After 73 years and 72 tournaments, the Albuquerque Men’s City Amateur Golf Championship finally has a list of all past winners. The Journal did extensive research this year to come up with it.
Originally, tournament officials planned on celebrating the 70th anniversary of the event this year. The research, however, turned up a different number.
As part of what was thought to be a celebration of the 70th, I contacted a number of former players – mostly champions – to get their fondest memories of the tournament. If you have your own memories of the City Championship, please add them below.
– Thanks, Mark Smith / Assistant Sports Editor. This will be his 35th year covering the city tournament.
1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 winner (only five-time winner), general manager of Evergreen Golf Course at Camp Walker in South Korea.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been 42 years since I won the City tournament for the first time. It’s hard to remember back that far, not sure what is fact and fiction I remember that at that time most of the good players like Abie Muller, Ernie Fresquez they all seemed a bit unbeatable, like they had this experience that we couldn’t match. I say we because at this time there started to form this core of good young players like Jere & Mark Pelletier, Jeff Fullwiler, Randy Kahn, Scott Sudsberry. I remember in the final round of my 1st win at 16 I had a good friend, Jep Robertson caddy for me. Jep was a couple years older and that last day he kept asking ‘are you nervous,’ ‘do you feel nervous’ and I kept telling him no but he kept asking, probably 20 or more times in the first 4 or 5 holes. I remember thinking, maybe I should be nervous but I really wasn’t as the round progressed I could see that Abie was getting visibly nervous and I remember it gave me a boost of adrenaline and confidence which in the end was most likely the difference.
“I also remember something, that looking back, is pretty funny. Up until this time I had played in many junior events and such and had won quite a few. What seemed important at the time was the trophy you might win. I hadn’t really won a ‘large trophy. Anyway, when the City tournament started they had the City Championship trophy on display at Arroyo Del Oso and it was this beautiful ‘huge’ gold shinny trophy. I remember thinking ‘Wow! I would love to win that.’ So the whole week I’m thinking about this trophy and when I won, one of my first thoughts was, ‘Wow, I won this nice trophy.’ Well, came time for the awards ceremony and they called me up as the City champion and handed me a different trophy, smaller in size but nice, and I’m looking at that beautiful trophy but they’re not giving it to me and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why not?’ Well then they tell me that my name will be etched in the ‘traveling trophy.’ and I remember being a bit let down that I couldn’t take that one home with me. Then he said that tradition says if you win the tournament three straight years you get to keep the trophy. That was a big part of my motivation over the next couple of years. I’ve won many trophies and medals over the years but that ‘gigantic’ gold city trophy will always be my favorite.
contender multiple times, director of golf at El Paso Country Club
“My memories are of Ray Cragun making miles of putts on bumpy greens and kicking my butt. I also remember full pages of tournament photos in the Albuquerque Journal and very full coverage. Good Times!”
finished third in mid-1970s, director of golf at San Juan Country Club
“I caddied for Tommy (Armour III in 1980) because I had applied for my amateur status back then, so I was in limbo. We had a lot of fun together winning the tournament. I knew his game very well and knew the courses, so he pretty much trusted me on course management. The one thing I remember about Tommy is he never flinched or let his emotions effect his game’ nerves of steel. He has a putting stroke that is very smooth and fluid.”
TOMMY ARMOUR III
1979, 1980 winner, PGA Tour winner, current Champions Tour standout
“I remember that it was a lot of fun. Winning it twice made it a lot of fun.
The second year, I just played better. I was going to school there (University of New Mexico), so it was fun playing in it. It’s absolutely a sentimental spot. They had some good galleries at the time.”
NOTAH BEGAY III
1989, 1991, 1992, 1994 winner, Golf Channel analyst, four-time PGA Tour winner
“City, for me, always came down not so much the ones I hit to win, but the funny shots. The one time at Arroyo (in 1992), when the ball was in a fur tree waist high. I tried a baseball swing, missed and took an unplayable (for a triple-bogey 6, but still won). And at Los Altos, the ball that hit the tree and hit me in the head (for a quad-bogey 8 in 1990). I also remember the great relationships with all of the players – lifelong amateurs like Larry Lujan and Brint Clay, and guys who went on to play professionally. It was a very big deal, and still is. There are some really good names on that trophy.
“New Mexico’s such a special place, and I’m such an advocate of it and golf – city golf. Without city golf, I wouldn’t have had my career without all the opportunities (course pros) the Zamora and Zimmerly families gave me at Ladera – to have a chance to play on the PGA Tour. I’ll always be a big, big advocate for all the city venues in Albuquerque.”
