Celia Barquin (Iowa State Athletics photo)
It was the kind of news that made you sick to your stomach, but on Tuesday, the details surrounding the death of Celia Barquin Arozamena
, a 22-year-old fifth-year senior at Iowa State, just kept coming. The college golf world lost a gem of a player and person in Barquin, as well as a sense of safety on the golf course that will take time to restore.
Barquin, a native of Puente San Miguel, Spain, exhausted her eligibility at Iowa State last spring after a season that included the Big 12 individual title (the first conference title for a Cyclone golfer since 1993). But Barquin remained in Ames, Iowa, to finish a civil engineering degree, and to prepare for an impending professional golf career. She had already made it through the first stage of LPGA Q-School but remained an amateur. Most notably, Barquin won the European Ladies Amateur in July. She was also the Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year.
Barquin’s story ended during a solo round at Ames’ Coldwater Golf Links on Monday morning. She was found dead on the course not long after her unattended golf bag was spotted by fellow players and police were called to the facility. According to a criminal complaint filed by Ames police, Barquin had sustained multiple stab wounds to her upper body. First-degree murder charges have been filed against Collin Daniel Richards, a 22-year-old man who authorities say had been living in a homeless camp near the course.
Des Moines Register: Man charged with murder in killing of recent Iowa State golf star who was found dead at Ames golf course
Ames police don’t believe that Richards and Barquin knew each other. The randomness of Barquin’s death adds to its terrifying nature.
“It’s still very troubling for something like this to happen in broad daylight in a community that is as safe as Ames is,” Ames police Cmdr. Geoff Huff said in a Tuesday news conference.
Barquin’s death feels wildly out of place in our sport. We often think of the golf course as a safe and peaceful place. How many times have we all practiced alone, played alone, and spent early-morning or late-evening hours with a quiet golf course to ourselves? For an amateur golfer, an empty course is a dream, not a threat. Barquin’s story changes that, which wasn’t lost on other college players, especially those who knew her well.
South Carolina sophomore Ana Pelaez is also from Spain and attended the same high school as Barquin even though she was a few years behind her. Peleaz had fond memories of Barquin to share on Tuesday. She told a Golfweek
reporter covering the Annika Intercollegiate that it had been difficult to focus after news that her friend was gone, especially considering the circumstances of her death.
“This could’ve happened to me, to any of us, and just thinking about that is scary,” Pelaez told Golfweek
. “And this is going to take a while for everyone who plays college golf and even golfers back home in Spain to get over it.
“I don’t know, this probably was a call for everyone to not be alone.”
In nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the Golfweek Conference Challenge, the flag flew at half-mast for Iowa State’s fallen player. Players pinned on black ribbons at the Annika Intercollegiate in Eden Prairie, Minn. The Iowa State women’s team withdrew from the championship match at the East and West Match Play in Ann Arbor, Mich., to return home and navigate their first day as part of a program that’s now permanently without Barquin.
And in Ames, Iowa State head coach Christie Martens fought tears in a university press conference as she painted a picture of a student-athlete who came alive in a college-golf setting and who felt this college town was “a really, really, really special place.” Competing as a Cyclone brought Barquin a sense of immense pride.
Barquin, Martens remembers, liked to call her team the “Cyclonitas,” and was the kind of player who would do everything from buying Valentines Day flowers for teammates who didn’t have a special someone to writing inspirational quotes on the white board in the team room. She was thoughtful, and she was loved. A true Spaniard, Barquin balanced intensity with a softness that will make her hard to forget.
“The spotlight is on her because of her golf, but what makes this so hard is who she is as a person and how much she meant to me personally and to our program and to her teammates and to everyone, really, at Iowa state,” said Martens, a maternal figure who has brought a number of international players to Iowa State through the years as she has built the program to national prominence.
In an on-camera interview produced by the university earlier this year, Barquin spoke of her arrival in Ames, which amounted to a crash course in American culture and college life. From that perspective, you can only marvel at Barquin’s bravery in moving half a world away to the Midwest just to pursue a dream.
It’s just not where that dream should have ended.