Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
During the final day of the New Mexico-West Texas Amateur Championship last month, Ignacio Arcaya met an old friend and picked up some valuable golf lessons along the way.
Arcaya, who will be a sophomore at University of New Mexico, rode in the same cart with Greg Condon, a 57-year-old who won the tournament. Also playing in that final round group was Sam Choi, also an incoming sophomore on the UNM men’s golf team.
Turns out, the three will make up the Sun Country Amateur Golf Association team in the 72-hole Pacific Coast Amateur Championship at UNM Championship Golf Club Tuesday through July 26. Safe to say the two Lobos will have an advantage, playing on their home course.
In addition, Ben Tolsma, who finished his eligibility with the UNM men’s golf team in 2018, is competing as an individual in the 53rd edition of the prestigious amateur tournament. Tolsma is the host club selection. He said he found out last week, when UNM Championship Golf Club general manager Adam Roybal selected him.
Arcaya, Choi and Condon are among the 45 who were selected to vie for the Morse Cup, the team championship, which is during the first 36 holes of the Pacific Coast Amateur. Three players from each of the 15 Pacific Coast member associations were selected. Also included in the Pacific Coast Amateur are 38 Presidential Invitations, including defending champion Isaiah Salinda, ranked No. 13 in the World Golf Amateur Rankings.
Condon also earned eligibility to play in the Pacific Coast Amateur upon winning the New Mexico-West Texas Amateur at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club on June 23.
“Greg played amazing,” Arcaya said of Condon, who also won the event in 2017 at Paa-Ko Ridge. “It was amazing to see him play, how he manages the course. Very solid overall game. Very good putter. Doesn’t make a lot of mistakes which is crucial at Paa-Ko, and it will be at UNM. I definitely learned a lot from him in those two days. He’s not the longest hitter. He can still hit it enough to where he can score on any course.”
Arcaya wasn’t too shabby himself during that final round at Paa-Ko. He finished runner-up, four strokes behind Condon, who is from Monte Vista, Colo. Choi finished tied for seventh, 10 shots back of Condon.
“I’m looking forward to playing on the team with these guys,” Condon said. “I guess because of my age, they just seem like fine, young gentlemen to me. I’m sure at UNM they recruit guys like these. Not only are they good golfers, but they are really mature. They are really knowledgeable. It’s a pleasure to be a part of that.”
Condon, who works for a potato packaging company in Monte Vista, said he is well aware of the age difference when he plays in most amateur events. He is the oldest amateur in the Pacific Coast Amateur by about 10 years.
“They hit it so much farther, it’s so much fun to watch them,” Condon said of the majority of his competition, amateurs who are in college or recently graduated from a university. “All I got is what I got and I do the best I can. … I don’t hit it very far, I know that. I work hard on that. Lately here I’ve had a stretch where I’m playing OK. It’s too hard to predict. My game is too fickle. You just have to show up ready and hope to heck you’re in the last group and then that you’re ready for that.”
Tolsma said he is grateful and “super excited” to be playing in the event as the host club selection.
He recently earned his master’s degree in sports administration. After competing for the Lobos, he started working for the Sun Country PGA Section as an operations coordinator.
In between work, he plays in amateur events.
“I treat golf more as a privilege because I get to play now; whereas it was a job before,” Tolsma said. “I feel like I enjoy the game more now. You’re not going to get to play all the time because you have a job now. So when I do get to go out and play, it’s always fun.”
Next week should be fun.