2006 winner, PGA Tour Canada
“The year I won, I broke the scoring record of Notah’s that had stood for a while. I think that’s also one of my most memorable moments from the tournament too. I still remember that first round at Los Altos really well, when I shot that 61. I mostly just remember being very much in the zone that week, more so than I maybe ever have been in my life. It is really a special memory for me because I’ve used those memories all the time since then to try to get the same feeling and try to put myself in that same state of mind. I also remember playing the whole tournament bogey free and a few of the crazy up-and-downs I made at Arroyo to save some of those pars. I don’t really think about shooting the record score that much, but thinking back on it now, where I was mentally was the really rewarding part of that week. Being able to do that in the Albuquerque City was really special to me too because that was one of the most important tournaments to me growing up. For me, all the New Mexico tournaments: the Tucker, New Mexico Open, Albuquerque City, Sun Country Am, etc., were just as important, or more so, than any others because they were my home championships. From a pride standpoint, I wanted to win those the most. So being able to play one of my best rounds, and best tournaments there is something I’ll never forget.”
2008, 2009, 2010 winner, PGA Tour Canada
“I’m very proud of winning three in a row, especially playing during a time with a lot of great amateurs still in New Mexico; Steve Saunders, Brandon Putnam, Chris Ortiz, Sam Saunders. I feel good that I could compete at the highest level in Albuquerque.
“That first year I won, it was as much as dad’s win as mine (father Steve contended previously, but never won). The torch had been passed, but we have our family name on that trophy. I dedicate those three to my dad. The trophy really should have Tim and Steve Madigan on it, because he knew the courses much better than I did. He read everything, and I’d just hit it where he told me.”
1999, 2001, 2002 winner, former pro golfer, senior vice president/principal, CCIM, SIOR
“I’ve probably played in it since I was like 16 years old. I remember when you’re a kid and you see all these college players. It’s a really good open event where you get all ages, all levels of skills. It’s the only open event in Albuquerque that, lack of a better work, celebrates golf of all levels in our community, whether you’re in the fifth flight or the championship flight. Every golfer in the community gets geared up for it, regardless of their skill level. What I loved, is that not just in the championship flight, but seeing others in all flights realize its an important event. It brings more excitement to the golf community.
“I remember watching Scott Gates when he won (in 1988), I was a spectator. I think on Arroyo on a par 3 on front, I was standing behind the green. There was a big crowd watching Scott, and he flew over the stick within 5 feet. I was amazed how good he was. I eventually went to college (at UNM with Scott, but always remembered that.
“For me, the most memorable was when I got paired with my dad one final round when I was a kid. I think I beat him that day, but it was probably the most memorable day of the tournament because it was the only day I ever competed against my dad in the championship flight, but it was just (former Sun Country executive director) Jim Sweeny and my dad in our group. It was just such a special day playing with my dad. I didn’t play worth a crap that year, but got to play with my dad.
“Amateur golf is much more fun, and playing in the City Tournament is something to look forward to every year. One of the main reasons I look forward to playing every year is because my wife, Chere’, has caddied for me. I had never won before she did.
“Also, the local pros, Tony Hidalgo, Chris Moya, Colby Reddoch, etc … have done a great job to make this a successful event for us amateurs. They have been very important in helping promote the game in our community and I don’t think they get recognized enough.
title contender multiple times, director of golf at Puerto del Sol.
“I played in a coat and tie (in the final group) one year, I think around 1984, because I worked the summer – installing elevators during the weekdays then weekends working at Arroyo del Oso. Since I was easily working 60 plus hours, I played in the ‘Business Men’s Flight’ (as well as the championship flight), which upset many ‘non-flat belly’ golfers, especially over 30. I was leading going into last day and decided to wear a coat and tie to look like a business man. Bob Meiering (co-head pro with Guy Wimberly) said, “That’s the greatest outfit I ever saw playing golf.” Guy Wimberly on the other hand said, ‘See me in my office afterwards to discuss your future here at Arroyo del Oso.’ I ended up finishing third as it was very hard to focus while playing not only the last round of the tournament but as an employee of New Mexico Golf.
“Guy ended up calming down by the time I finished and told me he really wasn’t upset about the coat and tie. It was for the pizza I had delivered the day before during a very slow round. That resulted in about $4.32 loss in snack bar sales since my foursome didn’t need to eat that day. Bob and Guy were always thinking.”
1983 winner, tournament director 1987-97, director of golf at Arroyo del Oso
“It was a huge tournament. They had pictures of guys in the paper with little profiles before ti started. When I played, it wasn’t always on city (owned) golf courses. We even had galleries. I remember when Ray Cragun was winning every year, there were probably at least 300 people around 18th at Arroyo. It was a really big deal.
“Matter of fact, I got crucified in the paper the year after I won. I had also won the state amateur in 1983, which qualified me for Sunnehanna in Johnstown Penn., a national tournament for the 50 state champs the next year. It fell on same date as City, and I didn’t defend my title. I got massacred in the paper for that.
“It’s just been a great event for so long, with so many great players. There have been guys who went on to win on the PGA Tour, and guys who pulled major upsets; like Jerry Lujan. His brother, Larry, was always considered a favorite. I don’t think Jerry ever won a junior tournament. When Jerry won, I couldn’t believe. That, to me, was the upset of all time.”
