HIERARCHY: Ignacio Arcaya Beats Lobo Mates for Men’s City Golf Crown

UNM golfer Ignacio Arcaya, right, receives the trophy from Enchantment Sports’ Mark Smith after winning the Albuquerque Men’s City Amateur Golf Championship on Sunday. The trophy is named after Smith.

By Mark Smith
Enchantment Sports

Editor in Chief

University of New Mexico senior Ignacio Arcaya birdied the final three holes, erased a two-shot deficit with two holes remaining and won the 80th Albuquerque Men’s City Amateur Golf Championship in a wild finish on Sunday at Los Altos Golf Course.

Arcaya hit a trio of huge drives on those closing holes, followed with sparkling pitch shots and made clutch short putts on each for a 5-under-67 and a 13-under-203 total in his comeback victory.

Lobo teammates Brandon Shong and Carson Herron played in the same final group as Arcaya, and all three had the solo lead during the final six holes of the 54-hole event.

The last hole was the only time in the entire tournament Arcaya was alone at the top of the leaderboard.

Shong had a two-shot lead over both Arcaya and Herron with two holes remaining, but just missed 10-footer for birdie on 17 and three-putted from 60 feet for bogey on No. 18 to lose by a shot.
He closed with a 4-under 68 to finish alone in second at 12 under.

Herron, a freshman and the leader after the first two rounds with a 64 at Ladera on Friday and a 68 on Saturday at Arroyo del Oso, had two late bogies on Sunday and shot 2-over-74 to finish at 10 under in third of the event, sponsored by Auto Station.

Former St. Pius and Western New Mexico star Marcus Molina, 36, was fourth at 7 under with Albuquerque Academy junior Neil Parasher fifth at 6 under and UNM golfer Alexandre Bauduin, who is from France, at 5 under.

“I always remained confident that I had a chance, because we went back and forth all day,” said Arcaya, who is from Venezuela. “I got off to a hot start and tied for the lead after just four holes, then three holes later I was back three.

“But I just stayed positive the entire round. I knew the last three holes were really getable, so I wanted to give myself some good chances. I knew if I gave myself opportunities on those three holes, I’d have a chance to win.”

That chance didn’t look great when Arcaya and Shong, who is from Australia, both had 2-putt birdies on the par 5 16th and Shong led by two shots.

Herron could only manage par on the hole and was also two back at 11 under.

Herron then fell out of contention on the par 4 17th when he hit his tee shot out-of-bounds to the right, leading to a bogey that dropped him to 10 under.

Shong hit a safe tee shot down the middle on the short hole and landed his approach about 10 feet short of the pin, while Arcaya ripped a driver off the tee and was about 15 yards short of the green, but behind a sand trap and not much room to work.

“I had a downhill lie and not much green to work with,” Arcaya said. “It wasn’t the easiest pitch in the world. I wasn’t going to get too cute, but fortunately I landed it perfectly between the green and the bunker, and it had a great line to it.”

Such a great line, in fact, that Arcaya nearly wiped out that two-stroke deficit with one shot. The ball headed right for the cup, but caught the left lip and spun off about six feet away.

After Shong missed his birdie putt, Arcaya drained his to move to 12 under and within a shot of Shong.

Shong ripped his tee shot down the middle again on the par 4 18th, but into the fairway bunker while Arcaya bombed another drive over the trap and just right short of the green.

“I really got into a tough spot in the trap,” Shong said. “I wasn’t able to do much with it coming out.”

Shong’s shot from the bunker barely got to the green, leaving him a 60-foot putt for birdie.

Arcaya hit another perfect chip, and landed six feet to the right of the cup.

Shong’s birdie attempt was about 12 feet short of the cup, and he missed the par putt as well to finish at 12 under.

Suddenly, Arcaya’s sidehill birdie putt wasn’t just for a tie — it was for the win.

Bang!

His putter left his hands in celebration as the ball dropped home.

Ignacio Arcaya tips his cap after sinking the putt that gave him the 2021 Men’s City Amateur Golf Championship on Sunday at Los Altos (Mark Smith/Enchantment Sports).

“I’ve changed it a lot over the years,” he said of his putting style, in which he takes very little time over the ball. “I’ve been working really hard on it for the last couple of years. I got that idea of feeling it once I’m behind the ball, focus on the hole and just putt it. It’s been working out the last couple of tournaments, and it worked out today.”

The 19-year-old Herron entered the day at 12 under and with a four-shot lead over both Arcaya and Shong. But he had bogeys on No. 1 and No. 6 and was tied for the lead with Arcaya with Shong a shot back.

Herron then made a charge with birdies on the next three holes and headed to the back nine with a three-shot cushion.

He held at least a share of the lead until the par 5 14th. But he hit his second shot behind a tree just right of the green, and soon found trouble.

