By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
Very few players at the 79th-annual Greater Albuquerque Men’s City Amateur Golf Championship knew the name Neil Parasher before Friday’s opening round at Ladera.
They do now.
And they, along with many others in golf circles – locally and elsewhere – are sure to hear it plenty more in the future.
“Wow, that’s really playing the game,” longtime City contender Jason Myers, who shot a smooth 1-under-par 71 on Friday, said of Parasher. “That is really a big-time round.”
Indeed, it was.
Parasher, a 16-year-old junior at Albuquerque Academy High School, fired a blistering 7-under 65 to take a three-shot lead after the first round of the 54-hole event.
University of New Mexico senior golfer Ross Sinclair and Tyrone Thomas are tied for second at 68 while Josh Walker – playing in the president’s flight, but eligible for the overall title — is fourth at 69.
Defending champion Simon Miller, Aidan Thomas and Tiger Lee share fifth at 70 heading into Saturday’s second round at Arroyo del Oso.
There is a cut to the low half of the field and ties after Saturday’s play, and the final round is Sunday at Los Altos (leaderboard below).
“I was very comfortable today,” Parasher told Enchantment Sports on Friday. “I really like playing with adults, because it’s a lot more relaxing than playing in junior tournaments.
“Juniors get so competitive, it is hard just to go out and have fun. Today, was awesome. I had a lot of fun.”
And turned a lot of heads.
With his mom, Sushila Tyagi, as his caddie, Parasher had six birdies an eagle on the par 5 second hole and just one bogey.
But while it was unusual for him to compete against adults, it wasn’t unusual for him to be competing during this summer of COVID-19.
The New Mexico junior golf circuit was shut down because of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s coronavirus restrictions, but Texas is wide open – and Parasher made the most of it.
With his dad and coach, University of New Mexico doctor Gulshan Parasher, at his side, Neil played competed in three events on the Texas Junior Golf Tour – winning twice.
“I slept on the lead in tournaments this summer, so I don’t feel any extra pressure,” Neil said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how it goes the rest of the weekend.”
He also finished 16th in the Elite Finale at Bridlewood.
“I’ve had a really busy summer playing in tournaments, despite everything going on,” he said. “I’m planning to play in the New Mexico Open, too, as long as it is allowed to be played.
Alderete, a former Sandia Prep and University of New Mexico golfer, finished tied for second in the City Championship in 2017 – one shot behind Patrick McCarthy – has been helping Gulshan to coach Neil.
Alderete recently started medical school at Duke.
Sinclair, who is playing in the tournament for the first time, had three birdies, one bogey and one eagle, the latter on the par 5 11th.
“I feel really good about my game,” said Sinclair, who is from South Africa. “My putting was a little bit iffy, but that’s the weakest part of my game and the biggest part I’m working on.
“I’ve been hanging around Albuquerque all summer, playing a lot of public courses and not traveling. It feels good playing in a tournament.”
The 27-year-old Miller, a 2011 Albuquerque Academy graduate, started the day with a bogey on No. 1 after 3-putting from 7 feet. He soon settled in, but left some shots on the course.
“I just didn’t have the same magic as last year on the greens,” said Miller, who works for the state budget division. “On the front nine, I missed three putts of less than 3 feet. I was hitting it really good; wedge shots to within a couple of feet, but just wasn’t making putts.
“The back nine, I wasn’t hitting it as close, but made a couple of nice putts. I felt good to birdie 16 and 17 to get within striking distance.”
President’s flight: Although it plays at different times and is not paired with the Championship flight, the President’s flight field (2.0-6.0 handicap) is eligible for the overall title because it plays from the same tee boxes.
One of these years, it could create a problem if a guy like Josh Walker – who leads this flight at 3-under 69 – stays among the leaders, but doesn’t have the pressure of playing with them in the final round.
Not to mention possibly playing in different weather conditions.
Whether it will be this year remains to be seen. For now, Walker is four back in the overall hunt and is four up in this flight.
Eric Archuleta is second at 73 with Nick Serafin at 74 and Eric Espinda at 75.
Senior flight: There is a logjam at the top of the leaderboard, with Rudy Jojola at 2-under-par 70, one shot better than former champion Sam Shepperson, Dean Lacoursiere, Michael Hughes and Kevin Lente.
“No problem,” Lente said of catching his friend Jojola. “We play together all the time. He won’t beat me.”
Mike Taylor (72) and Scott Belonge (73) are in the hunt as well.
First Flight: Darren Arnold had a long, hectic day.
And loved every minute of it.
Arnold leads the first flight after shooting a 76 in the opening round. Subtracting his 6 handicap, that was good for a net 70 and a one-shot lead over Greg Speer and Marcos Infante.
“I volunteered to work right after my round so some of the other employees here could play,” said Arnold, who works in Ladera’s pro shop.
“I finished strong, and feel even stronger after that round. It was a great day and I still have a lot of energy.”
Second flight: Joe O’Neill, president of 101.7 FM The TEAM sportstalk radio, is playing in the event for the first time.
O’Neill shot an 81, and with his 9 handicap shares the second flight lead with Ron Goeke at net 72.
“I really felt it was important to play and help support the tournament,” said O’Neill, whose radio station is one of the event’s sponsors. “To have a round like that is just a bonus.
“This event is 79 years old, and that’s really a big thing for the community. I would support any event that has been going on in Albuquerque for 79 years – tiddly winks or anything.
“And for a golf tournament, that is really something. It’s important for the area to have this event.”
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 and has been honored nationally for investigative reporting. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.
Championship flight (1.9 handicap or lower/scratch scores)
Neil Parasher 65
Ross Sinclair 68
Tyrone Thomas 68
Josh Walker 69 (President’s flight)
Tiger Lee 70
Simon Miller 70
Aidan Thomas 70
Jason Myers 71
Shaun Payne 71
Matt Van Dyke 71
(also eligible for overall title/championship tees
Josh Walker 69
Eric Archuleta 73
Nick Serafin 74
Eric Espinda 75
Rudy Jojola 70
Sam Shepperson 71
Dean Lacoursiere 71
Kevin Lente 71
Michael Hughes 71
Mike Taylor 72
Scott Belonge 73
Net flight 1 (net score/ handicaps 11.3 and below)
Darren Arnold 70
Greg Speer 71
Marcos Infante 71
Wyatt Perry 73
David Aragon 73
Rick Blose 74
Flight 2 (net score/11.4 handicap and above)
Joe O’Neill 72
Ron Goeke 72
Felix Madrid, Sr. 74
Felix Madrid, Jr. 74
James Jefferies 75