Driven to Succeed

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Both on the golf course and off, Taylar Jaramillo has plenty of drive.

Dean Handon-Albuquerque Journal photo: BELEN NATIVE TAYLAR JARAMILLO was recently awarded the Adult Sponsorship Award by the New Mexico Activities Association for her work with the NMAA Foundation

Jaramillo, a former two-time Class 4A state golf champion at Belen High School, just wrapped up her sophomore season at St. Francis University, a Division I school in Loretto, Pa., by finishing seventh at the Northeast Conference Championship and earning All-NEC First Team honors.

In March, Jaramillo was honored by the New Mexico Activities Association for her work and achievements off the course.

Photo courtesy of St. Francis University: AFTER WINNING HER FIRST collegiate golf tournament in April, Belen’s Taylar Jaramillo helpped her St. Francis University sqaud to a second place finish at the Northeast Conference Golf Championship.

The NMAA awarded Jaramillo with the Adult Sportsmanship Award for her role in organizing a charity golf tournament for the NMAA Foundation to honor longtime New Mexico prep coach and former associate director of the NMAA Mario Martinez, who died in 2012 after a battle with cancer.

“Taylar is an excellent golfer and person,” NMAA Foundation program manager Gene Pino said. “She earned this award because of her unselfishness and her character and sportsmanship.”

Martinez, a Springer native who won a total of 12 state championships in three sports, lived in Belen after retiring in 2010, where he formed a friendship with Jaramillo.

“He was my neighbor, friend and mentor,” Jaramillo said. “He helped me a lot with the mental aspects of golf.”

Jaramillo spent her first summer home from college rounding up sponsors and finding players for the tournament.

“I had to go out and get sponsors from local communities,” Jaramillo said. “It was very hard. It took a lot of time going to businesses and getting the sponsors.”

Jaramillo’s hard work paid off. The tournament was played Aug. 17, 2013, at Tierra del Sol Golf Course in Belen and raised $8,000 for the NMAA Foundation. The money was used to fund a second Mario Martinez Memorial Scholarship – which had awarded just one student-athlete from New Mexico during its first year in 2013.

“I felt that he had given a lot to the athletes in New Mexico.” Jaramillo said. “He was a coach for many, many years. I just thought it would be a good way to honor him and help out the foundation as well.”

While her charity drive was a success, her drives on the course have also been worthy of praise.

Jaramillo, listed at 5-foot-3 and 105 pounds at St. Francis, consistently hits her drives over 250 yards.

“It’s incredible to watch her hit the ball,” St. Francis Head Coach Mary Kate Williams said. “She’s such a tiny girl and she generates such power in her golf swing. It’s really incredible to watch. She has one of the best golf swings I’ve ever seen. It’s so consistent. It repeats and there’s no wasted effort. She really surprised me with her ability.”

That ability has taken her from a little kid running around on the course to a potential collegiate championship contender.

“My dad took me out when I was little,” Jaramillo said. “I liked driving the cart around, and I would hit a few balls here and there. When I was 9 they entered me into a junior PGA event, and that’s where it kind of took off. It was pretty natural. … My sophomore year in high school is when I started to realize that I could go somewhere with it.”

Jaramillo finished second at state as a prep sophomore. She then won the 4A individual titles in 2011 and 2012. Jaramillo, who also earned Sun Country Junior Tour Player of the Year four times, earned a full scholarship to St. Francis and made a great first impression on her coach.

“She’s been a leader, even at such a young age,” Williams said. “She’s been an ideal player for me to have around. She was an amazing pickup for St. Francis University.”

On April 8 in Gettysburg, Pa., Jaramillo got her first taste of winning in college by shooting a 155 (78-77) and capturing the Wagner Seahawk Invitational.

After finishing this season strong, she wants the momentum to carry over to next season – individually and team-wise.

“I hope that our team can win a conference championship. We were really close this year,” Jaramillo said. “Of course, winning a few more tournaments would be nice and possibly winning a conference title myself would be a great accomplishment.”

Jaramillo, a member of the National Honor Society in high school, is studying accounting at St. Francis and has a 3.6 grade-point average. She also hopes to play on the LPGA Tour.

“Hopefully when I graduate I can pursue that, if not sooner,” she said. “I definitely need to keep working on the mental game, (and) chipping and putting are parts of my game that need to be worked on. I’ll always try to remain humble no matter what the outcome is.”

Williams is optimistic that Jaramillo can make it professionally.

“She knows where she has to improve and she’s always setting goals for herself,” Williams said. “She’s accomplished a lot in the last two years and I know if that’s a goal of hers, she can definitely do it.”