Warming weather means one thing for local golfers — tee time! And now that the town of Silver City is once again managing the municipal course known as Scott Park, many of those golfers are singing the praises of town management and the facility’s golf pro, Len Zamora.
“I decided it was time to return to my New Mexico roots, share what I’ve learned and showcase a great golf experience for local residents,” said Zamora, a PGA League national member who relocated to Silver City a year ago with his wife, Sarah, from Cabo San Lucas in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. There, he improved that course’s worldwide ranking from 58th to 36th in the eight years that the couple lived there. He also spent 17 years of his career in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Recent improvements to Scott Park have regulars enjoying the game of golf in Silver City with renewed zeal and appreciation for recent improvements by town staff to the course and its facilities, including a newly paved parking lot, the purchase of 30 new golf carts, a more clearly defi ned front entrance, a new maintenance facility and repairs and upgrades to the irrigation system. “It’s a huge benefit that the city has taken over the management of the course, and you can really see the difference,” said Philip “Felipe” Salazar, who plays the 18-hole course every Tuesday with his friend, Pete Villalobos of Pleasanton. “It’s a much, much better course, and the town continues to make improvements. It’s a hidden gem in Silver City.”
Salazar relocated to Silver City eight years ago from Albuquerque, and Villalobos left San Diego 13 years ago. While enjoying a cold beer and a beautiful view on the outdoor patio of the Tap Room bar/restaurant overlooking the course, with a view of the Kneeling Nun in the distance, both said they wouldn’t have moved to Silver City if there were no golf course.
“I’m so thankful that the town has taken over the management of the course and is putting their best foot forward to create a great facility,” Villalobos said. “Town Manager Alex Brown is working hard to improve the quality of life here, with the new recreation center, investing in this course and recognizing the importance of amenities that help support the local economy. This is a community that is being noticed by retirees, and a good golf course is important to that population.”
Salazar said he recently played a private club in Ruidoso as part of the Zia Seniors League, and called the course conditions at the public Scott Park facility “on par” with Ruidoso.
“This is the best the course has looked, ever,” he said. “It’s perfect for the community — the best in the state, as far as public facilities go.” Under the leadership and guidance of Zamora, a graduate of New Mexico State University’s golf management program, the master plan for Scott Park outlines major future improvements in phases, as finances allow. Phase 1 includes a new practice facility, complete with a driving range, short course and supervised practice area for children, live music and a range of family activities.
Phase 2 calls for a complete overhaul of the ’70sera irrigation system, along with a fully redesigned 18hole course to bring it up to United States Golf Association specifications, with new tee boxes and better greens. Such improvements will make the course more available for tournaments and fundraising events for local organizations, Zamora explained, providing an even better experience for golfers of all ages, all while supporting the goal of developing a PGA junior league and training young golfers for generations to come.
Other plans include instructional programs for men, women and couples “to grow the game of golf,” Zamora added, including “Operation 36,” for new golfers who shoot 36 over nine holes.
Zamora, a U.S. Navy veteran, expects to be a certi-fi ed instructor in the PGA Hope Program for disabled veterans by late summer, so that he can serve those who’ve served the nation’s military by sharing with them the game that has been his life’s passion. He was inspired by older brother Don Zamora, whose love of the game led him to become a golf pro and open Ladera Golf Course in Albuquerque in the 1970s.
“Growing the game” also means a renewed interest and commitment to junior golf. The Drew Hunter Junior Golf Program was named in honor of former assistant golf pro Drew Hunter, who, with muchloved golf pro Ron Doan, diligently fostered junior golf, and inspires children ages 7 to 14 to learn the game and compete in leagues structured much like Little League baseball and youth soccer leagues.
Hunter’s nephew, Mike Rowse, Grant County Golf Association president and a Silver City native, began playing at Scott Park in 1967 at just 5 years old. He was introduced to the game by his grandfather.
“Golf is a great game of life,” said Rowse, who will play an integral part in the revitalization of the junior golf leagues. “It teaches integrity, and how to get along with all kinds of people from all walks of life. Playing golf is equally frustrating for everybody — everyone is equal. It’s a game where players of all abilities can play together.”
For more information about Scott Park, visit scottparkgolflinks.com or call 575-538-5041. The course is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and greens fees are just $45 for a round of golf with cart, with the junior rate at $7. Town employees enjoy a free annual pass. Not a golfer? Visit Scott’s Tap Room for daily happy hour specials from 3 to 7 p.m. — and enjoy one of the best views in town.