By Mark Smith and Pat Newell
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to one of New Mexico’s most decorated women’s amateur golfers, Nancy Romero, “The largest group of individual players joining the golf ranks are women.”
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
A lot of folks have come up with various acronyms for the game of G.O.L.F. over the years.
Most not allowed in a family newspaper.
But one of the earliest — which can be repeated in public, but has long run its course — was: Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.
It’s hard to believe these days, but many courses were once closed to women.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews, hallowed ground for golfers, went over 260 years before voting to allow women memberships in 2015.
It hasn’t taken as long for most other courses to change their ways, but just imagine if the old-timers could see things now.
“The largest group of individual players joining the golf ranks are women,” said one of New Mexico’s most decorated women’s amateur golfers, Nancy Romero.
The National Golf Foundation’s research backs up Romero’s statement, and in 2016, an NGF study revealed the number of junior girls has reached nearly one-third of all junior players, a total that has doubled since the 1995 study.
The New Mexico-West Texas Women’s Amateur/Albuquerque Women’s Golf Championship is Saturday-Monday at the Santa Ana Golf Club. Romero, a University of New Mexico graduate who played on the women’s golf team, and a retired Albuquerque Public Schools educator and administrator, is also a two-time City champ and multiple-time state amateur champion.
Romero isn’t playing in this year’s event because of a hand injury, but she has been one of the reasons the women’s game has grown in the state. She said she will be out watching the competition this weekend.
“Nancy has been one of our best for a long time,” says Kathy Morrow, co-director of this week’s tournament. “She’s meant a lot to the game.”
This weekend’s event(s) — which went to the current format of combining the two events in 2015 — has a full field of 88 players. It features a shotgun start (all players teeing off at the same time) at 8 a.m. each day.
Players from the Albuquerque area (as far as Belen) are eligible for both titles, while those outside of the area only compete for New Mexico-West Texas titles.
“Joining with Kathy Morrow and the group from Santa Ana has really helped the
Sun Country’s exposure,” says Easton Folster, co-tournament director who is the director of rules and competitions for the Sun Country Amateur Golf Association. “We only had about 12 or 15 players the year before we combined the tournaments. Now, we’re getting more and more players in all our Sun Country (New Mexico and West Texas) events.”
Romero said she was a “Title IX baby,” referencing the landmark 1972 federal ruling forbidding educational institutions that received federal aid to exclude — on the basis of one’s sex — participation in an educational program or activity.
What the law is better known for is creating more athletics opportunities for high school- and college-aged women.
Romero was on the forefront of New Mexico’s high school girls golf — thanks to her prep coach, the late Carl Seery. He established a girls golf team at Romero’s alma mater, Socorro, then made a successful push to get girls golf sanctioned by the New Mexico Activities Association.
Before Socorro established a girls team, legendary LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez played on the Goddard High School boys team — at the No. 1 position.
In the initial implementation of Title IX ruling, though, it wasn’t clear if educational institutions had to offer new girls sports teams, or just an equal opportunity to participate. But Romero pointed out to her coach that there were few girls out there good enough to compete with the boys, so it would be better to start a brand-new girls team.
More than 40 years later, high school girls golf continues to flourish in New Mexico.
“If it wouldn’t have been for Carl Seery, I don’t know how long it would’ve been before we had girls golf teams (in New Mexico),” Romero said.
Romero’s story is one of the great victories for women’s and girls golf, but women still fight an uphill battle.
“It’s nice to be greeted (at courses) on equal ground,” said Rosa Estrada, president of the Santa Ana Women’s Golf Association. “I don’t pay a reduced greens fee, and (on the golf course) women aren’t always the ones holding up the end of the train.”
One major difference, however, that Estrada sees: In the transition to adulthood, golf loses more women than men.
After high school and college, ‘They get married, get into their careers, have kids,” said Estrada. “… They lose the ability and time to play.
“Life seems to get hectic (and for women), once that starts to calm down and their kids become more independent, they start playing again. We want to tap into that younger (adult woman) to keep playing. We want them to know that it’s OK to play, come on back. We have places for you and plenty of opportunities to play.”
Saturday-Monday: New Mexico-West Texas Women’s Amateur/Albuquerque Women’s Golf Championship, Santa Ana Golf Club, 8 a.m. shotgun each day