With perfect blue skies above and dewy green blades of grass below, the beauty of Northern New Mexico was on full display over the weekend as the Taos Country Club welcomed pros and amateurs alike to make the rounds on its award-winning links.
Senior New Mexico Open
The 2017 Senior New Mexico Open was first on the docket with professional golfers from the region gathering in Taos for the Professional Golf Association event Sept. 7-8.
“It’s quite an honor to be able to host a professional event like this,” said Taos Country Club’s golf professional, Tad Bourg, who also played in the tournament. “Being No. 4 in the state really helps make the case for the PGA to want to utilize our golf course.” Bourg was alluding to the recent ranking by Golfweek Magazine that named Taos Country Club the fourth-best golf course in New Mexico.
Most participants hailed from New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. However, a handful of pros came from states outside of the Southwest region. Bourg and Ronald Stelten represented the Ranchos de Taos force.
Claiming the 2017 title was Portales, New Mexico, native and former University of New Mexico Lobo Kent Jones. A current member of the Champions Tour (PGA seniors, 50 and older), Jones was a PGA card holder for a span of 21 seasons. His highlights included 11 career top-10 finishes in 362 PGA events and close to $6 million in total career earnings. His purse for first place in Taos was $1,800.
Jones’ score of 134 was matched by Jeff Roth, from Farmington, New Mexico. Deadlocked at the end of 36 holes, a playoff was needed to determine the clear winner. Jones emerged as the 2017 Senior Open champ.
Other notable golfers in attendance included Bill Harvey, of Albuquerque; Carlton Blewett, from Roswell; and Richard Alarid, from Santa Fe. Harvey is the current golf professional at Ladera Golf Club in Albuquerque and is a former University of New Mexico Lobo basketball player who suited up for coach Gary Colson in the 1981-82 season.
Taos Amateur Championship
“This golf course was in spectacular shape,” said women’s amateur flight winner Monique Jeneski, of Albuquerque, who pulled off the come-from-behind win with a final net score of 141. “This was my first time playing this course, but you can bet I’m coming back to Taos.”
Jeneski was one of 11 women golfers who participated in the 2017 Taos Amateur Championship at TCC Sept. 9-10. The women’s flight was one of five flights in the two-day, 36-hole event featuring local and regional amateur golfers who competed for small prizes and bragging rights. Jeneski edged out Gloria Montoya, from Bernalillo, who was leading the field by seven strokes with a net score of 63 after the first round and finished with a net 142. Montoya hit a rough patch on the ninth and 10th holes, allowing Jeneski to sneak up and steal the top spot by one stroke.
In net scoring, a golfer’s handicap – or skill level – is factored into their gross (actual) stroke count and subtracted to create parity among the tournament participants. For instance, if a golfer enters an amateur tournament with a handicap of 10 and he or she shoots a gross score of 90, their net score becomes 80. The lowest net score is the winner.
Other groups – or divisions – competing in the Taos Amateur included men’s senior championship, first net, second net and championship flights. Second net handicaps ranged from 14 to 21, and first net handicaps ranged from 5 to 15. Both senior and championship flights relied on gross scores. In total, there were 38 participants in this year’s event.
Claiming first place in the men’s second net was Marcus Whitson, who scored 136 – beating Merlin Romero and Joe Harrison, who tied for second with 137.
In the men’s first net flight, Mike Ferguson garnered the win with 140. The longtime course superintendent at Taos Country Club used his unique advantage to finish well ahead of runner-up Dominic Martinez, who recorded a 149, and John Romansky, who came in third with a score of 150.
In the senior championship flight, Dr. Tom Simms was in fourth place – four strokes behind the leader – after shooting 81 in the first round. Simms’ second-round score of 82 was enough to overcome the leaders, whose inflated second-round scores allowed him to stealthily slide into the winner’s circle with a 163. Michael Forbes came in second with 164, and Mr. Steve Natelson rounded out the top three with a 166.
For the second year in a row, Josh Fambro conquered the course and the field to claim the championship flight title. His gross score of 143 (1-under par) meant he was the only golfer in the tournament to shoot a sub-par score. In second place was Joe Rivera with a 159. Third-place finisher was Carville Bourg, who carded a 160. This was Fambro’s fourth first-place title, having won in first and second net flights in previous years. The Taos High School junior is coming off a runner-up finish at the 54-hole New Mexico Junior Classic at Ladera Sept. 2-4. The New Mexico Junior Classic is a part of the Rocky Mountain Junior Golf Tour and is a qualifying event for the RMJGT Tournament of Champions and RMJGT Cup.
Up next for the TCC is the 11th annual Chile Challenge golf tournament Saturday (Sept. 16). The event is part of “Dollars for Scholars,” benefiting the Taos Milagro Rotary Club’s scholarship fund. Cost to enter the tourney is $140 ($95 for TCC members) and includes entry into the “Chile Challenge,” “Battle of the Breweries” and silent auction. Play will begin at 9:30 a.m.