PRATTVILLE, Ala. — The Symetra Tour may be in Alabama this week for the second annual Guardian Championship, but it’s heartbeat of 120 professional golfers stands with the golf community as a whole, shaken by the passing of Celia Barquin Arozamena (Puente San Miguel, Spain) on Monday.
Named the Iowa State University Female Athlete of the Year, she was also the 2018 Big 12 Championship individual title winner and only player to shoot under par on the Blue Course at Dallas Athletic Club in late April. Back in July, Barquin Arozamena captured the European Ladies Amateur Championship on the Heritage Course at Penati Golf Resort in Slovakia and her performance included a course record 9-under par 63 in the third round. Then last month, she finished tied for 20th at Stage I of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament to advance one step closer to her dream of playing on the LPGA Tour.
Earlier this week, Barquin Arozamena was preparing for Stage II at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, Iowa when a senseless act of violence took her life too soon. She was 22 years old.
“I just think she was the most driven, the most competitive in a good way,” said Fatima Fernandez Cano (Santiago de Compostela, Spain), one of six Spain natives in the field this week. “She took pride in everything she did and was different in everything she did. Her favorite color was yellow and that was weird because in Spain we say yellow is bad luck. She was always very excited and I remember celebrating good things super loud with her. She was proud of whatever she was doing.”
Fernandez Cano was accompanied by Maria Parra (Guadiaro, Spain) in the media center on Wednesday. Tears flowed down their cheeks as they talked about Celia, the memories rushing from their mouths in elegant sentences as they were somehow able to formulate the right words through the pain and grief of losing a dear friend. It was clear Celia had made a deep impact on their lives and was there in that moment to illustrate how she will always be with them.
“I remember the European Ladies Team Championship one year, we played a match and won on the 15th hole,” said Parra, misty-eyed but smiling. “We made 15 putts in 12 holes and she was apologizing to the other team because we were making long ones. When we went for some time without seeing each other, everyone always remembers that story and laughs about it. I want to try to play like her. She was amazing on the course, would fight for the win and never give up.”
In addition to Parra and Fernandez Cano, several other players knew Barquin Arozamena from a young age and competed with and against her in junior golf including Nuria Iturrios (Palma de Mallorca, Spain), Marta Sanz Barrio(Madrid, Spain), Patricia Sanz Barrio (Madrid, Spain) and Harang Lee (Bilbao, Spain).
Having exhausted her athletic eligibility in the spring, Barquin Arozamena was set to finish a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering this semester. Of all the memories, it was evident her passion for life and people extended far beyond the golf course.
“Celia treated everybody with the same respect and kindness,” Fernandez Cano said. “She was the one that all of a sudden would come up, give you a hug and say you’re awesome. It never mattered if she won or not, you always got the same person.”
Iowa State was listed as one of the top-20 safest campuses in 2017 by the National Council for Home Safety and Security. That fact leaves many wondering why, including ISU alumna and Symetra Tour professional Prima Thammaraks (Bangkok, Thailand).
“On that course, my friends take that walk home all the time,” said Thammaraks, who graduated in 2014. “After all this happened, I feel like everyone is paranoid. Where am I safe? It’s just hard to believe and I guess it could happen to anyone, anywhere. Celia was a proud representative of our school and her heart makes the difference. She had a heart of gold.”
Back in the fall of 2013, Thammaraks welcomed Barquin Arozamena to campus on a recruiting visit. The two immediately clicked and had stayed in touch ever since. They were able to connect on another level, and especially with ISU Women’s Golf Head Coach Christie Martens because of how far each was from home. It was a uniting factor.
“It’s that smile that everyone talks about and in that instant when you see it on her face, you know she is a good one,” Thammaraks added. “We would always shoot each other messages. It’s very nice to see the community come together, but it’s hard. All you can do is take a piece of her with you going forward. We lost a really good one. We lost the best one.”
ROLL TIDE, WAR EAGLE AND GO TROJANS
In a state where the University of Alabama football reigns supreme, there’s a bit more of an even playing field on the golf course between the Crimson Tide and Auburn University, as well as the likes of Troy University.
Stephanie Meadow (Jordanstown, Northern Ireland), Janie Jackson (Huntsville, Alabama), Cheyenne Knight (Aledo, Texas) and Lakareber Abe (The Woodlands, Texas) comprise the competition out of Tuscaloosa at the Guardian Championship this week, while Marta Sanz Barrio, Patricia Sanz Barrio and Carlie Carr (Casselberry, Florida) represent the Tigers. We also can’t forget the pride of Troy in Fatima Fernandez Cano.
“I always love coming back to my second home,” said Meadow, currently No. 2 in the Volvik Race for the Card. “I had a chance to visit the campus earlier in the week and tour the facilities. It always brings back great memories and a sense of pride for the university. Playing well here would mean a lot.”
On the other side of the rivalry, there is plenty of enthusiasm to showcase what their school is all about.
“Hearing ‘War Damn Eagle’ throughout the day is so great and I do enjoy seeing old friends while in town,” Carr said. “I think having a great football team helped other teams get recognized a little more than usual. I’m proud to say that Auburn's athletic program is the best in the country and I am so glad I played for an amazing university.”
Meanwhile, with no necessary rivalry to speak of, Fernandez Cano can simply play a game that speaks for itself when it comes to the Trojans name.
“Anywhere I go, I always try to represent Troy, and what the university and athletic program is all about,” Fernandez Cano said. “With this week's event taking place in Prattville, these feelings become a little stronger. Even though Troy may be smaller in size than the bigger names, I will keep trying to show that the Troy name will always go hand-in-hand with success. With support, hard work and dedication, it doesn’t matter where you go to school, you can get anywhere.”