My Olympic Dream

Tom Velarde
Manager
Black Mesa Golf Club
La Mesilla, AZ
tvelarde@blackmesagolfclub.com

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At some point in many lives, as youngsters we dreamed of being an Olympic Athlete who represents the USA in competition with the rest of the world. 

Unfortunately, the odds of becoming this athlete are remote and shrink so very rapidly that we can only watch these games and the athletes. The story of the Vince Papale who walked on to the Philadelphia Eagles team and enjoyed a short but good NFL career are too few to mention. 

I had the great honor to work with a young lady in Roswell, New Mexico during her high school career with her results being nothing short of amazing.

Gerina Mendoza was the A typical high school multi-sport player. A great volleyball player with springs for legs, she developed a very aggressive body motion early on. Taking this and funneling it into a golf swing was done over a short period of time and she went on to claim the individual title in 2003. This was from a starting point of mid-80 to shooting under par. On to UTEP and a conference championship and then the LPGA. Two Solheim cups and now an Olympic appearance, the now Gerina Pillar has had a remarkable journey.

How can this happen? How can a player move through the ranks so quickly to attain a top 15 world ranking and now seems destined for greater things? I can, without much doubt, call it the American Dream where we nurture and develop our youth. It’s coming from a place where positive re-enforcement is the norm. It comes from having coaches like Becky Robertson who in all her years of coaching, which I believe started in 1990 through 2005, won the state championships every year with 1996 and 2004 being the only two exceptions with second place finishes. 

It is a very rare experience to work with an Olympic athlete. When I was working with Gerina I knew she was special, but truth be told I wanted to make her more competitive to either win a state title or help the team win the state title. Little did I know that the building of a champion was happening, you see we never know in golf when the next champion is before our eyes. It normally is not the young whiz kid who dominates the headlines. It’s not the kid with the very best equipment or the world resound teacher or coaches. It’s the young one from every town American who, after watching a competition, goes into a backyard and role plays winning. It’s what we as American’s do daily… live the dream of being able to win. 

Thank you Gerina Pilar for allowing me the unimagined experience of working with an Olympic Athlete and thanks for reinforcing that we are the guardians of the American Dream. I now look at all my juniors and tell them ‘live the dream and dream big dreams”, we are all Olympic hopefuls because I have now lived that dream.

Tom Velarde is the Manager at Black Mesa Golf Club in Espanola, New Mexico, just northwest of Santa Fe. For more information or to reach Tom, email tvelarde@blackmesagolfclub.com.