By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
This year, Alejandro Armijo doesn’t have to worry about missing the cut at the Albuquerque Men’s City Amateur Golf Championship.
The rest of the field, however, just might have to worry about missing out on the title because of Armijo.
On Friday, the 2018 Cleveland High graduate fired a 5-under-par 67 to grab the lead after the opening round of the 78th annual event at the lush Ladera Golf Course.
Simon Miller is a shot back in second and James Gehrke is in third at 71 heading into Saturday’s second round at Arroyo del Oso.
The 54-hole even concludes on Sunday at Los Altos.
“I learned a few things from my experience the last couple of years at Ladera,” said Armijo, 19. “And I’m learning a lot from my experience playing college golf.
“Instead of coming in nervous and excited, I came out attacking. That’s what I’m going to keep on doing.”
Armijo, who played at Oregon Tech as a freshman and will play for Oklahoma Christian in the fall, certainly attacked well on Friday.
He had seven birdies and just two bogeys on his way to the lead.
Last year, Armijo shot 81 at Ladera and came back strong in the second round with a 72, but missed the cut by one shot.
It wasn’t anything new.
“I shot exactly 153 in the first round both years,” he said with a laugh, and I missed the cut by exactly one shot both times.”
Miller, a 2011 Albuquerque Academy graduate who played one year at New Mexico State, made a strong run at the top spot with a sensational back 9.
Miller, 26, was even at the turn but birdied 10, 11 and 13. He had a bogey on 16, but drained a 30-foot eagle bomb putt on the par 5 17th to finish at 68.
“That was just a really fun round,” Miller said. “I was happy; I played well. But it was even better because the guys out here make it such a great event.
“I just always have such a good time playing and seeing so many old friends. Of course, hitting it straight makes helps make it enjoyable as well.”
One of Miller’s longtime pals, Gehrke, played in his group.
And Gehrke was actually of Miller as they headed to 17.
But Gehrke, 30, hit his drive to the left into the junk. He had to take an unplayable, then hit it into the lake on the right.
After a double bogey, it was a four-shot swing against Miller.
“I really played well, except for that hole,” said Gehrke, who once fired a 61 in the even at Los Altos. “I felt good about the way I hit it, and it was a tough way to end. I was hoping to make birdie on 17.
“But I kept it under par, and that’s not easy to do at Ladera. I’m feeling comfortable.”
The leaders can’t be too comfortable, however, about being the only ones in contention this year.
Jason Myers, Shaun Payne and Eric Frazier all shot 72 on Friday while Andy Brooks, Roman Romero and Ross Stewart all had 73.
Championship tee times today are from 7:30-to-9 a.m., off of both the No. 1 and No. 10 tees.
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for more than four decades, and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in state history. Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.