Tim Tonkinson didn’t hesitate when he was asked the question of why he enjoys playing in the City Hackers golf league.
“I like trying to beat these guys,” he said with a smirk on June 16 at Arroyo del Oso Golf Course. “Yup, that’s my favorite.”
Julian Gallegos, one of Tonkinson’s friends in his playing group of four, was also quick with a response.
“He hasn’t been successful,” Gallegos said in a comedic tone, as if he were delivering a punch line. “But he’s working hard at it.”
This is actually a tame example of the trash talk that goes on once a week during the City Hackers’ season.
The jokes are a part of what makes the league so fun, many of the league members say.
They are proud to be a part of a league that began in 1987.
The league, which consists of 60 competitors who are either currently City of Albuquerque employees or retired, is much different now from when it started.
In 1987, when the public works division was a part of the City of Albuquerque staff, water finance employees and water engineers produced competition in the form of golf matches against each other, said Thomas Torres, who is the secretary and handicap chairman of the City Hackers league.
“One day they said, ‘Why don’t we just form a league?’ ” said Torres, who worked for the city for 25 years and has been in the league for 27 years. “They put the rules together. They put the whole score sheet together, for handicaps. At one point the league got so popular they capped it at 40 people. But since then we upped the membership to 60. And there’s a waiting list. We average about 40 golfers each week.”
Torres is the perfect person to handle the secretary duties and to be in charge of the handicap for each player. He transferred all his high-level organizational skills from when he was the finance manager for the City of Albuquerque risk management division. He held that job for eight years.
He has been the secretary and handicap chairman for the City Hackers league since 1996, with the exception of two years when he was the league’s president. But he stepped down because no one else wanted to do the secretary’s work — mainly keeping track of everyone’s weekly’s scores with the help of a computer.
Torres said he has the league’s original rulebook. He was one of the members who helped transfer that online. Torres does the work because he is among the many members who love the league.
There are plenty of laughs and several moments of fun, but the league can be serious business with several of the golfers going at it with their best efforts.
Torres is a part of executive committee that includes president Gil Espinosa, vice president Vince Gallegos and treasurer Patrick Griego.
Griego certainly has a key role: collecting the money. There is usually a skin pot for two holes during the nine-hole round. And of course there’s more money to be had each week with side bets and at the end of the season for the top finisher.
Each season, consisting of 22 weeks, the City Hackers move from each city golf course to the other. This season they are at ADO. After their round, they sometimes hang out at the Bear Trap, the bar near the pro shop.
Next season, they’ll move to Ladera and since they play on Thursdays, they’ll most likely partake in Ladera’s Thirsty Thursdays, which features drink specials and seating on the patio where a live band plays.
Beer is a part of the camaraderie for many of the golfers, who also include women among its members.
But it always goes back to what takes place on the golf course, and who could hit the hardest, sink long putts or win the round each week. The league also has tournaments that sometime take place on courses other than the city’s, for instance Paradise Hills Golf Club.
“I like the friendships,” said Ray Wright, who is 74. “You get to play golf every week with friends.”
Wright has had six holes-in-one during his many years of playing golf, mainly in Albuquerque.
“I’ve been playing since 1960,” Wright said. “So six aces, it’s not that big of a feat.”
Wright was in a playing group of three with Victor Grande and Michael “Mario” Sedillo. They were missing their usual partner, Espinosa, because he wanted to stay out of the 100-degree heat that day.
Sedillo lets his friends call him Mario. It’s a nickname created when city workers played basketball back in the day. Sedillo showed great speed, yet he is short, reminding many of the Nintendo video game character.
“You have to have thick skin here, especially when they’re calling you a little Mario guy,” Sedillo said. “But it’s good to hang out with friends. All good, And you meet new friends.”
IRISH OPEN: Former University of New Mexico golfer John Catlin finished tied for fourth on Sunday at 15-under par-273 (67-72-65-69) at Mount Juliet and became one of three to qualify for the British Open, July 14-17 at St. Andrews, via the Open Qualifying Series.
Adrian Meronk won the Irish Open, Ryan Fox finished second and Thirston Lawrence was third. The three already were exempt for the British Open. The three spots available from the Irish Open went to Catlin, David Law and Fabrizio Zanotti.
USGA: UNM senior Lauren Lehigh shot 2-under 70 to finish tied for third on June 30 at Colorado National Golf Club in Erie, Colo. to qualify for the 122nd U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.
She was one of four to qualify for the event that takes place Aug. 8-14 at Chambers Bay Golf Club in University Place, Washington.
Lehigh shot 11-over 227 (77-75-75) when she played at Chambers Bay in the Seattle University Redhawk Invitational in April.
SUN COUNTRY: The New Mexico-West Texas Women’s Amateur Championship takes place Friday through Sunday at Santa Ana Golf Club on the Santa Ana Pueblo.