How is golf different in the Mexico from the U.S.? A New Mexico State women’s star explains ‘golf is not very popular’


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LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Alison Gastelum is a New Mexico State sophomore golfer about to compete in her third spring season for the Aggies. NMSU opens its spring season Monday and Tuesday at The Gold Rush tournament hosted by Long Beach State.

She was a Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholar as a freshman in 2019-20, and she had three-top 10 finishes including a seventh-place finish at the 2021 WAC Championships the following season. She retained a year of eligibility with last year’s NCAA COVID-19 waive and will help lead this year’s Aggie team looking to recapture the WAC title. She is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico — a city of nearly a million people — and is one of four foreign-born students on NMSU’s women’s golf team.

She offers an interesting perspective on the game.

Q: You’re originally from Mexico. Being an international student, what was the recruiting process like for you?

Gastelum: It’s hard because back in Mexico, golf is not very popular. It’s kind of hard for us to go and engage in the process of signing with a university, so you have to do a lot of calls, emailing and mostly communicating with the coaches. (Head coach) Danny (Bowen), in my case, he made it so easy. We were just emailing each other, and everything just got easier as the time went by, and in a couple of months, I was signing here.

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Q: Being from a country where golf is not an extremely popular sport, how did you get into golf to begin with?

Gastelum: My grandpa actually started the whole golf (thing) in our family, then my dad started playing. I was doing swimming when I was like 5 years old, and one day, he just brought me to the practice range, and I started hitting the balls just like a normal kid who had the big clubs. It was love at first sight. It was just a thing, and I started (falling) in love with it. I’ve been playing for almost 16 years now. I started playing in a couple of regional tournaments back home and then getting to nationals when I was like 10, 11 years old, and then getting into international (tournaments) here in the U.S. and a couple of other (tournaments).

Q: Could you explain how golf in the United States is different from golf in Mexico?

Gastelum: Back home, not a lot of people play it, so there are not many golf courses. The places where the tournaments will be set up are pretty far from my hometown. The environment is just different. People are very used to playing here and know the game, so coming back from a country where it’s not very (well)-known, very few people will know about it. I’ll come back to my hometown and talk about golf with my friends, and they’ll be like, “Uh, okay? How do you play it?” Here, it’s more common hearing people that actually know the game.

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Q: What are you looking forward to most about the spring season?

Gastelum: Starting (to get) the team together, playing, having fun, especially cause it’s our conference season. It’s going to be hard (since) we don’t play that many tournaments, but getting to know more courses, I think we are playing a new tournament in Seattle this semester. We are coming back again on a couple of courses that we know, so it’s going to be easier for us to come and get engaged again with courses. It’s kind of fun. It’s just the traveling part with the team, it’s just fun. I like it a lot. We do really get along, all of us, so we’re hoping it’s as fun as we’re hoping.

Stephen Wagner is a sports reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News, part of the USA Today Network. He can be found on Twitter at @stephenwag22 and reached at SWagner@lcsun-news.com.

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