Summer Guide

Give Golf a Chance

Set aside the ugly history, which is slowly changing, and make the grand auld game part of your summer

When Hideki Matsuyama tapped in a short putt for a bogey and a one-shot victory on April 11 at Augusta National Golf Club in the heart of the Antebellum South, it didn’t just mark another dude about to be fitted for a tacky green blazer as the latest Masters Tournament champion.

And when his caddie, Shota Hayafuji, made a ceremonial bow to perhaps the greatest piece of golf architecture on the planet following the winning putt, it wasn’t just a stab at retweets and viral videos.

Never mind that this has all happened days after 17-year-old Tsubasa Kajitani, also from Matsuyama’s homeland of Japan, had hoisted the trophy at the second-ever Augusta National Women’s Amatuer tournament—at a club that did not allow non-whites to compete in the Masters until 1975 and did not admit a woman as a member until New Mexico’s own Martha Burk publicly shamed and forced the racist, sexist old club into doing so in 2012.

These massive victories came amid a 150% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, according to an analysis from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the US and the rest of the world.

SFR isn’t generally in the business of repeating slurs, but you’ve likely heard enough of them to know the score.

We feel like there was some, but not enough attention paid to this ongoing racism in the context of Kajitani’s and Matsuyama’s wins.

Let us tell you who was paying attention: Alo Brodsky, head golf professional, and his staff at Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe, the city’s only true public course, which SFR documented in an September cover story as one of very few oases at the height of the pandemic.

“From a personal standpoint, the symbolism is beautiful, and I think that’s been the general consensus around here,” Brodsky tells SFR now. “It’s been a long time coming for him—one, that he’s Japanese, and given the current climate, I think a lot of people had counted him out—it was such a welcome sight. Luckily, I haven’t heard anything negative said whatsoever here about his win.

“The learning lesson we can all take from that is showing gratitude. You can apply that to this whole last year. It’s been a hard year, but it’s really been a year to be thankful for what we do have. It was humbling.”

There’s a lot to be grateful for at Marty these days, Brodsky says, as Santa Fe rolls into summer.

Let’s start with the numbers: City officials tell SFR there have been 7,858 rounds through April 5. That’s way up from the 2,520 through that date last year (when the course was closed due to public health orders); 5,694 in 2019; 7,015 in 2018; and 7,137 in 2017.

Now, the rates: It’s just $35 to play 18 holes at Marty for adults ($50 if you want to ride a golf cart). Juniors play for $15. And Marty’s unique nine-hole course, “The Great 28,” costs a mere $17 to walk. (Trust us, that’s a damned steal.)

More rounds mean more revenues for the course and, therefore, the city.

Brodsky has some ideas for why the figures are climbing, even despite a cold, windy winter which, for the uninitiated, make for somewhat miserable golf conditions.

“The feeling, the vibe out here is really, really positive,” he says. “We’re maintaining an excitement about golf that hasn’t been seen for some years. That started last year when it became apparent that golf was a safe option for people. So, we saw a lot of lapsed golfers as well as people who had always been interested in taking up the game kind of jump right in and give it a try, because, quite frankly, there was nothing else to do.”

That won’t continue to be the case if Santa Fe County stays in the turquoise public health designation and folks have more options for how to spend their free time.

But there’ll be a lot happening at Marty that Brodsky reckons will keep the course competitive with other available activities.

He’s already successfully completed a five-day ­junior golf camp that served about 35 junior players—all masked and socially distanced, of course.

The course’s big junior program is coming back online this year as well. There’s also a 90-minute group golf clinic every Saturday that gives golfers of all skill levels a chance to spend some time with a pro and work on their game. That costs $20.

A handful of charity events that were sadly canceled last year are coming back in 2021 as well, Brodsky says. And his voice gets perhaps the most excited when he confirms that the Santa Fe City Championship is returning—at Marty and, more than likely, also at Santa Fe Country Club.

Still, there’ll be more competition for Santa Feans’ leisure time this year, assuming the pandemic continues to ease.

Why does Brodsky think Marty can remain competitive?

“Accessibility is kind of the key, because the people that have either come back to it or come to it for the first time in the last year—you want them to see that it’s easy to come back,” he says. “We want to really emphasize that model of golf, it being accessible, affordable and for the whole family. Plus, we are outside—no air purifiers needed.”

There’s another reason, too.

“As a father myself, I never lose sight of the fact that this game has given me the opportunity time and time again to be honest with myself,” Brodsky says. “Even when we’re focused on swing mechanics and course management, which are the two kind of hard sciences of the game, everything always circles back to those good moral choices. And in this game, we make those on our own.”

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