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health as it happens

Sanchez's addiction to golf pays off with first pro tournament win - Santa Fe New Mexican

There were times when the struggle almost got the best of him.

After years of pushing that proverbial boulder uphill, Santa Fe’s Marty Sanchez — a self-described golf addict named after an uncle whose name is on the city’s municipal golf course — won his first tournament as a professional player. He carded a three-day total of 17-under to win the Las Vegas Open Championship, a tournament held July 28-30 at TPC Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nev.

His remarkably steady play produced just two bogeys in 54 holes. He cruised to a lopsided seven-stroke victory, dominating the field with an aggressive approach off the tee and, as usual, his steady hand on the greens.

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For his efforts, he was handed a $10,000 check and a trophy.

He dropped the trophy almost as soon as he got it, shattering the handle of a black ceramic and chrome vase.

“It was a such a Marty thing to happen,” Sanchez said with a laugh. “But you know, they could have given me $500 bucks and I wouldn’t have even noticed. The money in golf can be great, but it’s all about competing for me. I’ve had a lifelong addiction to this game, and now I’ve got a tournament win and some confidence.”

Sanchez, 27, is a 2012 graduate of St. Michael’s and something of a local icon on the links. He has won the city tournament along with a handful of events in high school and college, like the 2010 state title with the Horsemen before an All-American run at New Mexico Junior College.

He has played professionally on the PGA’s lower circuits since ending his college career at West Texas AM, but this went down as his first win. The Vegas Open is part of the PGA’s Southwest Section, which hosts a number of tournaments in this part of the country.

Sanchez’s next stop will be the San Juan Open on Labor Day weekend in Farmington.

“The last week since this tournament has been pretty crazy,” Sanchez said. “The outpouring of support I’ve gotten from people who’ve followed my career has been amazing. All the texts and calls have been, wow.”

For the better part of the last decade, Sanchez gravitated to Arizona, finding ways to stay involved in the sport. He’d play in a tournament here, caddie or teach a few lessons there.

Zach Berhost, a former St. Michael’s teammate who lives in Phoenix, gave him the biggest break of all by introducing him to Kelly Spielman, a former college tennis player who had attended Arizona State.

The pair hit it off immediately and got engaged last fall. The wedding is set for the spring in the Phoenix area.

“I’m lucky to have a fiancé that supports my love for golf,” Sanchez said. “She understands it.”

It hasn’t all been good for Sanchez. He had an appendectomy 20 months ago and hardly played during the pandemic. He spent much of his time shuttling back and forth between Santa Fe and Arizona, caddying in the Phoenix area to make a few bucks. He was on the bag for CEOs and celebrities, even spending a round with now-Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Albert Pujols.

“It was the best way to make money fast,” Sanchez said. “But not playing, that was tough. If anything, it was a shift in my perspective for the game. The time away from competition taught me that I’ll never take golf for granted.”

Sanchez admits there were times when he thought the day might come where he’d have to get a 9-to-5 job and become a scratch golfer on weekends. Every time he did, he said, he was drawn back to the sport that has defined his family.

When he entered the Las Vegas Open, Sanchez had hopes of playing well, but 17 under?

“I knew I was playing well but I never expected to win by seven strokes, no way,” Sanchez said. “I mean, golfers — we’ve all had cases where we said we were going to quit, where we said we’d had enough. I certainly did. I’m just glad I didn’t go through with it. I’ll never be done with it.”