Condon Wins Sr. Am Qualifier

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Only Player Under Par at US Senior Amateur Qualifier

Perennial Sun Country golf contender Greg Condon captured the Albuquerque US Senior Amateur Qualifier Monday, shooting a 3-under 69 at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia Park.

Condon has been on the edge of a break-though for weeks, with top five finishes in the local U.S. Amateur Qualifier and the Sun Country Amateur Golf Association’s New Mexico-West Texas Amateur Championship in Las Cruces, plus a top-10 finish in the Albuquerque local U.S. Open qualifier.

On Monday, he finished six strokes ahead of Jack Slayton of Albuquerque, who will be first alternate. Mike Lohner of Southlake,Texas, is the second alternate.

Condon, of Monte Vista, Colo., joins 155 other competitors in the U.S. Senior Amateur, to be held at the Eugene (Ore.) Country Club Aug. 25-30. Twenty-one players competed in the U.S. Senior Amateur qualifier at Paa-Ko Ridge. Full results from the Paa-Ko Ridge US Senior Amateur Qualifier are on the SCAGA website.

In Other Golf News

Jacquelyn Galloway of Rio Rancho and Aidan Thomas of Bernalillo missed the cut over the weekend at the U.S. Junior Girls Championship and the U.S. Junior Championship respectively.

Galloway shot 81-81 for a two-day total of 162, 11 shots below the cut line. The Junior Girls Championship was held July 16-21 at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif.

The winner was Yealimi Noh of Concord, Calif., who shot 66-70 for a two-day total of 136 in the stroke-play portion of the event before advancing to the final round of match play to defeat Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Fla., 4-and-3.

A week earlier, Noh won the Girls Junior PGA Championship in Lexington, Ken., with a record-24-under total of 264

For Galloway, an 18-year-old senior-to-be at Cleveland High School, it was the second of three major junior tournaments in three weeks. Immediately after leaving Poppy Hills, Galloway headed to the Girls Junior Americas Cup, a 54-hole team event that starts Wednesday at Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen, Colo.

The New Mexico/Sun Country Girls Junior Americas Cup team comprises Galloway, Alexis Escobedo of Amarillo, Texas; Presley Jackson of Deming and Jessica Osden of Los Alamos.

Thomas of St. Pius X High School, won the boys’ 5A individual state golf championship in May. At the USGA’s Junior Amateur, Thomas shot a 14-over 155 (77-78) seven shots below the cut line. The competition was held at Balturol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.

Green Makes British Open Cut

UNM Lobo golfer Galven Green played the weekend of the British Open at Carnoustie Golf Links, finishing T61 with a four-day total of 290 (72-73-71-74). Green is a native of Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

Green was a Lobo freshman during the 2017-2018 season. The purse for a T61 at the British Open was $25,317, should Green turn pro and forego further NCAA eligibility. An email Monday to UNM Golf Coach Glen Millican seeking to clarify his status was not immediately returned.

Madigan Finishes 5th in Canada

Tim Madigan of Las Cruces, who plays on the MacKenzie Canada Tour, finished fifth on Sunday in the Osprey Valley Open  near Toronto, shooting 19-under for a four-day total of 269 (64-70-67-68). He finished six strokes behind the leader, Tyler McCumber of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Dan Vukelich, editor of New Mexico Golf News, is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers of America. Reach him at dan@newmexicogolfnews.com

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Roger Martinez Heads to Texas

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Local Golf Pioneer Leaves for Second Time

Vows He’ll Be Back to N.M.

Santa Ana Golf ClubRoger Martinez, who helped build Santa Ana Pueblo into a golf powerhouse, first with Santa Ana Golf Club and later Twin Warriors Golf Club at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, is leaving New Mexico.

Martinez, 53, was named Monday director of golf operations of the Wildhorse Golf Club in Denton, Texas, where he’ll manage an existing 18-hole course, oversee completion of a 9-hole course now being built, and supervise the eventual construction of a second 18-hole master-planned course for the Robson Ranch community.

The gated community currently has 2,300 of a planned 7,000 homes.

It’s not the first time Martinez and his wife, Selina, have left their long-time home in Rio Rancho.

In 2015, Martinez was recruited by the PGA of America to become the organization’s national director of placement for PGA professionals. His job was playing matchmaker between pros and golf courses.

In 2016, after about a half year in Jupiter, Fla., however, the couple returned to their home in Rio Rancho for health and family reasons.

Martinez suffered an ocular tumor and without surgery was in danger of losing eyesight in his left eye. Also, both wanted to be closer to their three daughters, who live in Rio Rancho and Lubbock.

