LAS CRUCES, New Mexico — Alison Gastelum is a sophomore golfer for New Mexico State who is preparing to compete in her third spring season with the Aggies. The Gold Rush event, hosted by Long Beach State, is where NMSU begins its spring season on Monday and Tuesday.
She was a Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholar as a freshman in 2019-20, and she finished in the top 10 three times the following season, including eighth in the WAC Championships in 2021. With last year’s NCAA COVID-19 waiver, she was able to save a year of eligibility and will help lead this year’s Aggie team as they attempt to reclaim the WAC title. She is one of four foreign-born students on the NMSU women’s golf team, and she is from Chihuahua, Mexico, a city of over a million people.
She brings a unique perspective to the game.
Q: You’re from Mexico, right? What was the recruiting process like for you as an international student?
Gastelum: It’s difficult since golf isn’t particularly popular in Mexico. It’s difficult for us to go through the process of registering with a university, so you’ll have to make a lot of phone calls, send emails, and communicate with the coaches. Danny (Bowen, the head coach) made things very simple for me. We were just emailing one other, and as time passed, things became simpler, and after a few months, I was signing up here.
Q: How did you get into golf in the first place, coming from a country where it isn’t a very popular sport?
Gastelum: My grandfather started the whole golf thing in our family, and then my father picked it up. I was swimming when I was about 5 years old, and one day he simply took me to the practice range, where I began striking the balls like any other kid with enormous clubs. It was love at first sight for both of them. It was merely a thing, and I began to (fall) in love with it. I’ve been doing this for almost 16 years. I began playing in a few regional competitions back home and progressed to nationals when I was about 10, 11 years old, before moving on to international (tournaments) in the United States and a few other countries (tournaments).
Q: Could you describe the differences between golf in the United States and golf in Mexico?
Gastelum: Not many people play golf back home, thus there aren’t many golf courses. The competitions will be held in locations that are somewhat far from my hometown. It’s just a different setting. People are accustomed to playing here and are familiar with the game, so returning from a nation where it is less well-known, very few people will be aware of it. When I return to my hometown and discuss golf with my friends, they’ll say, “Uh, okay?” “How do you go about playing it?” It’s more likely to hear folks who are familiar with the game here.
Q: What part of the spring season do you most look forward to?
Gastelum: We’re going to start (getting) the team together, playing, and having fun, especially since it’s conference season. It will be difficult (because we don’t play many tournaments), but as we grow to know more courses, I believe we will be participating in a new competition in Seattle this semester. We’re returning to a handful of familiar courses, so it’ll be easier for us to come back and become involved with classes again. It’s a good time. It’s just the traveling with the team that’s enjoyable. It appeals to me greatly. We all get along well, so we’re hopeful it’ll be as enjoyable as we anticipate.