Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
With a 12:15 p.m. tee time at Ladera Golf Course, Alejandro Armijo admitted he felt “excited-anxious” to play Friday in the first round of the 78th annual Albuquerque Men’s City Championship.
Armijo, a 19-year-old Cleveland High alumnus, found it difficult to calm his nerves. So he decided to show up to Ladera 90 minutes early to warm up and ease his anxiety.
That apparently worked.
Armijo, who spent his freshman year at Oregon Tech and has since transferred to Oklahoma Christian, shot 5-under-par 67 to take the lead after the first of three rounds.
Arriving to the golf course early helped, but Armijo believed he could play well at Ladera because he shot a 67 there last week. He also said he could play “more freely,” because he felt there were several opportunities to score well at Ladera.
“I knew no matter who was going to be in the field that I was going to compete this year,” Armijo said of the competition – it is without two-time defending champion Patrick McCarthy, who missed the tournament because of a bad back.
“I wasn’t going to lag behind. I was going to be up there. I felt confident about that,” Armijo said.
With birdies on hole Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 17 (offset by bogeys on 13 and 14), Armijo is definitely up there.
However, 26-year-old Simon Miller is not far behind. The Albuquerque Academy graduate shot a 68.
Miller described himself as a “weekend warrior” who works as a budget and policy analyst for the state budget division in Sante Fe during the week. He spent one year at New Mexico State before finishing his education at University of New Mexico.
He expressed gratitude to play with his friends, Max Dawkins and James Gehrke, during the first round. Dawkins also went to Albuquerque Academy.
Gehrke, who played at La Cueva and UNM, shot a 71 to take the third spot heading into today’s second round at Arroyo del Oso. Sunday’s final round takes place at Los Altos. Gehrke finished tied for second last year.
“It was a fun round,” Miller said. “I hit my driver really well – it was pretty straight all day, and I made a ton of putts. That helps.”
His eagle on No. 17 from about 25 feet out also helped him stay in contention to win the city championship.
Armijo obviously will do his best to keep the lead.
Regardless, he has gathered plenty of motivation aside from the city championship that has helped improve his game. The form of motivation came from his desire to transfer to Oklahoma Christian, an NCAA Division II program, and leave Oregon Tech, which competes in NAIA.
“It was a great opportunity for my first year to play golf,” Armijo said of Oregon Tech.
“But I soon realized that I wanted to go to the next level. To not only help my game, but for also education. I am switching my major to business sports management. I want to go to the next level. I want to take my game and see what I can do at Division II rather than NAIA.”
When he walked to the scorer’s table to report his score, someone told Armijo, “You don’t look too happy about your score.”
Armijo responded, “Not happy?? Just hot.”
Perhaps, Armijo was still in competitive mode, as well. It’s sometimes difficult for him to control his emotions that have proven to hurt his game, he said.
Arriving early ended up helping him on Friday. Maybe he’ll do so again today at Arroyo.