Pat Salome, left, reacts as his 15-year-old daughter Rylee nails a putt on her way to winning the New Mexico-West Texas Women’s Amateur Championship on Sunday at Santa Ana Golf Club. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)
SANTA ANA PUEBLO — Golf is very much a family affair for 15-year-old Rylee Salome.
She first learned the game from her dad, Pat Salome, when he put a set of clubs in her hands at 4 years old.
Her uncle, Anton Salome, who played golf collegiately at New Mexico State University, discusses the mental aspect of the game with her when she visits him for a round at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, where he lives.
And to bring it full circle, she cherishes being able to hit the links with her 92-year-old grandfather, Pete Sisneros, who provides never-ending inspiration and encouragement.
With her family as entourage Sunday, including Sisneros, Salome waltzed through the final round of the New Mexico-West Texas Women’s Amateur Championship with an even-par round of 72 at Santa Ana Golf Club.
She finished the 54-hole event at 2-over 218, leading University of New Mexico sophomore Annie Saecheung by three strokes for the Sun Country Amateur Golf Association’s women’s title, becoming the youngest to hold the honor. The event also was combined with the Albuquerque city women’s championship and Salome earned a combined $1,000 in gift cards for her success.
It just continues her recent string of success at the course.
A home-schooled and rising sophomore from Tomé, Salome won the Class 4A state individual championship for Belen High at Santa Ana in May and later in the same week teamed with former Aggie Kristen Griego to win the SCAGA Four-Ball title there.
Salome, also the Journal’s Athlete of the Year for girls golf, shot a bogey-free round, 2-under 70 to win the state title, and had the same result on Saturday, when she overcame a three-shot deficit after her 4- over opening round at Twin Warriors Golf Club.
“I think I play good on the course,” she said of her final two days at Santa Ana. “I like the way it sets up good for me and I’m just comfortable here now. The tee shots, I feel confident off the tee. There’s nothing for me to address. With my ball flight, everything, I just play good.”
Salome, who took a three-stroke lead into play Sunday, played even through the opening nine, but by hole no. 14 had dropped a stroke. So all she did was birdie the par-3, 123-yard hole, rolling in a 15-footer. And she followed that up with another birdie on the dogleg, 336-yard, par-4 15th that was also guarded by water, using an 8-iron off the green to come within 12 feet, and dropping the putt.
“That kind of made me feel, not at ease but a little more comfortable,” she said.
In reality, she looks pretty comfortable on the golf course and that’s not really an accident, Anton Salome said.
“The things that we talk about are things centered around more of the philosophy of what you’re trying to do, a mature game,” he said. “Knowing that the most important shot you have is the next shot. She has a very high IQ and she has a very high golf IQ and she takes that type of maturity to the golf course and it’s evident. She plays smart. She plays conservative but yet she plays aggressive, too. It’s wonderful to see it come together in our little 15-year-old. It’s fun to see.”
But there is perhaps nothing better than watching her take the course with her grandfather, Pat Salome said.
“When they drive off in the cart, I can’t believe it,” he said.
And that, Rylee Salome said, pretty much sums it all up.
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“It’s just great that I can still go play with him when there is a 77-year age difference,” she said, beaming. “It’s pretty cool that we can still play together. He walked all three days (of the tournament), Twin Warriors and then here two days. It’s special to have him here watching me and supporting me. He’ll go to any tournament near Albuquerque and watch me play.”
Next up for Salome is the US Junior Girls Amateur Championship July 18-23 at The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Kentucky. From there, she travels to Helena, Montana, for the Junior Girls America’s Cup team event July 24-28 at Green Meadow Country Club.
Sophia Zamarripa, a UNM sophomore out of Sandia, and KayLinda Crawford, the 2020 NM-WT Women’s Amateur champion, finished third and fourth, respectively. They shared the lead after shooting 1-over in the first round. Zamarripa, who is Saecheung’s roommate, finished at 10-over.
Crawford, the 2021 Sun Country Senior Women’s Amateur Player of the Year who played college golf at Texas Tech from 1984 to 1988, shot 17-over. She was three shots back entering the final round.
Rylee Salome, 15, follows her drive during the final round of the New Mexico-West Texas Women’s Amateur Championship at Santa Ana Golf Club on Sunday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)