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KIRTLAND — Kyla Jones is the first-ever winner of the Senior Golfers of New Mexico Scholarship.

Jones, a recent Kirtland Central High School graduate, was awarded the $1,000 scholarship prior to a SGNM tournament at Riverview Golf Course this morning.

In order to be considered for the scholarship, Jones needed to be nominated by a member of the SGNM, and submit a letter of recommendation, a school transcript and an essay.

Michael Romero, the vice president of the SGNM, said girls from around the state applied for the scholarship, but Jones’ essay set her apart from the rest.

“Her essay was excellent,” Romero said. “She had a nice letter of recommendation, and when I called her, she seemed like a nice young lady.”

The essay focused on how golf has enhanced the lives of New Mexicans. Jones said her essay told of how golf taught her discipline, respect and patience in her day-to-day life, and how her passion for the game has led her to teaching other the game she loves.

“In golf, you have to be very observant and pay attention to others and yourself,” Jones said. “There’s also etiquette involved, and it helped me transform into a young woman who has standards and good enough manners to go out in public. You also have to be very disciplined — staying calm, respecting others and not getting frustrated. That applies to things in the everyday world. There’s just so many connections golf has with real-world experiences.”

Jones picked up the game of golf at a young age, participating in The First Tee of San Juan County program while in the first grade. The program instilled in her a passion for the game that grew with every year, and now she wants to share that passion with others. Jones will attend New Mexico State University in the fall and plans to enroll in the Professional Golf Association’s golf management program through NMSU’s school of business. Upon completion, she hopes to become a course professional.

Jones is currently working with young golfers in the area, teaching them the rules and etiquette of golf through the First Tee, mentoring participants of a weekly girls-only class at Civitan Golf Course in Farmington.

Tom Yost, the executive director of the First Tee and Jones’ first golf coach, said Jones is the ideal role model for the current and future members of the First Tee program.

“To see the maturation process from beginning to end, it really validates what we’re trying to do here and the kind of people who come out the other side after the duration of being in the program,” Yost said. “You see how goal driven they are and how successful they are, and Kyla is the poster child for that.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.

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