The Belen High School golf team won two individual state championships on Tuesday, as Rylee Salome and Grady Cox won the girls and boys 4A titles at Santa Ana Golf Course.
Salome cruised to victory, while Cox had to sweat out his victory Tuesday afternoon.
Monday was hampered by high winds and high scores, whereas Tuesday was less breezy and helped the scores dip.
After shooting a 75 in round one, Salome led by five. She then turned it on during the final round on Tuesday, shooting a 70 to end with a 145, winning by 10 strokes over Goddard’s Chase Fields.
As her coach, Donald Marquez, and parents looked on, Salome sank a 50-foot putt on the ninth hole that stretched her lead to 10, halfway through her round.
Salome would add another birdie on the back nine and shoot par the rest of the way to score the championship.
“She just played her game,” coach Marquez said. “She has her game and is just relentless. Very great already as a freshman.”
Cox would shoot a 76 in round one on Monday, which was good enough for a four-way tie at the top of the leader board.
In Tuesday’s round, Cox would start at one over par through seven holes, but was four shots behind the leader, Jacob Alcorta, of Silver. Alcorta was three under par through his first five holes, playing a bit behind Cox’s group.
Cox would rally in the last 10 holes to finish the final round with a two under par, 70.
After his round was over, Cox had to wait on the rest of the field to finish play before he could celebrate. Once Alcorta’s second shot on the final hole stayed out of the cup and on the green, the celebration was on for Cox, his coaches and his family.
The state championship was the second consecutive for the sophomore, who took last year’s title in a three-hole playoff after tying following the final round.
“Last year’s was still more stressful,” Cox said. “The playoff was way more difficult to get through.”
“We’ll be back next year even stronger,” Marquez said. “It was good to get the individuals, but I feel that our teams can win state.”
The girls as a team finished in fifth place in the tournament after scoring a combined 742 over the two rounds, 33 behind champion Albuquerque Academy.
The boys team also came in fifth place overall after shooting a 686 for the tournament.
Adam Evarts is a graduate of the University of New Mexico where he studied journalism and history. He has lived in Valencia County most of his life. Adam covers sports for the Valencia County News-Bulletin, including prep competitions for the three local high schools, Senior Olympics, rodeo, Little League and more.