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Where they are now and what you don’t know; Left-handed Goddard golfer learned to play the ‘right’ way

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Former Goddard golf sensation Arnold Madril today. (J.T. Keith Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

In 43 years, not much has changed between Goddard’s 1973-74 back-to-back state golf championship teams. Many have heard of Hall of Fame golfer Nancy Lopez, but few have heard how she began to play against boys, and that there were better players on the team than her.

Goddard 1974 Golf team (Bill Owens Photo)

Some in the Roswell might have forgotten one of the best male golfers, if not the best golfers, to never win a state title. Arnold Madril would finish runner-up as a state medalist his junior and senior year for the Blue Trophy. In his junior year, he lost to Brad Bryant. Bryant, from Alamogordo, would go on to play on the Professional Golf Association tour. In his senior year, Madril lost to teammate Bill Torpey. Both losses were by one stroke.

Helping Madril get a job turned into a lifelong friendship between Bill and Tom Owens and Madril. Back then, a 14-year-old Bill Owens was working at the Roswell Municipal Golf Course pro shop when Madril came looking for a job.

Before he worked for the Roswell Municipal Golf Course, (today called Nancy Lopez Golf Course at Spring River) Madril shagged balls out of the river for the golf course. One day, Owens and municipal golf pro Al Tingley offered him a job. Madril used to pick up 500 balls a day, working from 7 a.m. until dark.

Back in the early 70s, golf was not a popular sport, and not a lot of people played the sport like they do today.

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Madril had two problems going against him — one he was a left-hander; the other was he’d never played the game of golf before. Once hired, Bill Owens suggested to Madril that he could learn to play the game as a right-handed golfer, and it might be easier since he had never played before.

What made the game easier for Madril was that in the old days, they had straight-faced putters where a player could putt, right or left-handed. The modern putters are made differently than the way they used to make them. Madril learned to play golf right-handed and putt left-handed on a used club. He still plays right-handed and putts left-handed today.

“The biggest thing for me was the swinging part,” Madril said. “I used to swing really hard with my left, but when I went right-handed, it was different, and I couldn’t swing as hard because it was new. It took me a while to learn how to swing right-handed. It was good for me switching because it slowed my swing down, and I got more consistent with my swing.”

Madril was one of the best golfers in the history of Goddard High School golf, finishing as state runner-up his junior and senior year in high school. And his Rocket team won the state championship in 1973-74. He won the Roswell City Amateur championship shooting a 29 for the first nine holes, with a bogey on the first hole. And then shot a 28 on the backside to establish a new course record of 62 in ‘73, to defeat Bill Wiles.

Madril also won district medalist three years in a row, his sophomore, junior and senior years in high school.

“He was one of the toughest competitors ever,” said former Roswell golfing rival Cecil Sandals. “We always joked that Arnold (Madril) didn’t feel the pressure because he was so steadfast. He was solid as a rock. He was a tremendous player. He had a consistent tee to green game, and once he got on the green, he made pretty much every putt he stood over.”

Madril was not the only star on the ‘74 team. He regularly beat his Goddard teammates, Ray Jimenez, Tom Owens, Ronnie Smith, Roy King, Bill Torpey, Gary Rogers, and a young Nancy Lopez, now Nancy Lopez-Russell.

For Lopez to play, the matter almost went to court. Lopez was on the junior varsity team, at the time there was a rule that girls could not play body contact sports with the boys. A lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union from Albuquerque, Roberta Ramo, called Lopez and asked her if she wanted to play with the boys.

Lopez wanted to play, but didn’t want to rock the boat. Ramo went to the Board of Education and asked why Lopez wasn’t allowed to play since it wasn’t a contact sport. There was not a girl’s golf team at Goddard, and she was good enough to play on the boy’s team and therefore should be allowed to play, Ramo argued. The decision was made to let Lopez play if she qualified for the team, and she did, making the fourth player on the team.

“Arnold got his business done on the golf course,” Lopez-Russell told the Daily Record Monday. “He had a good temperament and was a really nice guy. He was one of my favorites on the team. He worked hard and practiced a lot; he was a great player. He was a really good putter. He didn’t leave a lot of putts short. He was just a good all-around player.”

A lot of teams Goddard competed against in ‘74 didn’t like the fact that they were beaten by a team with a girl on it. In going back-to-back in 1973, they won the state title by 41 strokes, and in ‘74 defeated local nemesis Roswell by six strokes.

“He was the most incredible putter I think I ever knew,” Tom Owens said of Madril. “Hanging around the golf course, we had all kinds of games we would play. We’d play nine holes with a 6-iron and a putter. We’d play chipping and putting games. He (Madril) became unbeatable because he was so smooth, nothing ever ruffled him. He was just a calm, cool, smiling, happy guy. I think those characteristics served him well on the golf course.”

The 1974 team credits their success to a love of playing golf day and night. They’d even called friendly rivals, such as Sandals and his brother, Henry, to meet up and play at the New Mexico Military Institute golf course. Henry would go on to play at the University of New Mexico and would become a golf pro, turning professional in 1974.

“I think of the ‘74 team as the ideal situation,” Tom Owens said. “It was just a bunch of boys, plus Nancy that played a lot of golf, both night and day. It was just a good collegial group of boys plus Nancy that competed against each other, and played on the same team in high school.”

It used to be each golfer had to compete each week to see who the best five golfers were. There were no guaranteed spots given for the whole season, as there are today.

“The ‘74 team had really good players,” Lopez-Russell said, “and we wanted to win bad. I really loved those times in my life. I enjoyed high school golf; it was fun because we had a team that wanted to play well, and I was all about that, too. I had a lot of good memories playing golf there at Goddard.”

Madril parlayed his high school success on the golf course into a scholarship to Snyder Junior College in Snyder, Texas. Madril’s team went to the national tournament and as a team finished third in the national.

Madril still plays golf and two weeks ago shot a 69 at the NMMI course.

“My success in high school really helped me as I was growing up,” Madril said. “Now that I have grandkids, that’s what they look forward to now. They want me to teach them golf.”

Today, Madril works at Head Nut Farms where he has been for the last 43 years with the same boss, Bob Kuykendall.

“I’m really happy with my life,” Madril said. “I got family and everything, and I stay busy.”