SANTA FE, N.M. — Robyn West has heard all about Santa Fe’s glory days.
Stories about how the 1985 Demonettes won state. District. And just about every tournament they played in.
She heard these stories not only because she’s a current member of the golf team. She heard them because she’s looking to continue the lineage.
“My mom (Becky West) was on that team,” West said. “So it would be very, very important if we can do what her team was able to do with the next generation.
“I want to be able to do what she did.”
And finally, she added, this year’s Demonettes will have just as good of a shot as any, with the team finally free from the shadow of Class 5A powerhouses — and long time district-mates — two-time defending champ Sandia and La Cueva.
Sure, her coach Leonard Baca shares the view of many other coaches: “You have to play the best to beat the best.”
But what if you continually play the best and come up short?
“After a while it becomes demoralizing,” he said. “You work so hard at practice; you work so hard on your own on weekends; and then you get these tournaments and find that you’re not competing with the top teams at the 5A level.
“Competing in a district with La Cueva and Sandia — not only in golf — was very difficult for all our students. But after dropping down to 4A, it’s just a good feeling to compete and have something to show for it.”
And so far, the Demonettes’ hard work has paid off in qualifying the entire team for the state tournament for only the second time since 1985. They enter Monday’s District 2-4A tourney with a shot at their first team title since the “glory days.”
But while earlier this season Santa Fe took down perennial favorite Los Alamos at the Los Alamos County Golf Course, Baca isn’t guaranteeing anything.
“They were missing two of their top five girls … so, as a measuring stick, we can throw that result out the window,” Baca said. “All I know is that if we go up there and play the way we’re capable of playing, it can be very competitive.”
Besides, Baca added, his players will have to step up their game.
Getting back on track
Two weeks ago the Demonettes won back-to-back tournaments, shooting their lowest team score of the season, 351, at the Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe.
But since then, it’s all gone downhill, culminating in a score of 435 this past Monday at their own tournament at the Santa Fe Country Club.
“Lets just say … we’re in a funk right now,” Baca said. “I think it’s probably because we’re at the end of the school year and there are a lot of distractions going on.
“So right now it’s just about getting that focus back.”
Easier said than done.
Advanced placement tests.
The reasons for a Santa Fe late-season collapse are numerous, and Baca understands that every team has to deal with it. However, if your team has only qualified as a team once in the past 26 years, virtually anything that comes up is uncharted territory.
“We had individual qualifiers for the past five years, but last year and this year we have a team,” Baca said. “So when the numbers increase, the concerns increase as well.”
Sophomore Andrea Grijalva — who along with juniors West and Allie Fullerton serve as the foundation for the squad — admits that things haven’t been going so well lately.
Or more precisely, “I already got all my legs, so I’ve been just chilling — I think we all have. But we’ll get back into it. We know it’s not over yet.”
No, it’s not.
But Grijalva, West and Fullerton have been there before — they played on last year’s team that finished tied for seventh at the 5A state tourney — and can draw upon its state tournament experience. An added bonus of dropping down to 4A is that Santa Fe will be one of the only schools to play a state tournament at the same site two years in a row — the University of New Mexico played host to the 5A tourney last year, and now the 4A tourney.
“It’s a really pretty course, but it’s intimidating,” Grijalva said. “You have to stay calm and take it one hole at a time.
“It’s not one of my favorite courses, but I’m glad I had a chance to play it before at state.”
But before heading to Albuquerque on May 9 for the season finale, there’s one more thing on the team’s agenda. And considering the last time the Demonettes won district predated her birth by almost a decade, 16-year-old Fullerton — who is graduating early and will enroll at UNM in the fall — said winning district Monday would be the perfect boost for a program that has lost its luster over the years.
“I’m excited for Santa Fe High golf since golf isn’t really a known sport at our school — we’re still kind of like the bowling team,” Fullerton said. “But it’s been getting better. Since I was freshman, there’s been a lot more interest and I definitely think winning (district) and placing at state will be big for the team.”
Photo Credit – eddie moore/journal Cutline – Santa Fe High golfers, from left, Allie Fullerton, Robyn West and Andrea Grijalva are members of the team that qualified for the state tourney this season and will be playing in the district tourney next week.