“I think I chose the wrong club,” he said of his little pitch that smacked into a tree branch and right back at his golf bag. “I chose a 56 (degree wedge), and I thought I could easily get under the tree. The lie was pretty tight, so I tried to put it back in my stance and just pitch it.

“I just hoped to fly it 5 feet onto the green and it would have shot right to the pin. I just barely missed the spot.”

Carson Herron tried to pitch under this tree to the 14th green, but caught a branch that led to a bogey and knocked him out of the lead on Sunday (Mark Smith/Enchantment Sports).

The bogey left Herron at 11 under while Shong made birdie to take the lead at 12 under, and he held it until the final hole.
 
“I hit a lot of good shots today, and it was a really good learning experience,” said Herron, whose father, Tim Herron, was a three-time All-American at UNM and four-time PGA Tour winner. “That back nine cost me.”

“It’s disappointing, but I enjoyed the tournament a lot. And it was fun playing with my teammates.”

Brandon Shong, left in blue shirt, Carson Herron, center facing camera, and Ignacio Arcaya, right, wait to tee off on the 13th hole during the final round of the Men’s City Amateur on Sunday at Los Altos Golf Course (Mark Smith/Enchantment Sports).

The tournament had traditionally been held during the Fourth of July weekend, but was moved to mid-August last year when the courses had to re-adjust because of the COVID-19 issues.
 
Tournament officials decided to leave it in August again this go-around — allowing more of the UNM golfers to take part, since they are already back in school.

“One of the reasons I wanted to play was to get some tournament rounds in,” Arcaya said. “I like the fact it’s at a different course every day, it’s a different environment, it really got me into the competitive focus.

“It was a tough day, because the two guys I was playing with were playing really well. To come out on top is really special.”

TOP 10: Rounding out the top 10 were Matt Van Dyke (74-71-67) in seventh at 4 under, Shaun Payne (72-72-69) at 3 under, Aiden Krafft (70-74-74) at 2 over and Michael Armijo (69-74-76) at 3 over.

Krafft, a junior at Cibola High, closed with a 60 last year and finished one shot back in second.

TALK THE TALK: Joe O’Neill, president of KQTM-FM Radio, played in the second flight of the tournament – which uses handicaps.

And any golfer who has ever played in a tournament with handicaps knows how they can be, well, misleading – at best.

The idea is to get everyone’s score close to par after handicaps are subtracted.

O’Neill has a 13.4 handicap, meaning he subtracts, approximately, that amount from his scorecard in competition.

He finished tied for third with rounds of 86-85-86, which, after handicap, came out to 77-74-75 for a 226.

Which is pretty legit — but 12 shots behind winner Frank Cherry (67-72-75) at 214.

Jonathan Price (77-74-75) was second at 221.

“I’m the epitome of a 13-handicapper,” O’Neill said with a laugh.

Darren Arnold (67-69-77 after handicap) won the first flight for the second straight year at 213 with Max Montoya (69-73-73) second at 215.

PRESIDENT’S/SENIOR: In the other non-handicap flights, David Vallez (75-73-76) won the President’s Flight with a 224, while tournament sponsor Luis Luna (77-78-74) of Auto Station was second at 226.

The Senior Flight winner was former pro Mike Taylor (75-70-72) at 217 with Robert Farmer (73-74-74) second at 221 and Kevin Lente (75-72-75) third at 222.

MOTHER/WIFE/FAN: Herron’s mom, Ann Herron, helped her son make the move from Minnesota to Albuquerque this week for school and stayed to watch Carson play all three rounds.

After the event, she found herself still watching golf.

Her husband, Tim, was one of the featured players during the telecast of the PGA Champions Boeing Classic — which was on the tube in the snack bar at Los Altos.

Tim made a great run with a final round 67 for an 11-under-205, but came up one shot shy of Rod Pampling and tied for second.

Arcaya’s title puts his name on the Mark “Ticky” Smith trophy, that rests in the Los Altos trophy case.

Will that help him gain favor with UNM golf coach Glen Millican?

“What it does, is puts me halfway to what he did in the tournament.” Arcaya said with a laugh.

Millican, a former Lobo golfer and the program’s longtime coach, won Men’s City twice.

Ann Herron, right, and longtime friend Dolores Freeze, watch Ann’s husband, Tim Herron as he competes in the Boeing Classic on the PGA Champions Tour on Sunday. Tim finished one shot back in second, while Ann and Tim’s son, Carson Herron, was third in the Men’s City Amateur on Sunday at Los Altos (Mark Smith/Enchantment Sports).

42 AND COUNTING: The trophy was named after longtime sportscaster/sportswriter Mark Smith about a decade ago.

Smith (yeah, that’s me — hate this third-person deal) has covered the tournament for 42 straight years from his days with KOB-TV, the Albuquerque Journal and now Enchantment Sports.

He has presented the trophy to the winner each year it has carried his moniker.


Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for more than four  decades, and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in state history.

Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio and has been honored nationally for investigative reporting. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.

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