How most casual observers might remember that day is not how Enrique Armijo remembers that day.
“It was a pretty perfect day,” he said. “Up until that scorecard incident.”
Twelve months ago, Armijo, a sophomore at Cleveland High School, appeared to have won the Class 6A state championship at Piñon Hills Golf Course in Farmington.
But there was a problem.
He signed for a 70.
He shot 71.
When he saw the mistake, he went to the officials and alerted them.
He was disqualified.
Of course, in and of itself, Armijo acknowledging the error is not what is entirely significant here. Golfers are notorious about their ethics, about policing themselves. But it spoke volumes about Armijo that he stepped forward, and he was both polite and gracious when I approached him for an interview that afternoon.
“I just thought I checked the scorecard right,” he said. “But that passed over my eyes.”
Yes, what should have been one of the great golfing moments of Armijo’s young life became — in the bubble of that afternoon — something shocking, gutwrenching, surreal.
But in a time when people like me have to report (too often) about poor behavior, here is someone who when faced with a crisis, could not have managed himself any better. And that, friends, is something we should laud.
“It reaffirmed all the things we’ve taught him about character and integrity,” said Armijo’s mother Tanya.
Enrique shared a long hug with his girlfriend, Storm golfer Jacque Galloway, before he left Piñon Hills a year ago. This occurred out of the eyesight of many of the players and parents who were there that day. The pain, for both, was palpable.
“She took it harder than I did,” Enrique said in an interview last week. And he is right. Galloway was gutted at what happened.
And in terms of the golf, Armijo’s DQ may be what many people most recall. But they shouldn’t, because it isn’t the DQ that Armijo clung to in the aftermath. There proved to be golf benefits, but also human benefits.
“Going into state, he, as a golfer, questioned whether he belonged,” said his father, Justy. “And I think that day gave him the confidence he was looking for.”
As Armijo sat down to chat about what happened a year ago and the impact it had on his life, it was obvious he had a healthy and mature grasp of what occurred.
“On the whole,” he said with a smile, “it was a perfect day. It shaped me into the golfer I wanted to be this year.”
It’s often said that golfers, like baseball closers or placekickers, must have short-term memories. An incident like this might have sent other teenagers spiraling into a prolonged darkness. Not Armijo.
“He’s better for it,” said Justy Armijo.
Indeed, aside from the immediate aftermath, Armijo chose a proactive approach. He isn’t sure how or why he missed the scoring error on the card, only that it did happen. And that it was his responsibility.
“I don’t have too much memory of that day,” he said. “I got in the zone. Athletes get in that zone.”
Of course, it took a bit of time to regain his bearings. Understandably, he was angry. Disappointed, he said.
“But it was all part of a bigger lesson,” Armijo said.
“That I could do it,” he said, echoing what his father had said. Enrique had given up golf for two years as a sixth-grader.
“I had belief issues ever since I picked up golf again my eighth grade year,” Armijo said. “In my heart, knowing I beat all those guys, it pushed me over that hump. Except I didn’t win it. So it left me with that motivation and confidence that I could do it again.”
As this year’s Class 5A state tournament began Monday at Canyon Club in Albuquerque, Armijo shot 79 in the first round, just his second sub-80 score of the spring, a spring in which he has struggled to score after a solid group of scores in Cleveland’s fall schedule. Armijo is 10 shots off the lead of Cibola’s Aiden Krafft.
But regardless of how it turns out today as the tournament ends, Armijo knows that moment 12 months ago invigorated him. For the better.
“I have no pain from that day, no negative memories, just pure joy from that whole experience,” Armijo said. “Turning myself in showed a lot about who I am, to myself.”
And to others. Armijo recalled the father of a Clovis golfer he played with last year commenting to him about the fortitude and character it took to snatch a state championship out of his own hands. Exchanges like that solidified the silver lining in this story.
“It was a beautiful day,” Armijo said. “One of the best days I’ve ever had in my life, despite the outcome.”