Silva snaps Sanchez’s 2-year reign

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By Mike Cote

About a month before playing in his first Atomic City Invitational, Nick Silva spotted a man who looked vaguely like someone he knew in high school.

Then, when he saw the left-handed swing, he was sure.

Silva and longtime Los Alamos golfer Eddie Sanchez, the lefty, reacquainted after more than 40 years in Ruidoso. Sanchez told Silva about the ACI tournament and Silva decided to take part.

Good choice for Silva. Not as good for Sanchez.

Silva, a retired veteran from Socorro, won the senior men’s championship flight at this year’s ACI. Silva went 3-0 in his match-play contests, including topping Sanchez in day three of the four-day event to earn the ACI title in his first try.

The win broke Sanchez’s streak of two-straight ACI wins. His loss to Silva Thursday was the first match he’d lost since joining the senior ACI circuit in 2007.

On his way to victory, Silva was under par against both Sanchez and Fred Robinson, closing out both matches quickly.

“I played really well,” Silva said. “I played the course really well, hit the ball well. My opponents just happened to catch me on a good day.”

After topping Dale Mildbrandt in his opening round Thursday, Silva drew Sanchez for a Friday morning contest.

Despite Sanchez’s success on the first two days of the tournament – he was the winner in the stroke-play competition to open the tournament, then dispatched Robinson in the first round – Silva picked up an impressive 6 and 5 victory.

He would do the same to Robinson a day later, topping him 6 and 5 to grab the title in the round-robin format tournament.

Silva met Sanchez when both were playing high school golf.

Playing for Socorro High School, Silva made his first trip to Los Alamos in 1966 to play at LAGC, when Sanchez was playing golf for the Hilltoppers.

They saw each other again that year at the high school state tournament, but wouldn’t see each other again until this year at Ruidoso.

Playing head-to-head, Silva took a five-hole lead with just six holes to play. On LAGC’s eighth hole, Silva’s approach left him about 20 feet from the cup, but his ball was on the green’s bottom tier while the pin was on the top tier.

No problem. Silva rattled the tough, uphill putt in the cup to take the victory.

Sanchez, who said going into the tournament that Silva would be a big factor in the outcome, finished second overall in the men’s draw.

Wednesday, Sanchez carded a 77 to take medalist honors in the stroke-play tournament, topping Silva by two shots in a round that took just a hair longer than three hours.

Silva said he enjoyed playing at LAGC, but it took some getting used to.

“The greens are a little different for me trying to putt,” he said. “I’m used to bent-grass greens that are real smooth. These were a little different.”

Silva plays in the senior amateur’s circuit in the southern part of the state but plans on returning to Los Alamos to play again.

“I’m really happy,” he said. “I had a great time. A super time.”