Upon his return, Martinez, attained his real estate license and became a broker with Realty One New Mexico, but he longed to return to golf.

Roger Martinez Legacy at Santa Ana

At Santa Ana, Martinez mentored 40 PGA professionals, many of whom are now head professionals at their own golf courses, including pros who run the New Mexico Military Institute Golf Course and Cochiti Golf Club.

Throughout his tenure at Santa Ana/Twin Warriors, Martinez’s message to his assistants was: Progress through the three stages of the PGA program and increase your earning potential or move on to some other golf course.

On a recent visit to Rockwind Community Links in Hobbs (with this writer), Martinez was paired with Trip and Ben, two young assistants working for Rockwind Director of Golf Linda Howell, whose previous positions included head of golf operations at Buffalo Thunder.

Throughout their round together, the two men asked for and got advice from Martinez on everything from agronomy to developing their professional resumes. The episode illustrated traits that led the PGA to lure Martinez to Florida.

Santa Ana Pueblo

Among his proudest accomplishments, Martinez counts taking Santa Ana Pueblo from a place where just one tribal member played golf in 1991, when Santa Ana opened (as Valle Grande Golf Course), to one where 500 tribal members now play the game – an accomplishment recognized by the USGA at the U.S. Open in 2000.

Martinez also brought the PGA’s club professional championship to Santa Ana and Twin Warriors, as well as the USGA’s 1999 U.S. Amateur Women’s Public Links Championship, three Nike Tour events and the U.S. Trans National (women’s) championship.

Martinez was also instrumental in organizing the Golf on the Santa Fe Trail golf alliance.

Martinez grew up in El Paso and learned golf at the hardscrabble Ascarate Golf Course, a city course one chain-link fence away from the U.S.-Mexico border, where U.S. Border and Customs Enforcement officers patrol the banks of the concrete-lined Rio Grande.

Martinez started in golf at age 5 and began working at the golf course at age 12. Along the way, he put in some time hustling adults on the putting green of Ascarete, among them the notable Wedgy Winchester. Among his recent accomplishments: 21 putts in a round.

As a teenager, his playing ability won him a golf scholarship to New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs and he later transferred to New Mexico State University, where he played golf for the Aggies.

Why He’s Leaving

Roger Martinez said the Robson Ranch opportunity was something he has been looking for.

“Other opportunities presented themselves but they didn’t feel right,” Martinez said. “This is what I did, build a 27-hole facility into a 45-hole facility. This one felt right.”

Roger Martinez and his wife are not selling their Rio Rancho home. He said he fully expects to return to New Mexico in retirement.

“When I look out the windshield, I see a runway 10 years long,” he said. “I’ll be back.”

He is the second high-profile pro to leave New Mexico. Matt Molloy of Sandia Golf Club recently left to take a corporate position with OB Sports.

One-Arm Golfer Perseveres

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‘Golf is something you can always get better at’

Bobby Baca was so close. The one-arm golfer got his handicap index down to 7.1 in June, low enough to play in the USGA’s U.S. Senior Amateur Championship qualifier earlier this month at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club. Then disaster struck.

One-arm golfer Bobby Baca
Bobby Baca

Baca, 55, of Albuquerque, entered the Albuquerque City Men’s Golf Championship and made a mess of things over two days in early July. His handicap shot up to 7.8, above the USGA’s 7.4 limit. Had he entered the Senior Am qualifier earlier and taken a pass on the city men’s, he would have been allowed to play.

For the intensely goal-oriented player, who had already reached the zenith of one-arm golf competition, losing the chance to compete against able-bodied golfers in a high-level event was a huge disappointment.

But let’s rewind.

Born without a left hand, Baca, an engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, competed for 26 years on the professional racquetball circuit before a knee injury ended his career. Looking for an athletic endeavor to take its place, he settled on golf, which he had tried as a kid but never pursued.

Once he tried it in earnest, he fell in love.

“You can always improve,” he said. “Golf is something you can always get better at.”

The Drive to Compete

“I love the mental aspect of competing,” he said. “I have a knack for it and when I’m competing it’s like a switch is turned on.”

With racquetball out of his life, he threw himself into golf and joined a league at Sandia. His handicap index started in the 30s and for awhile he was his team’s D player. As he practiced and got better, his index came down.

Bobby Baca who is a former champion one-arm golfer
Baca’s swing

Two years into his new sport, a city worker he knew mentioned that a three-day national amputee golf event was coming to Albuquerque. As a one-arm golfer, he was eligible, his friend told him. He nagged Baca until he finally agreed to enter.

