New Mexico Tech Golf Course on the west side of Socorro, New Mexico, may be one of the shorter courses in the state, but it’s widely regarded as one the most challenging and scenic. Like so many other courses that have been closed down due to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decree that it’s not an essential business, the course is facing some unprecedented challenges.
Tech Director of Golf Sabino Grijalva saw it coming.
“I was kind of expecting it in the sense of seeing how things were coming down the line. Other businesses closing, the talk … it’s been somewhat of a situation where I don’t think a lot of us have been in, to have a golf course close for this long of a time,” he said. “There’s been some other places where you have a natural disaster, a hurricane or tornado.”
In that same vein, Grijalva again agreed that the situation is unprecedented.
“Nobody has a play book for this. There is no ‘This is what you do when this happens.’ So it’s definitely some challenging times, but I think we’re all just trying to do it and do what everybody needs,” he said.
Socorro has historically been a community that prides itself in the education and molding of young golfers. In 2019 the Warriors boys’ golf team won the 1A-3A state championship with Joshua Walsh and Jeremiah Avery finishing second and third in state, respectively, and the girl’s team finished in a tie for third as Harley Richardson placed third in the state.
In 2016 the Warriors’ boys’ won state in Roswell, NM, by a margin of 25 strokes over perennial powerhouse Hope Christian.
While Socorro spring athletics were abruptly cancelled due to COVID-19, Grijalva thinks there are ways for young golfers to stay on top of their game in a time of crisis.
“As far as the high school kids and junior golfers in Socorro, do other activities. They can definitely play basketball, or whatever you can do at your home to stay active. Stay loose, and stay in touch with any kind of athletic sport,” he said. “Whether it be golf, football, baseball, whatever. Stay in touch with that just by practice swings in your front yard. Maybe chipping if mom and dad allow that. Depending on your space, depending on your yard and your situation, if mom and dad will allow you to do stuff like that, maybe chip it inside on the carpet. Try and chip from a rug onto a chair or something.”
Grijalva agreed that the defending state champion Warriors might be disappointed with not getting an opportunity to defend their title this year, a team he described as young and resilient, he knows they’re looking forward to the chance to repeat in 2021.
“They’re going to bounce back from this,” he said. “I think everybody will as far as the golfing community.”
As far as the status of the course, Grijalva said the grounds crew is still doing their jobs and keeping the course fresh for when golfers can finally hit the greens again.
“That’s the other side of things. Our maintenance department is doing an awesome job of going in every day and continuing to upkeep the golf course and keep it ready,” he said. “That way when we are able to go back to somewhat of a normal situation, they’ll be able to go back and pick up where we left off.”
Several tournaments have also been cancelled, including the Veterans Golfers Association Tournament, the Seery Invitational, the Socorro High School District Championships and feasibly the Southwest Golf Association President’s Cup in May. But Grijalva and his staff are doing what they can to possibly make those dates up in the future.
“I know some tournaments are going to be affected by it, and obviously we’re going to try and do the best we can to try and reschedule and readjust, and see if we can’t have some of those tournaments later in the year,” he said.
He’s been looking at calendars and brainstorming in regard to creating some golf initiatives to present and possibly implement in the future, including leagues, golf shop-related events, and events at the course’s restaurant, “So when everybody does come back they’re excited and ready to play. We’ve got some options for them to take advantage of,” he said. “I really hope we’re going to be very busy. I hope everybody is just itching to get out there and play.”
Until then, Grijalva like the rest of Socorro County, is playing the waiting game.