The Belen High School boys golf team has enjoyed a very strong start to the season, winning two of the three tournaments that the team has competed in so far this season.
Most recently, the Eagles hosted and won the Belen Eagle Invitational at Pendaries Golf Course outside of Las Vegas. Grady Cox, an eight grader, was the team’s top scorer in addition to finishing first overall in the tournament, shooting a 76.
Cesar Perez had the second lowest score on the team, shooting an 86. The team score for BHS was 344, 18 strokes ahead of second place St. Pius X, which shot a 362.
“Perez finished fifth, he really surprised me,” head coach Donald Marquez said. “He really stepped up like I’ve been wanting the other boys to do.”
He stepped up in the place of senior Josh Gallegos, who is typically the second place golfer for BHS, but an off day for Gallegos presented an opportunity for Perez, as well as Mario Valdez and Tyler Willis.
“(Perez, Valdez and Willis) all really stepped up their game and really helped our No. 2 when he struggled,” Marquez said. “If he had played like he normally can we would’ve run away with the tournament but it was closer because of that. The other three did what they were supposed to, they really stepped it up.”
Gallegos is the elder statesman of the team as the only senior, but he is also the only upperclassman. Every other golfer is a sophomore or younger, setting the Eagles up to be competitive for years to come with the current roster, which has created high expectations for BHS this year and going forward.
The team also won the Grants invitational that kicked off the year, and the early sucesses have given Marquez confidence that the team will be able to make a run at the Sartans for the district title despite three straight second place finishes.
“Pius is the tough one in our district,” Marquez said. “It was nice to see us get them because we haven’t gotten them in three years. In the last couple of tournaments we’ve played with them, our team has actually beat them so I’m really excited about that.”
The success for the team continued in the latest tournament at Los Altos in Albuquerque, as the boys got the first of the three qualifying legs that are necessary for the state tournament.
For a tournament to count as a qualification event, there must be at least three varsity high school teams competing on the boys or girls side, depending on the team in question.
A qualifiying score must be shot three times on at least two different courses in order to help a team reach state. Qualifying scores are calculated with a formula that is based on the United States Golf Association course rating.
The target system is done to give teams who don’t win the district tournament another way to qualify for the state tournament. Any team that wins the district tournament and shoots a qualifying score automatically qualifies for state, regardless of the other results.
The state tournament isn’t until May, so there is plenty of time for the Eagles to pick up those final two qualifying legs. The last varsity tournament of the fall will be on Oct. 28, at 9 a.m. at Albuquerque Country Club. The tournament is hosted by Bosque School.
The girls team, which Marquez also coaches, is in a bit of a different situation, with a very young team, the goal is to build for the future and compete for district a few years down the line, but the progress the team has made this season has been eye opening.
Marquez said this year everyone has already improved on their personal bests by 15 to strokes, a massive jump to make in just three tournaments.
He believes the girls team, which also only has one upperclassman, should be ready to compete in the spring following the leaps they’ve made so far this fall.
He also pointed out there are a number of eighth graders not currently playing who he believes will be able to bring a lot to the team next year as they enter their freshman year.