Although he performed so-so, “The competition got to me and I really wanted to start improving,” he said.

Later, he competed in a one-arm event in New Jersey. “Those guys were good,” he said. “I thought, ‘Look what I can become.’”

After returning home, he stepped up the practice and signed up for lessons with a local golf professional, but the relationship didn’t work out. “He tried to make me a two-handed golfer,” he said. “The experience taught me that I had to figure it own on my own.”

If some people are gym rats, Baca is a range rat. What came next was years of relentless practice. He sometimes practiced as many as eight days out of 10. He made huge strides with the quality of his full swing but chipping remained a mystery.

By email, he contacted Jim Flick, a nationally known golf instructor, whose advice was, “Make your biggest weakness your strength.”

Baca took Flick’s advice. Instead of pounding 400 to 500 balls on the range during each practice session, he started hitting 400 to 500 balls on the chipping green, often at Twin Warriors Golf Club. Soon his short game became so good, the one-arm golfer was able to shoot as low as 79 even when he hit few greens in regulation. “I know I can get up and down,” he said.

“My one weakness now is reading greens. If I have a caddie, I’ll have 26 to 30 putts a round but without a caddie, I’ll have 34 to 36,” he said.

One-arm Golfer Competitions

Over the years, Baca skill as a one-arm golfer took him to the top.

The Fighmaster Cup Team (Baca is fifth from the left)
The Fightmaster Cup Team (Baca is fifth from the left)

He competed in the National Amputee Golf Association and the National One-Arm Golf Association, and the Paralong Drive Cup.

He was selected to the U.S. team in the Fightmaster Cup, a fully sponsored Ryder Cup-style event in which the best one-arm golfers from the North America compete against their counterparts from the United Kingdom. Baca competed in Wales in 2008 and again in Kentucky in 2010.

But then his goal changed.

“I became the best one-arm golfer and I set my sights on competing against golfers with two hands,” he said.

He got serious about his clubs, went looking for a good set and contacted Ping. His prominence as a one-arm golfer led Ping Golf to invite him to the company’s Arizona R&D facility for a day-long fitting session. They tailored a set of irons and woods to his swing. “They arrived two days later, boxes of irons and woods,” he said.

Over the years, Baca has progressed through the company’s G series from G2s to the G30 line. He goes back to Phoenix year after year to get refitted, he said.

Most recently, Baca enrolled in the Golf Tec swing-analysis and lesson program. In the swing bays of Golf Tec’s indoor range at 419 Mountain Rd. NW, he can see instant video replays of his swing and analyze data on ball flight and spin rates.

Working with Golf Tec’s director of instruction, Kevin Amhaus, the program has gotten his spin rate down, resulting in longer drives. He periodically has playing lessons with Monty Mills, a Golf Tec instructor.

While the USGA Senior Am qualifier may have slipped threw his fingers this year, his goal remains — to win an able-bodied golf tournament. Once again, he’s stepped up his practice and playing regimen.

His most recent handicap record at GHIN.com shows he’s played 44 rounds this year, 14 of them in tournament play. During golf season he’ll play twice a week and practice three times a week, he said.

You can see Baca’s swing at the 8-minute mark of this video of the Paralong Drive World Cup competition in Mesquite, Nev.

Dan Vukelich, editor of New Mexico Golf News, is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers of America. Reach him at dan@newmexicogolfnews.com

Matt Molloy, Sandia Golf Club GM, Heads to Scottsdale

After 13 Years at Sandia Golf Club, Matt Molloy Joins OB Sports Corporate Team

Matt Molloy, general manager of Sandia Golf Club, has been promoted to senior vice president for OB Sports Management of Scottsdale, Ariz., and will be moving to the Phoenix metro area, the company announced.

Matt Molloy of OB Sports Management
Matt Molloy

Molloy’s new responsibilities will include oversight of OB Sports’ portfolio of 60 golf course management and club operations contracts, as well as assisting in the development and startup of new opportunities for OB Sports, the company said in a statement.

Molloy moved to Albuquerque 13 years ago to serve as director of golf for the newly opened Scott Miller design at Sandia Pueblo’s casino and resort north of Albuquerque. Molloy, an employee of OB Sports, later was promoted to general manager of the golf course.

Read more: https://newmexicogolfnews.com/sandias-matt-molloy-promoted/

Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club: Sold

Alvarez & Marsal of New York City Buys No. 1-ranked Golf Course in N.M.

Roger Cox & Associates has sold the acclaimed Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia Park, N.M., to a pair of New York City businessmen who specialize in turning around under-performing companies.

