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12-year-old golfer Sky shines

SANTA ANA PUEBLO — The Sky is truly the limit for the youngest player in the field of the N.M.-West Texas/ABQ Women’s Amateur.

Apologies for the cliché, but they’re pretty tough to avoid when describing the dynamic game — and name — of 12-year-old Avery Sky.

“All my friends think my name’s really cool,” Sky said following Sunday’s second round at Santa Ana Golf Club. “They’re like, ‘Gosh, I wish I could have the name Avery Sky.’ ”

As well as her golf game.

Sky, a home-schooler from Rio Rancho, was tied for the second-flight lead after Saturday’s opening round of the 54-hole event at 83. On Sunday, she had “one of my worst rounds ever,”  after a 91 left her five shots out of the top spot in her flight.

The final round is Monday at Santa Ana, with the 88-player field teeing off at 8 a.m.

While the youngster has turned plenty of heads with her play in her flight, Emma Mesta-Garcia has done the same in the championship flight. Despite a pair of late bogeys Sunday, Mesta-Garcia shot a par 72 on Sunday and is 2-under 142 overall. She leads the NMWT by 10 shots over Albuquerque’s Stephanie Blount.

Blount (72-80—152) leads the 74th Albuquerque Women’s Amateur portion of the combined event by 10 shots over Alex Darwin (85-77—162) in the six-player field.

Does the 56-year-old Blount still hope to catch Mesta-Garcia, or is she just concerned about winning City?

“I’m just going to try and hit the golf ball the way I’m supposed to hit,” she said. “If I do that, it will be fine. I think Emma’s out of reach.”

Mesta-Garcia is living with her boyfriend/caddie, Casto Gomez, in Ruidoso this summer. That makes her eligible for the event, which is run by Sun Country Amateur Golf Association. The SCAGA includes New Mexico and West Texas.

Gomez, who recently graduated from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, is working at Ruidoso’s the Links at Sierra Blanca for the summer before trying to qualify for the Tour. Mesta-Garcia doesn’t work at the course, but consistently practices there.

“I think the strategy was better (on Sunday), even though the score doesn’t reflect it,” said Mesta-Garcia, who will be a junior at UTRGV. “I’m not really focused on the lead, because my mental (game) would go away. So I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing (so I) have a real good mental toughness.”

Sky has also shown a great mental toughness despite her youth, and said she is ready to make a run in her flight.

“Some days you’re the windshield. Sometimes, you’re the bug,” she said. “(Sunday), I was the bug. But (Monday) is going to be different. I’m going to have a really good round. I told my mom, ‘I don’t want to play like this anymore.’ ”

Mother Andrea Yusnukis is Sky’s caddie for the event.

Sky is actually her middle name, and her birth name is also Yusnukis, same as dad Ron and mom.

Andrea said the kids have played national junior tournaments for years, and “the starters who announced at the number one tee box,” started saying “Avery Sky.”

“For ease of pronunciation, we legally shortened their names,” said Andrea, a former flight attendant.

“Their” includes Sky’s brother — Austin Jet — a rising freshman at Cleveland High. Dad, not coincidentally, is a pilot.

Sky, who likes to watch Golf Channel and the Hunting Channel and is a fan of musicians Taylor Swift and Adele, said she will attend Mountain View Middle School this year as a seventh-grader.

“Cleveland coaches are already biting their nails waiting for her,” Andrea said with a chuckle.

Sky, holding her black Shih Tzu named Boogee after Sunday’s round, said she is looking forward to midschool and Cleveland High, too.

College? “Somewhere that gives me a scholarship.” Sky says.