Some 5,000 miles from his hometown, Cadiz, Spain, freshman economics major Pablo Mena has thrived as a Crusader and has been a crucial weapon in the arsenal of Cru golf for this season on the team.
Mena was first discovered by Coach Aaron Rodeffer in an international student athlete showcase in Miami, Fla., last July, put on by the International Doorway to Education and Athletics.
He displayed much potential. Rodeffer described him as the “most accomplished” golfer in the showcase and took an early interest in Mena, recruiting him to the purple and gold in a short span of two days.
Mena was approached by several coaches representing various schools such as the University of Massachusetts and North Carolina. Mena said that Rodeffer stood out, and was the reason he decided to come to UMHB.
So what brings this international athlete so far from home? His love for golf and his desire to study abroad. He had always wanted to study in the U.S. and said, “I’ve been planning on it since I was 16.”
Mena recalls an easy move to UMHB in August, commenting, “I felt very comfortable, welcomed by my teammates and peers.”
He was comfortable enough to nickname all of his teammates, such as sophomore criminal justice major Taylor “Baby T” Holleyman and sophomore Spanish and communication double major Spencer “Northwest” Turner to mention a few.
“(He) gets along with everyone and brings a great chemistry to the team,” said Holleyman, further asserting that Mena had a smooth transition socially.
However, coming to the golf team at the collegate level was not so smooth. He had a rocky start, which can only be expected when introduced to game play on an entirely new continent. Rodeffer suggests that Mena, “has made a great turnaround this spring.”
Mena himself was quick to testify accordingly.
“(Last) semester I played terrible, but this semester I am getting my golf game back,” he said.
Turner spoke of his progression in a positive light.
“Yes, he obviously had his speed bumps first semester, but he has adjusted quickly and is improving on his scoring,” Turner said.
In addition to his progress, teammates complimented the Spaniard on his ball striking, enthusiasm and demeanor on the golf course.
Mena was recently invited to the California Lutheran Kingsmen Invitational, in Lompoc, Calif., after qualifying for his first top-five appearance. The team finished sixth of 14 total teams in the invitational, and Mena recognizes the event as the most memorable yet of his time as a Crusader.
Mena most recently fought for the Cru at the West Region Invitational March 4 and 5, which concluded the regular season for golf.
Then after a two-week break, the Crusader golf team will compete at the ASC Championship Tournament in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, representing UMHB among the seven other teams in attendance, including defending champion UT-Tyler.
Mena shared his perspective on the conference championship asserting that the “team has great talent. We will have to buck up to do something special.”
If the Cru can come out of the ASC Championship in first place, they will qualify for the NCAA National Championship. This will be the first time since their back-to-back appearances in 2008 and 2009, which was the first two years that Rodeffer was the head coach for the Cru.