Story written by Iowa State Athletics Communications Student Assistant Jack Bluhm
At the age of 14, Celia Barquin Arozamena is competing in the biggest golf tournament of her life, the national championship for golfers 14 and under in her home country of Spain. The tournament is playing host to all of the best young female golfers in Spain and is THE tournament to win. This tournament means everything to Barquin Arozamena. Not only does this tournament prove that by winning she is the best teenage amateur golfer in the entire country, but this tournament provides the winner access to a scholarship to one of Spain’s premier boarding schools, IES Ortega y Gassest.
On the final day of competition, Barquin Arozamena has dominated the field and holds a five-stroke lead. All of her training, carried out relentlessly day in and day out for seven years, is finally going to pay off. The trophy is within reach and Barquin Arozamena knows it, but there is still more golf to play.
During the final round, another golfer comes out of nowhere and shoots a blistering round of five-under par, catching up to Barquin Arozamena. Barquin Arozamena is stunned as now she is in a sudden death playoff for the national championship. Walking back to the playoff hole, Barquin Arozamena knows this is her moment. This is her time to prove what she has and that she is Spain’s best teenage golfer.
The two competitors match each other on their drives as they are placed perfectly in the fairway on the par-four, playoff hole. Now comes the approach shot. Barquin Arozamena watches as her competitor lines up and takes her swing. The ball and the club make perfect contact and her competitor’s shot ends up rolling three feet away from the hole.
Pressure is on.
Barquin Arozamena grabs her club, settles in, takes a deep breath and lets it rip. Her ball lands on the green, only her ball is 40 feet away from the hole. Nerves are now starting to kick in for Barquin Arozamena as the national championship she so desperately sought seems miles away instead of 40 feet. With her opponent just having a tap-in and Barquin Arozamena staring down a 40 footer, the odds are not looking good. But these are moments champions live for. The crowd goes silent as Barquin Arozamena, with her trusty putter in hand, walks up to her ball. She takes her time and measures up her putt. As she stands over her ball Barquin Arozamena takes a last look at the hole and in one smooth motion, mimicking a pendulum, she sends her ball rolling. Not one sound is made as the ball rolls across the green — until it hits the bottom of the cup.
Spectators’ jaws drop, as they can’t believe what they just saw. Barquin Arozamena, doing her best Tiger Woods impression, celebrates with a huge fist pump and a celebratory yell. The national championship is hers; all she needed was her opponent to miss. The only thing Barquin Arozamena can do now is watch as her opponent settles in for her three-foot putt to force another playoff.
She misses the putt.
In matter of minutes, Barquin Arozamena went from losing her lead in the national championship to being crowned the best golfer in Spain at the age of 14. This win was only the beginning of what was yet to come for Barquin Arozamena.
Now 21, Barquin Arozamena is a senior at Iowa State University looking forward to her final spring season. During her collegiate career, Barquin Arozamena has become one of the best golfers in the programs history. “Celia is probably the best player, ranking wise, we’ve ever recruited, so the expectations were already set pretty high for her,” head coach Christine Martens said. Barquin Arozamena has more than lived up to those expectations as her name is marked all over the school record books:
— Second in career stroke average with an impressive 73.41
— Seventh in top-10 finishes with 13
— Owns three of the top eight single season stroke average marks
— Only one of four players in school history to be named All-Big 12 First-Team multiple times.
“I want to be the player who played good, did good in school and was a good leader for the team,” she said. “That’s my biggest focus for this year. Everyone has always been like, ‘Celia, you have to do this. Celia, you have to do that,’ and now I want to be the one that is in charge of the other players and take more of a leadership role.”
Being that senior leader has been vital to her team as Barquin Arozamena is one of only three seniors. This has been something that both her coaches and teammates have taken note of.
“When she started here it was kind of like, this is about me and this is what I’m focusing on,” Martens said. “She’s much more about trying to bring others along with her now, which is the cool thing. Now it’s not just about her being good, it’s about her trying to bring everyone with her.”
However, Barquin Arozamena wasn’t always settled in on playing golf at Iowa State. In fact, when Martens first reached out to Barquin Arozamena she said no because the weather in Iowa was too cold for her. It wasn’t until a tournament in France when her mind, along with the influence of her mom, started to change.