In a letter to about 500 Paa-Ko Communities home and lot owners, the course’s new owners, Tony Alvarez and Bryan Marsal, principals of the Manhattan firm ofAlvarez & Marsal, announced the change of ownership in the No. 1-rated golf course in New Mexico.

In the letter, they also announced their intent to build a 62-room lodge and 18 guest cottages to attract tourists to the golf course.

Hole No. 12 at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club
Hole No. 12 at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club

Also sent to the Paa-Ko Communities owners was a letter from Bruce Franks of Mountain Ranch Properties, part of Roger Cox & Associates, the builder of the golf course and surrounding community. That letter confirmed the sale and thanked residents for their support of the 18-year-old golf course.

Read more here: https://newmexicogolfnews.com/paa-ko-ridge-golf-club-sold/

TopGolf Coming To The Duke City

Last month we had an announcement that there was going to be built a huge driving range and more at the Balloon Fiesta park.

A 3 tier driving range in Albuquerque NM, wow is all that was being said.

Now the word is that TopGolf is coming to town to build the driving range, restaurant, lounge and music venue at the site of the old water park.

Here learn more about this awesomeness.

Less than a month after a local startup announced plans for an Albuquerque golf entertainment venue, TopGolf – a national leader in golf-related entertainment – announced plans to enter the Duke City market.

TopGolf will build a multi-story golf driving range, restaurant, lounge and music venue on the site of the former Beach Waterpark near the southwest corner of the intersection of Montano Road and Interstate 25.

BigShots Golf, organized by a group of local investors, announced in mid-December it will build a facility along Balloon Fiesta Parkway, which runs west from Pan American Freeway to the balloon park and is a major entry and exit thoroughfare for balloon fiesta traffic.

TopGolf currently operates similar venues in 36 U.S. cities, with plans for 11 more. TopGolf also operates centers in Canada, Mexico, Australia, the U.K., and Abu Dhabi.

BigShots says it plans to hire 350-450 people. TopGolf says it will hire up to 325 people.  https://goo.gl/rxbRBV

This is really great news for the Duke City.

Dreaming About Golf?

They say that dreams have some type of meaning, what exactly I don’t think that they are sure of.

But this golfing articles about dreams is pretty good, check it out.

What Does Your Golf Dream Tell You?

Have you ever dreamed about golf? I know I have and I know others who have, too. But what kind of dream did you have?

I bring the subject of golf dreams up because I recently ran across a column by someone named Tucker who wrote a piece for the Albany Times-Union about his dreams. Tucker was struck by their bizarre nature.

Set at his local country club they involved a mish-mash of Micky Mantle, a woman in a skunk suit named “Sparky,” and a quickie trip to Mexico to adopt a proffered infant.

But then, Tucker really caught my attention with this:

“In every instance of my golf dreams I spend the entire time trying to get a shot off. I may be constantly re-teeing to avoid obstacles that are constantly popping up, a flag that moves every time I look away, a hole that magically redesigns itself, or I may be looking for a club I’ve misplaced, but I have never made a golf shot in any dream.”

Whoa! How’d this guy get into my head?

Reading that immediately flashed me back to a round a couple of summers ago with two friends, Jeff Breitner and Jim Dines, both high-caliber players.

It was a pleasant afternoon, maybe a tad humid as the afternoon thunderheads roiled up at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club on the other side of the Sandias, east of Albuquerque. We were talking about our idiosyncrasies on the golf course as we stood on the tee of No. 15, a downhill par 5.

I had just told Breither that there have been times, many, actually, when in trying to read a putt, I have seen a mark or blemish on the green between my ball and the hole and concluded that the mark or blemish had been put there to guide me. That the mark’s purpose, its only purpose, in my mind, was to serve as an aiming point. Just for me. And only for this putt. Otherwise, why would it be there?

To which Breitner, one of the best putters I know, piped up, “And I thought I was the only whack job who thought like that.”

With Dines waiting patiently on the edge of the tee for me to hit, I thought to myself, if there ever was an afternoon for a quick session of golf psychotherapy, this is it.

“Well, since we’re being honest here, not to sound too weird,” I continued, “I have dreams about golf and they always involve trying to hit a golf shot from some incredibly awkward, even impossible, situation. Like on a fire escape. Or from the landing of a stairwell in an office building, or maybe in a basement with a low ceiling where I can’t take a backswing, and, no matter how many times or ways I address the ball and test my backswing, I just can’t figure a way to get a club on it.”  https://goo.gl/PqxSgQ

There is more to this, so continue to read it thru, great article.