'She was a sunshine:' College golf community commemorates Iowa State's Celia Barquin

European Golf Association

'She was a sunshine:' College golf community commemorates Iowa State's Celia Barquin

College

'She was a sunshine:' College golf community commemorates Iowa State's Celia Barquin

LAKE ELMO, Minn. – On a cloudy and chilly morning at Royal Golf Club, competitors and coaches gathered before the second round of the ANNIKA Intercollegiate for a moment of silence to remember one of their own.

Truth is, though, they had been mostly silent all morning, many of them in shock after learning of the death of Celia Barquin Arozamena, who was killed a day earlier while playing golf by herself in Iowa.

Barquin, a 22-year-old recent Iowa State graduate who won the 2018 Big 12 Championship last spring and was finishing up her degree this semester, was found dead Monday morning on Coldwater Golf Links in Ames. A 22-year-old man has since been charged with her murder.

“I had tears in my eyes,” Oklahoma State head coach Courtney Jones said. “It kind of rocks your world. It’s devastating. There are a lot of girls here who played with her in tournaments and she’s been such a leader in women’s golf for a long time. Your heart breaks for her family, for Iowa State and for all of college golf. We lost a great one. Her future was so bright.”

For everyone at the ANNIKA, the news was hard to fathom. One coach said she was “nauseous” just thinking about the tragic events that happened on Monday. Texas sophomore Kaitlyn Papp, who played Barquin in a match last season in San Diego, saw a story on Twitter on Tuesday morning and instantly tried to refresh the headline three times.

“When I found out this morning, it was shocking and hard to believe,” said Arkansas senior Maria Fassi, a friend of Barquin who had just talked to her over the phone about LPGA Q-School. (Barquin had recently advanced to second stage and both players were going to try for their LPGA cards later this year.)

“I’m trying to think that it’s a bad nightmare and it’s all just going to go away. It’s hard to process that she’s gone.”

Barquin was a four-time NCAA regional qualifier for the Cyclones and earned the school’s Female Athlete of the Year award as a senior. While she had finished out her eligibility this spring, she remained at Iowa State to earn the final credits for her degree in civil engineering.

The fact that Barquin was senselessly murdered on a golf course while playing the sport she loved made things even harder to comprehend for her peers.

“She was just on the golf course and someone targeted her,” said Arizona State sophomore Raquel Olmos via phone. “It’s scary because you think you’re safe on the golf course. Just yesterday I was practicing by myself for about an hour.”

Olmos, who is from Torre-Pachecho, Spain, was part of the Spanish contingent who made the trip together to the European Ladies Amateur last July in Slovakia. Olmos called the trip “one of the most fun tournaments she’s ever played.” Not only did the Spanish team share a house that week, but they also were able to celebrate Barquin’s one-shot win at Penati Golf Resort.

“I remember we were so happy waiting on the 18th green for her to finish that day,” Olmos said.

South Carolina sophomore Ana Pelaez, who attended the same high school as Barquin, was also part of that group this summer. After the big victory, they took the party back to the house they were staying at.

“She was shy and had no rhythm at all, but we all were telling her to dance,” Pelaez said. “She was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to dance.'”

Added Olmos: “It’s hard to think that now she’s gone.”

Olmos, 19, is a few years younger than Barquin, but the two developed a closer relationship in the past couple of years. Barquin, ranked 44th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, was someone that the younger Spanish golfers had all looked up to. They all wanted to be her.

“She was such a good person,” Olmos said. “Her smile, you know, she had such a beautiful smile. She never said anything bad about anybody. She was a simple, happy person. And she was so focused on her golf and what she wanted.

“I was absolutely sure that she was going to have a huge career.”

Added Pelaez: “She fought for her dreams. She went to the college she wanted to. She studied the major that she wanted to. She played awesome golf.”

Duke junior Ana Belac called Barquin a “sunshine,” someone that would always seek her out at tournaments to give her a hug.

One of Belac’s favorite stories about Barquin was when the two were junior golfers and represented their countries at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics in China. Belac, who is from Slovenia, knows Spanish, but Barquin was the only member of the Spanish team who knew that. So when Barquin’s teammates would joke around in Spanish, Belac could understand everything that they were saying. Belac and Barquin shared many laughs during the two-plus-week event.

“She never told my secret,” Belac said.

Mexico’s Aaron Terrazas, who plays for the UTEP men’s team, also spent time with Barquin during those Youth Olympics.

“Probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Terrazas said. “… She was always trying to send positive vibes to the people around her.”

When Belac found out the heartbreaking news about her friend Tuesday morning while scrolling through Instagram, she went numb. She had texted with Barquin just a few days earlier.

“My brain was just empty at that time,” Belac said. “How is that even possible?”

With a heavy heart, Belac mustered the strength to compete in Tuesday’s second round of the ANNIKA. She shot 7-under 65 to build a two-shot lead entering the final round. She would love nothing more than to dedicate a win to Barquin.

“I’m playing for Celia,” Belac said.

She isn’t the only one, either. Tournament staff at the ANNIKA hurried to make black ribbons and distribute them to players and coaches. By the end of Tuesday’s round, most of them had those ribbons pinned to their hats or shirts.

Before Pelaez teed off Tuesday, she ran into Duke’s Virginia Elena Carta of Italy. Carta, who also knew Barquin well, was in tears.

“I gave her a hug and told her that Celia would love to see us kicking some butt today,” Pelaez said. “So just fight until the end and focus on playing for her.”

Pelaez had to finish the final four holes of her opening round on Tuesday morning. Just an hour or so earlier, her dad had called her to break the tough news.

“I kept thinking about her,” Pelaez said. “It was so hard to focus on hitting a shot. … This could’ve happened to me, to any of us, and just thinking about that is scary. And this is going to take a while for everyone who plays college golf and even golfers back home in Spain to get over it.

“I don’t know, this probably was a call for everyone to not be alone.”

– Kevin Casey contributed to this report

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