Golf isn’t as accessible a sport as something like soccer or basketball. But it’s undeniable that golfers are incredibly passionate about their game. You’ve never seen someone truly happy about good weather on their day off until you’ve known a golfer.
Part of that is because in addition to being a game that demands otherworldly skill from its players, it also offers them a great excuse to be outside among exquisitely maintained natural beauty. But as some people would learn, not every day out on a golf course is a walk in the park…
It was a warm and cloudy Monday in September in Ames, Iowa, the home of Iowa State University – the kind of day that leaves golf enthusiasts itching to hit the links. Of course, most of them would be stuck at their day jobs, hoping the weather would be as nice once the weekend came around.
Privilege of Age
But one of the benefits of being an older person is that you’re through with being tied to a desk. Harley Thornton and three of his friends of similarly advanced years took the opportunity to hit the Coldwater Golf Links for a morning round.
Around 8:45 a.m. a woman who seemed to be in her early 20s caught up behind their foursome. “This very nice young lady came up with her push card and we all agreed that she should go in front of us,” Harley would later tell KCCI news. “We knew she would be a lot faster than a bunch of old men.”
The young woman played through the group, then moved beyond their sight fairly quickly. About an hour later, when Harley and his friends arrived on the ninth tee, they could immediately tell that something was amiss.
All Her Things
The young woman’s push cart was there and several of her tees were there, strewn across the ground beside her cell phone and the hat that she’d been wearing. “This was very strange and not right,” Harley said. “There is no reason to abandon your clubs in the middle of the fairway.”
Harley immediately called the pro shop to see if they knew anything and when they didn’t he feared the worst and called 911 right away. “Timing is very important on something like this,” he said. “So we were just trying to help.”
The police quickly arrived on the scene and began to canvass the area in search of the missing woman or any clues about what happened to her. When one of the investigators spotted something in the pond that ran alongside the ninth hole, their worst suspicions were confirmed. It was the body of the young woman, who had been stabbed several times in the upper torso, neck, and head.
The discovery was stunning for Harley, who held back tears during his interview with KCCI. He was shocked that such a thing could have happened at “9:30, 10 o’clock in the morning and with full view of anyone that wanted to look. That is a very brazen act,” he said. “It could have been my daughter.”
‘What Did He Do’
Police intensified their search of the area, looking for clues. By 1:35 p.m., they came upon a person of interest, later identified as D.B. in the criminal report, as he was leaving the course on a walking trail. When the officers approached him, he asked them a question that took them aback: “What did he do to her?”
D.B. said that he’d been living in the same nearby encampment as a man who would later become the primary suspect in the woman’s death. As he led the officers to the camp, he related to them something chilling the alleged perpetrator had said just days earlier. They had been walking somewhere when the man talked to D.B. about his “urge to rape and kill a woman.”
As they were investigating the supposed killer’s tent, the man himself approached. His name was Collin Richards and officers noticed that his face was freshly scratched. He also had a “deep laceration” on his left hand which he tried to hide from the officers.
When they questioned Richards, he said he just came from the home of a friend named C. J. When police tracked down C.J., he told police that Richards had shown up “disheveled and covered in blood, sand, and water.” He’d cleaned himself off and put his bloody clothing in a black backpack – the same backpack that Richards had on him when he talked to police. Richards had given a knife to two other friends who’d given him a ride back to his tent, which the friends turned over to police.
The alleged killer was immediately taken into custody. Upon further investigation, police found that Richards had been kicked out of his grandparents house after they were fed up with his use of prescription drugs and methamphetamine and his string of petty crimes, such as a domestic abuse assault and robbing a convenience store of cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and beer.
Future Golf Star
The victim in the crime was eventually identified as the 22-year-old Celia Barquin Arozamena, a top amateur golfer and former member of the Iowa State women’s golfing team who had recently graduated from the school. Originally from Spain, Celia was on her way to becoming a golf pro after becoming arguably the best player in Iowa State history.
Celia had earned all-Big 12 honors three times and won the Big 12 Championship in April, a highlight of her career which led Iowa State to name her the school’s female athlete of the year. She had recently won the European Amateur Championship at Slovakia’s Penati Golf Resort and had also advanced to the second round of the LPGA tour’s qualifying school.
But what could have been a great career in professional golf was shut down before it even started by Celia’s senseless death. Word of her demise spread quickly through Ames and none were struck harder by the news than her former teammates.
When the members of Iowa State’s golf team learned of her death, the school sent an airplane to pick them up from the East & West Match Play Tournament. Her friends had a hard time accepting what had happened. “It must be wrong,” said Christie Martens, Celia’s former coach. “It must be a mistake.”
Dreadful Phone Call
Christie was the one charged with the heart-wrenching task of calling Celia’s parents back in Spain and giving them the terrible news. “Cel was happy every day that she was there,” Celia’s mother said to Christie.”
“If we had this to decide all over again, we would still send her to Iowa State,” she continued. “That really meant a lot,” said Christie. On the trip back to Iowa, she and the rest of the team shared some of the memories they had of the good times with Celia. They watched videos of her playing golf, cooking, and just hanging out with them over the years.
Celia’s home town of Puente San Miguel held a moment of silence and lowered its flags to half-mast. Tributes came in from across the golf world from both amateurs and pros who were familiar with the rising star. Celia had been scheduled to come onto the field at halftime of the Iowa State – Akron football game to be honored as the athlete of the year. Instead, the school would show a video tribute to her and observe a moment of silence.