight years old when he handled his first firearm while enrolled in a local youth rifle course, a natural progression during his early childhood.
"I always liked firearms, my grandmother was always giving me toy guns," he recalled.
The teenager eventually became fascinated by pistols, learning about trigger control, breathing and safety rules -- the latter continually drilled into his head. Whether pistol shooting at stationary or moving targets, Paddy constantly worked on speed and accuracy to the point he has achieved sharpshooter status in the Enhanced Service Pistol category and expert in Stock Service Pistol. The classifications are among the five through the International Defensive Pistol Association: novice, marksman, sharpshooter, expert and master.
Paddy says he practices his pistol shooting prowess at least 3-4 times a week with his primary handgun of choice a Military & Police, or M&P, 9mm handgun.
During a Steel Challenge competition, a shooter gets five tries at shooting five targets set up in five stages different stages, each stage requiring Paddy to employ a different strategy. The best four out of five times of each stage make up a cumulative final score.
"I go to a new stage, make a mental plan of how I'm going to shoot and I look at the target, not through the sight of the pistol," he said.
Paddy's dedication to pistol shooting extends to ensuring others enjoy the sport with minimal difficulty.
"If someone has a problem with their handgun, Paddy will head over with his tool box to try to help him or her out," Swanton said. "He has a real passion for the shooting sports, he loves everything about it and it shows."
Paddy probably won't have a problem parlaying his shooting skill into a college scholarship. He says representatives of the Texas A & M and Florida Gators pistol teams watched him perform two weeks ago and talked of recruiting him.
That got him contemplating about life after high school.
"The [event] down in Texas made me think about college," he said. "There's a gunsmith school in Arizona I might look at."
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233