Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photo
At the May 24 Belen Board of Education meeting, Belen High School golfers Rylee Salome, left, a freshman, and Grady Cox, third from left, a sophomore, were recognized for their state championship wins. This was the second state win for Cox. The board members praised both student’s athletic and academic accomplishments, as did BCS Superintendent Lawrence Sanchez, second from left. Their coach. Donald Marquez, far right, said both carry a 4.0 GPA, and the boys and girls teams have a cumulative grade point average of 3.7.


Two Valencia County golfers have qualified for the Junior PGA Championship.

Grady Cox, who captured two straight Class 4-A state titles as a freshman and sophomore for Belen High School, and Amara Montoya, a 14-year-old Jarales resident who will be a freshman at St. Pius in the fall, will travel to Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Palos Park, Ill., on Aug. 2-5.

Cox won a one-hole playoff against Ryan Lewis of El Paso to earn the second qualifying spot.

Montoya shot 4-over 76 in each round to qualify second in the girls division by one shot lower than Rylee Salome, who won the Class 4A state title as a freshman for Belen last month.

Cox, who shot a personal-best 3-under at UNM Championship on Thursday, finished at 2-under 142 in regulation.

Cox will head to Illinois with Thayer Plewe, a 17-year-old from Cortez, Colo., who has committed to The University of New Mexico.

Cox moved up the leaderboard in the second round, passing six others, as he was nine shots behind Plewe after shooting 1-over in the first round.

He said he did his best to treat the playoff as any other hole, but he was well aware what was on the line.

“I heard this one time: If you don’t feel pressure, you don’t care,” Cox said.

“You will always feel pressure. I try to think of it as I’m more excited than the pressure.”

Adolphe Pierre-Louis | Journal photo
Amara Montoya, of Jarales, sinks a putt that earned her a qualifying bid to the Junior PGA nationals. She will be a freshman this fall at St. Pius.

Cox parred the hole, while Lewis bogeyed.

Cox will be busy next month, leading up to the Junior PGA Championship, going to play in the Miami Optimist Junior Golf Championship July 26-29 at Trump National Doral in Miami.

Montoya, who finished eight shots behind winner Raleygh Simpson from Kerrville, Texas, surprised herself a bit after qualifying.

“I didn’t think this day would come until my older high school years,” Montoya said. “I’m very glad.”

Montoya was also second after the first round behind Simpson, who shot even. ″

Salome also won the U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier at UNM Championship Golf Course on June 14.

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Steve Virgen, Albuquerque Journal Assistant Sports Editor