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Golf: Close won’t be good enough for ex-St. Pius star this weekend

Ashlee Garrett, a former St. Pius High standout golfer, excelled as a freshman at Long Island University Brooklyn this season.

Ashlee Garrett is back in town for the summer.

The former St. Pius High School standout golfer knew she would be coming back to Albuquerque after her first year of college at Long Island University Brooklyn. However, she’s not here necessarily for a break.

Garrett returned with a goal in mind, to win the New Mexico-West Texas Women’s Amateur and the Albuquerque Women’s Championship. The combined events begin Friday at Twin Warriors Golf Club and move to Santa Ana for play on Saturday and Sunday.

Last year, Garrett came oh, so close to winning the titles, which is now why she is determined to win.

She finished one shot behind the winner, Emma Mesta-Garcia, for the New Mexico-West Texas Women’s Amateur and then lost in a playoff to Shannelle Tafoya for the city championship.

“I feel pretty confident,” Garrett said of her game after one year of college. “These college tournaments have really prepared me well. We’ve been playing in tough conditions. My game is where it needs to be.”

This year, at the NM-WT Women’s Amateur and Albuquerque Women’s Championship, Mesta-Garcia will be absent from the field. But Tafoya is back to defend her city title.

“I’m glad to see that she’s coming back out,” Tafoya said of Garrett. “I’m glad about the field. It should be a good event this year.”

Tafoya, who works at Albuquerque Country Club, said she also wants to win both titles this weekend because she came so close to claiming the championships last year. She hasn’t been practicing as much leading up to this weekend, but she knows she’ll be ready.

“I play nine (holes) here and there, just to keep swinging,” Tafoya said. “Even though I only play nine here and there I’m still confident in my game. I’m a simple player. I feel like I can keep it together.”

Tafoya tees off on No. 10 at Twin Warriors at 7:40 a.m. In her group will be Sophia Zamarripa, a 16-year-old who will be a junior at Sandia High in the fall. She won the New Mexico-West Texas Girls Junior Amateur Championship last week at Los Altos Golf Course. She also won the Class 5A state championship in May.

Garrett starts on No. 10 at 7:30 a.m., and also has a girls’ prep star in her group, Jessica Osden of Los Alamos.

Osden, who at 15 is the youngest in the field, finished runner-up for the girls 4A championship as a freshman last spring.

“I think it’s very important,” Garrett said of the event this weekend. “I think it’s really cool that women of all ages are in the event, going for the title. I think it’s really important to have the women’s city championship for all the women golfers in Albuquerque.”

Garrett is excited for the challenge to win both titles this weekend. Since the tournaments were combined in 2015, there has not been one woman who has won both titles.

Garrett has dealt with plenty of challenges on and off the course within the past two years.

Garrett, who won the Class 5A state championship as a junior in 2017, suffered serious injuries after she was involved in a car accident in February 2018. The incident left her with a fractured lower back, and a broken left ankle and foot. She was in a brace and a cast for six weeks.

Yet she returned to finish runner-up for the Class 5A state title after losing in a playoff. She also helped St. Pius to its first girls team state title.

Her ability to overcome adversity provided her with great confidence as she played her first year at LIU Brooklyn.

She led the Blackbirds with a scoring average of 80.7 and recorded five top-15 finishes. She also led the Blackbirds in scoring at seven events during the season. She recorded a season-low two-round score of 14-over 157 at the Towson Invitational and she finished 11th at the Northeast Conference Championship.

“It was fun,” Garrett said of her freshman year at LIU Brooklyn. “I really enjoyed college golf more than high school. There was more competition. It was fun meeting new people and traveling.”

TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Tafoya will try to defend her Albuquerque championship to win her second city title, yet that would still be far off the pace of the woman who has won the most city crowns since the tournament began in 1944. That would be Jean Glantz, who won nine city championships.

Glantz left her mark as an amazing player on courses in Albuquerque, and definitely in the women’s city championship tournament.

According to information provided by tournament organizers, Glantz won the city trophy six years in a row, 1949-1954. Then she went back-to-back, 1956 and 1957. She won her final city title in 1961.

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