1996 winner at age 37, founder-owner Elevation 180/co-director of The Canyon Club
“The week before, I played in a tournament and I don’t think I broke 80 – in fact, I’m sure I didn’t. The day before the tournament I shot 84, and everyone was like, ‘you shouldn’t even go out there.’ But I was like, ‘I already signed up, so I gotta go.’ I was playing so crappy, that I hit more balls that week than I had my whole life. Ron Stelten saw me out there on the range and helped me and Reeves McGuire gave me a putting tip, and it all fell together at the right time. I never contended again. Not long after, I started coaching baseball and I didn’t play much after that.
“… The year I won, I hit it all over the place and made every putt the first round. The second round, I hit 17 greens and didn’t make anything. The third round, I hit nine greens and made everything again. It was pretty wild beating D.J. Brigman. The next weekend, D.J. won the state amateur.”
long-time contender, chairman of HUB International Insurance Services/co-director of The Canyon Club
“Two weeks before, played in a tournament and went four rounds without a birdie. Jerry didn’t know what the hell he was doing. Jerry was a very good athlete, and he started practicing a lot and, I think, Reeves McGuire told him something about putting. I convinced him to try an play in the championship flight. All of a sudden, he got hot and started hitting it great and making everything. I guess it wasn’t meant to be for me winning City. But that was great to see him win it.”
1998 winner, Web.com Tour/PGA Tour
“I was a sophomore in college (in 1996 when he finished second), and that was the first time an older guy beat me head-to-head. That was an eye-opening experience. It was kind of meant to be, because he was making putts from off the green. It was almost like I was battling against David, and I was Goliath.
“After winning in 1998, I felt like I became a part of Albuquerque. I had been here since ’94, but it was like I spread my roots more. I became associated with the community, and that win actually kind of spurred on my career.
“It’s a fun tournament; a birdie-fest. The mindset was ‘go, go, go,’ in City. It was a great time, and I’m still friends with a lot of guys who played in it and work and teach at city courses, like (Ladera head pro) Wright Zimmerly. He’s one of my best friends.”
2003 winner, UNM men’s golf coach
“What I remember most about that event was my caddy situation. My parents were out here for July 4th, and my dad caddied for me. They had to leave during a rain delay in the final round to drive back to Dallas and my future wife, Megan Precek, stepped in and caddied the last few holes and the playoff. It was pretty funny, because she had never been to a golf tournament and was in sandals so she had to go barefoot down the fairway with me. That was a fun way to end the event.”
contender in 1950s, former head pro, president Los Altos Golf Course Concessions Inc.
“It was a big, big event. There were big calucttas, and a lot of the big city businessmen brought in a lot of players and had a lot of interest in it. There was a lot of money being bet on the players. Guys would bet $500 on a match. It was a great tournament. Still is.”
1955 winner, long-time co-head pro at Los Altos
“The tournament I remember most, was losing to Jim Breen (in 1959). He played for UNM. He was a good player. I had him, but he birdied the last two holes to beat me 1-up in sudden death. That was really a tough one. There was a big, big gallery out there. I thought I had him.”
1985, 1987 winner, director of golf Desert Greens Golf
“It was great that Tony (Hidalgo) got it going again (after the Jaycees pulled out in 1987). It’s just nice knowing that you’ve won something where you’re living , and will be nice to know my name will be on the old trophy (with names of winners from 1987-2013) and the new one (winners from 1941-2014).
1971 winner, senior vice president, Morgan Stanley
“The best player in our state who never won the city or the state was Ernie Fresquez. He had a beautiful,rhythmic swing and always seemed to play well. He just got pipped by the Craguns and (Terry) Dears of those early years. The tournament alternated between medal and match play in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Businessmen had a chance in those days, and qualifying rounds were played, with the low 32 players in the match-play bracket. The event was actively covered by the Journal, often by Frank Maestas. Final match-play rounds saw galleries of 300 or more. Tournament matches rotated on city courses each day. The year I won, round one was at Paradise Hills, round two at Los Altos, rounds three and four were at Arroyo (played the same day). Final was at UNM South. I preferred to play there, as the best ball-striker usually won. Los Altos was dangerous, as anyone could win on the short course. In medal play, six-hour rounds were not unexpected.”
1954 semifinalist, former tournament director, retired financial analyst
Bob Ortega, the 1954 champ, would not have won it without my screw-up … We had a great match. George Maloof, the rich, beer man, had bought Bob in a calcutta pool. We came to the 18th green, I’m up one, and about to knock Bob out of the tourney and I see George was standing in the gallery and he knew what was about to happen. I had a 2-foot par putt to win and go into the finals. Guess what? Wendell left that putt hanging on the lip. I lost in extra holes and that is why Bob Ortega is on that list (of all-time champions. Ortega beat Chano Chavez in the finals). That horrible experience stayed with me a long time.
“… I’m 81 now. I still have a very appropriate memento on my trophy shelf about that fateful 2-foot putt. It is a golf ball with a face painted on it, with a big tear rolling down the cheek. It is up there with all the golf trophies I won in various events over the years, but that one haunting moment brings back a memory which was seared into my brain.”
2012, 2013 winner (setting record at 23 under in 2013), rising senior at New Mexico State
“The tradition is really something. With the people of Albuquerque – the golf community, everyone really gets into it. It makes it really special.”