Barquin Arozamena’s mom instantly made a connection with Martens, though she only speaks Spanish. “After talking with her for four or five minutes my mom was like, ‘You’re going to Iowa State. I don’t care where you want to go, I absolutely love this woman. I want you to go there,’” she said. “So you could say that [my parents] forced me, but at the same time I was super excited because I love coach Martens. When I first met her I was 100 percent sure I want to go [to Iowa State].”
Although she was ready for her next adventure to become a Cyclone, the journey to get to Ames was a whirlwind for Barquin Arozamena. Not only was she going to have to deal with the culture shock of moving to a different country, she first had to get there. Classes were already in session for two weeks before Barquin Arozamena was scheduled to arrive on campus; she was in China competing at the Junior Olympics and had lost her passport. Scrambling and not knowing what to do, Barquin Arozamena contacted coach Martens.
“Coach, I lost my passport, so it might be another two weeks,” Barquin Arozamena said.
“What? You’re already two weeks late!” Martens replied.
Luckily though, she did end up finding her passport and made it to Ames a month after classes had officially started. Now the next challenge was getting accustomed to her new way of life as a college student in the United States. Not knowing any English was hard for Barquin Arozamena. On her first day at Iowa State she attempted to go to class but didn’t make it to any because she couldn’t understand her schedule, her phone’s wifi didn’t work and she didn’t posses a campus map. This is where Martens and teammate and current roommate M.J. Kamin came to the rescue.
“When she first got here, she was really funny because she would always just nod because she wouldn’t understand you,” Martens said. “I would tell her something and I would just be like ‘OK you have no idea what I’m talking about’ and sometimes she still gets a glazed look over her face.”
With the help of Kamin, Barquin Arozamena was soon able to learn the ropes of Iowa State and learned to juggle the responsibilities as a student athlete.
“I always thought in the beginning it was funny to have a freshman lead another freshman around,” Barquin Arozamena said. “But she was the only reason I would make it on time to places. She would be like, ‘Remember we have to do this tomorrow, remember we have to go this place, where are you? We’re late for practice,’ so M.J. did absolutely everything for me at the beginning. We were like each others only friends for the first couple of months and we could barely talk to each other.”
Now that she has become fully immersed as a student majoring in civil engineering, the athlete in Barquin Arozamena is looking forward to her last season as a Cyclone. Even though she has enjoyed a decorated career, Barquin Arozamena has never made it to the NCAA national championship, the one tournament she wants the most because she has fallen just short of qualifying twice.
“That would be the cherry on top of my golf career here,” she said. “I don’t want to just make it to the NCAAs, I want to win the NCAAs. I just need to have a good week. That’s golf. It doesn’t matter how good someone is, it’s just who has the best week of their life.”
But Barquin Arozamena doesn’t want to make it to nationals alone. She said that she would much rather have the entire team go.
“At the beginning of the year us seniors were telling [the underclassmen] we need to make it this year,” Barquin Arozamena said. “We’ve beaten some of our biggest rivals in tournaments this year so we’re all up on winning Big 12’s or at least be top two or three and making it to nationals.”
With all this focus on making it to nationals and being one of the best players in school history, it may look like golf is the only thing in Barquin Arozamena’s life. That would be wrong.
“I’m always the one making plans for everybody,” Barquin Arozamena said. “Going to games is the most fun thing to do. I go to football and basketball. I go to volleyball. I literally watch everything.”
When she’s not out and about, Barquin Arozamena also loves to sit down with a good book, such as her favorite series “The Hunger Games,” or watch a movie. She described herself as a nerd because her favorite genre of movies are science fiction, and she currently is obsessing over the popular Netflix show, “Stranger Things.”
She also fancies herself as a pretty good cook, with fish dishes and cakes as her specialties. “When I’m with my Spanish friends, I’m always up for making dinner at home,” she said.
As for what comes next for Barquin Arozamena, she is currently figuring that out. Barquin Arozamena will graduate this spring with a degree in civil engineering, but has hopes that golf will be in her future after college. “I would like to turn pro at the same time I finish my last semester [at Iowa State],” she said. “If that doesn’t work out, which it might not, I’ll just graduate and turn pro afterwards. Try golf out for one or two years, see if it works. If it works I guess I’ll just play golf and if it doesn’t, I’m going to need to find a job.”