SANTA ANA PUEBLO – When it comes to teeing it up, Canada’s Katy Rutherford likes to go big.
Rutherford and several other competitors in the Women’s PGA Cup, being played Thursday through Saturday at Twin Warriors Golf Club, fielded questions from about 20 girl golfers in a youth clinic Wednesday.
One wanted to know their favorite club.
“My favorite club is my driver,” said Rutherford, who played college golf at Nevada and faced New Mexico several times at the UNM Championships Course. “Grip it and rip it. Yeah.”
The response drew a resounding cheer, and one young girl pumped her fists above her head, which got the group of teaching and club pros cheering as well.
“This is huge for us,” Rutherford said. “This is a huge event and we’re so lucky to be here.”
The US team is the defending champion and will face challenges from five-member squads from Australia, Great Britain/Ireland, South Africa and Sweden in addition to Canada.
“When you’re the defending champ, there’s always a little target on your back,” said US team member Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth. “But we had great practice rounds, and it was great to meet so many new ladies, especially those from such different countries. I maybe know one or two others from the other countries but not too many, so it’s great to have so many women here with the same ideals to share our experiences and compete as well.”
Speaking with the younger crowd and hopefully encouraging their continued golf growth is also a big deal, she said.
“My full-time job is I am a teaching instructor, and I work with a lot of young women and ladies in particular. So it’s one of my passions,” Connelly-Eiswerth said. “It’s something I’ve chosen to do and I really enjoy it, so it’s encouraging to see so many young ladies out here, especially on a Wednesday afternoon. “It’s exciting to have them out here. It’s great.”
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Maddison Long, a junior who attends New Mexico Connection Academy but plays for Volcano Vista, said she started golfing nine years ago and hopes to play college golf. So she was interested in how the players reached their goals.
“I really wanted to get to ask the pros to see how they work and how they play and their thought processes and what they’re thinking,” Long said. “And be able to take anything I can learn from them during the whole swing session.”
As soon as she heard about the clinic, Long wanted to attend.
“I thought it was awesome,” she said. “I was for it. I thought it was really interesting and I most definitely wanted to do it.”
Maribella Salas, a sixth-grader at Rio Rancho Middle School, turned to golf when the virus health mandates prevented her from attending karate classes.
“It all started when my dad took me to the driving range for the first time and I just got hooked on it,” Salas said. “It’s very similar to karate, because in karate you’re sparring against your own opponent, but you’re also sparring against your mind.”
As for meeting the pro golfers, Salas said it was a blast.
“I wanted to come out here first off, to have this experience because this is probably going to be a once in a lifetime experience unless I become a professional golfer,” she said. “And the other thing is just have fun. Learn some new things and get to know the game better.”