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Montoya takes on challenge of instruction at new golf venue

Jason Montoya, a longtime junior golf instructor at Santa Ana Golf Club, is the new director of instruction at Topgolf Albuquerque located at Interstate 25 and Montaño. (Courtesy of Grace Jorgensen)

Expected to open in in early February, Albuquerque’s Topgolf is not on a golf course. Located at Interstate 25 and Montaño, it is largely described as a golf and entertainment venue and will offer activities different from the outdoor game.

However, when it comes to instruction, Jason Montoya insists it’s the same. Overall, Montoya knows it’s all about growing the sport, and that’s what he wants.

Montoya, 35, the longtime junior golf instructor at Santa Ana and Twin Warriors Golf Clubs, is now the director of instruction at Topgolf in Albuquerque. He’s excited for the grand opening, and thrilled to lead more people to golf.

“There’s nothing really different about Topgolf,” Montoya said. “It’s just putting the game of golf in a different atmosphere. We have Toptracer and we have all the flight launch monitors. I’m still giving high-quality lessons, it’s just at a Topgolf now.”

Montoya has been receiving training recently for his new gig, but didn’t say specifically when it begins. City officials have issued food and drink permits and a certification of occupancy,

Topgolf had to push back construction and thus the original opening as well because of the coronavirus pandemic. A customer service representative at the number listed on the website didn’t give an estimate Thursday for the opening date, and the website says only that the Albuquerque facility is “opening soon.”

When it does begin operations, the local Topgolf’s classification as an outdoor recreational facility will allow it to operate at 25% capacity under the current Red to Green framework. The venue will be able to operate at 50% capacity once Bernalillo County reaches the green level.

Montoya believes Topgolf will be great for Albuquerque, which has experienced an increase in rounds at various golf courses, municipal, public and private. While the pandemic has shut down other sports and activities, people have taken to the golf course, assuming the sport is safer than most.

A golf coach at Albuquerque Academy, Montoya is already well-versed in teaching and coaching. His Topgolf training, he said, “has been more about learning the Topgolf culture. Topgolf is more of an experience. We want to have a fun atmosphere, so it’s all about being positive, creating moments that matter.”

It’s as if Montoya was made for this job. He’s a kid at heart with the ability to connect to young and the mature, mainly because of his positive outlook.

Montoya, who is from the Santa Ana Pueblo, learned about golf around the age of 8. When he first learned, he also gained the motivation to teach because he wanted kids like him to learn to play.

“Jason’s love and fondness for the game is exceptional,” said Derek Gutierrez, the director of golf at Santa Ana and Twin Warriors. “Growing up in our junior programs here at Santa Ana Pueblo, it was very apparent early on that not only would his affinity for the game be very evident but his love for people would be equally abundant. He’s a great instructor here with our program at Santa Ana Golf Club and Twin Warriors Golf Club for people of all ages with a focus on junior golf.”

Even during the coronavirus pandemic Montoya said his schedule on most days has consisted of three to four lessons per day and then his own time to play the golf course. He said he’ll continue to teach juniors at Santa Ana and Twin Warriors.

“When I was a junior, all the pros helped me out,” said Montoya, who in 2012 became the first Pueblo member to be elected to PGA of America membership. “So that’s what I’m trying to do now.”

Montoya said he had been working at Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, when he became more familiar with Topgolf. For about three years, he contemplated working for Topgolf and then went for it in the winter of 2019. He soon learned a new Topgolf would be opening in New Mexico.

“I was thinking I might as well get my foot in the door if the beast is coming to town,” Montoya said of Topgolf coming to Albuquerque. “It’s a fun place to work. You have the music going. You have the TVs going, so it’s a different atmosphere. But I think it’s a lot of fun for the younger students and also the students that don’t want to go to the golf course.”

The Journal’s Pilar Martinez contributed to this report.

 

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