Thoughts on Gabby Petito and Celia Barquín Arozamena — Jin Young Ko at the Cambia Portland Classic — Must-click women’s golf links
The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, September 23, 2021
(Warning: this contains graphic details of violence against women.)
Like most of the world right now, I cannot stop thinking about Gabby Petito. As a 26-year-old female who loves to scratch her adventurous itch by hiking and exploring the outdoors, this case hits very close to home for me, as it does for most of the 20-somethings that have followed it from the jump. It’s a reminder of just where we are as a society and how, even in the 21st century, women still have so much to fear, especially when it comes to our mental and physical well-being.
Every woman has asked a friend to watch her drink before going to the restroom at a bar and carried her car key in between her fingers to use as a weapon walking to her vehicle alone late at night. We’ve all thought about the potential worst-case scenarios and all have a plan for what to do if a stranger starts to follow you or the creepy guy at the concert gets just a little too close.
But we aren’t nearly as prepared nor diligent in the situations where you’re supposed to feel safe. We don’t think about the bad things that could happen because we’re comfortable with who we’re with and where we are, just relaxed enough to let our guard down and stop looking over our shoulder. And I think that’s what makes Gabby’s death even more terrifying.
Upon learning of her disappearance and subsequent discovery of her remains, I immediately flashed back to a murder that happened in the golf community in 2018. Iowa State senior Celia Barquín Arozamena was found stabbed to death at Coldwater Golf Links on September 17th at around 10:30 AM, presumably getting in some early practice ahead of a busy day as a college student. The murderer was a local 22-year-old homeless man who was said to have told a friend that he wanted to “rape and kill a woman”, something that wasn’t reported until just before the killer’s arrest.
I remember hearing about Celia’s death and being disturbed in the same way I was when I heard about Gabby. I thought back to the countless times I’d been on a golf course alone, how I never once even thought that there was potential for someone to hurt me, how much of a safe haven these spaces seemed to be both for me and many other young women. I thought about the hours I had spent alone wrapped in the comfort of fairways and greens, among nature and sunshine and wildlife, never having to question my safety. And then I got angry.
It enraged me to think that the last moments of Celia’s life were spent in agony and fear at a place where she should’ve been able to feel sheltered and relaxed, that someone selfishly took her away from her family and friends because her life didn’t mean as much to him as the urge to kill did. It was infuriating to think that a place of solace and serenity for so many was now tainted, that Celia could’ve been anyone anywhere at any given time, that, just like bars and sidewalks and broad daylight, golf courses were now a place where women have to be on high alert if they’re alone. I was livid that a promising young light was snuffed out far too early in what was supposedly a “safe space”.
I can’t help but link Gabby’s and Celia’s stories. They both were senseless acts of violence committed by selfish, entitled individuals, yes, but what makes them even more devious is the fact that each victim’s trust was taken advantage of. Though we don’t know exactly who killed Gabby just yet—only missing Brian Laundrie, it seems, knows that information—Celia trusted that she was safe on the golf course, that she could be comfortable knowing that nothing was going to happen. If Laundrie is the murderer in the Petito case and the domestic violence claims check out, Gabby’s faith in her partner’s character and trust that he would never seriously hurt her were heinously betrayed.
It tells me that even in the most modern of modern times, women are somehow still responsible for constantly protecting themselves against this type of violence, that we are still expected to be on high alert even if all things point to a safe situation, that we still can’t just do what we want when we want because for some reason it’s still okay, in the minds of too many, to hurt women.
I don’t know how to fix the problem and I wouldn’t even know where to start. To be honest, I’m not even sure it’s something that can be fixed. Cases like Gabby’s and Celia’s are a dime a dozen, especially for indigenous women and women of color, and happen every single day across the country. Women should be able to feel safe in every situation, but that simply isn’t the case, a heart-breaking yet simple fact of life.
The one thing I do know? We have to keep talking about women like Gabby and Celia in hopes of preventing it from happening to somebody else, in hopes that maybe someday we won’t have to always be looking over our shoulder, that we can be comfortable flying solo.
This week in women’s golf
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Five at The IX: Jin Young Ko’s winning press conference at the Cambia Portland Classic
Jin Young, you came here off several weeks off. Did you think your first event back would be a win?
No, I didn’t. I spent a great time in Korea after the Olympics, maybe over six or seven weeks. I had a lot of practice with my same coach and I had a lot of workouts, three times or four times each week. My body weight is getting higher but I had a great week this week and I’m so happy to put my name on the trophy. It’s a great win, I think.
Overall, what was the course like today considering how much rain we got? Do you think the course conditions were able to help you at all? You played bogey-free today.
I really wanted to play yesterday, but we couldn’t play. I tried to have a bogey-free round today and I made it. I had a lot of missed shots and I had a lot of missed chipping or something, so I had to make great par saves, but I made it. This course was really amazing and fairways and greens are really perfect. I can’t wait to play next year.
Glad to have your parents here with you? Have they seen you win before?
Yes, in Texas. It ridiculous, you know? I want to win without my parents, but this year, I had two wins with my parents. But we’ll see what’s going to happen over the next three weeks.
I know you’re on a plane tonight to go out to the next event, this was the first of four weeks in a row. How do you manage playing four weeks in a row to keep yourself from getting too tired or too stressed?
Four weeks in a row is really tiring and tough, but two of the weeks are just three days and not bad. Then after that I go back to Korea and then I will keep reminding myself that I can go back to Korea after New Jersey. So that will help me a lot.
What can you say about coming to Oregon, the beauty of Oregon, the state, and your experience here, the nature and the other stuff?
I love this place. I like this weather, even. I like the rain but today it wasn’t rain. But I like this, like British weather. Even a few days ago it was perfect, so I went to the park. It’s a famous one, and I went there with my caddie and parents and Sue and we went hiking, and the weather was really good. I heard there’s a lot of good wine here. I love drinking wine. Do you have wine right now?