Golfing For Students

SOCORRO, N.M. July 15, 2010 – When is a round of golf educational? In mid-September at New Mexico Tech.

 Dr. Daniel H. Lopez, president of Tech, with good friend Dr. Mike Martin, president of LSU (and former president of NMSU) at the 2009 event. Martin returns to Socorro every year to support the Tech scholarship fund.
 Dr. Lopez welcomes the players in the morning flight in 2009.
The tourney is all about the students. Many volunteer to help run the event, while a few lucky ones get to play golf.

The 16th Annual President’s Club Golf Tournament, hosted by Tech President Dr. Daniel H. López is Thursday and Friday, Sept. 16 and 17, at the New Mexico Tech Golf Course in Socorro. New Mexico’s largest fundraising golf tournament, the event raises more than $170,000 every year to help Tech students complete their degree program.

“We call it a tournament,” President López said. “But it’s truly a fun event that helps students. We designed this tournament to be focused on the university, not on competitive golf. ”

Shortly after becoming the university president in 1993, López started the tournament as a way to increase the university’s scholarship fund. Since then, more than 150 students – mostly fifth-year seniors who have exhausted their state-supported Lottery Scholarships – received tuition assistance from the President’s Scholarship Fund.

“Our event planners have done such a good job over the years that our tournament has become very popular around the state,” Lopez said. “Playing a round of golf in Socorro is just one small part of the attraction. We treat our supporters, sponsors and visitors to good meals and social events – all for the sake of our students.”

For 14 years, the event includes 32 groups – 128 players – for a morning flight and again for an afternoon flight on Friday. Demand was so high that some players were turned away. So, in 2009, tournament organizers added a third flight -- a VIP flight -- on Thursday to expand the field to offer major sponsors the opportunity to play in a smaller flight. The sponsors are also treated to a special event. In 2009, sponsors were given a special tour of the new Magdalena Ridge Observatory. This year, they will view an explosives test at EMRTC and have a special reception atop ‘M’ Mountain.

The difficulty of the university’s curriculum often contributes to student’s financial challenges. Most undergraduate students at the state-sponsored science and engineering school take at least five years to complete a bachelor’s degree.

“Since most government scholarship programs only fund four years of university study, the President’s Scholarship Fund every year helps fifth-year students complete their degree work,” López said. “At commencement, we give special recognition to the few students who complete their studies in four years. For the typical students, we have developed a variety of ways to help them financially after their fourth year and this is one way.”

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in August 2005, López used the President’s Scholarship Fund to help three students transfer from waterlogged campuses to New Mexico Tech.

The event requires an army of volunteers from nearly every department on campus. Often times, students who benefit from the President’s Fund Scholarships are on hand to help the tournament run smoothly. Top finishes in each flight get prizes, but the true winners are the students.

“Young students often find themselves in financial straits, whether it be family crises or health problems,” López said. “We have grown this scholarship fund to give students a fallback plan.”

The cost is $250 per player or $1,000 per team. The bulk of the funds raised come from corporate and individual sponsorships. Sponsorship opportunities are available from $3,000 to $10,000. To register or for sponsorship information, call tournament director Tony Ortiz at (575) 835-5616.

-- NMT --