The small northern Spanish town of Puente San Miguel is observing three days of mourning in honor of hometown hero and rising golf star, Celia Barquin Arozamena, who was murdered on an Iowa golf course more than 4,300 miles away.
Just hours after police in Iowa announced Barquin’s body was found littered with stab wounds in a pond on the Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, the flags in the small Spanish town were lowered to half-staff.
Hundreds of the town’s 3,000 residents held a moment of silence to pay tribute to the rising star who was considered by many as the future of Spanish golf.
“I bragged about Celia,” the town’s mayor, Pablo Diestro, told El Pais newspaper. “I am a road engineer and I was so proud of her, who said that when she finished her [engineering] degree, she would return home and work here.”
He recalled: “I have her math reinforcement classes because she wanted to be No. 1 in everything she did. [Her death] has been an impressive blow. She was a very dear girl, very hardworking. We paid her a tribute when she won the European championship.”
Diestro told HoyTorrelavega that Barquin was looking forward to finishing her studies and focusing on golf.
"Everyone predicted she'd have a great career," Diestro said.
The 22-year-old Barquin was a top golfer in Spain as a teenager and came to Iowa State University to pursue her career, drawn by the school's facilities, coaches and picturesque campus. She became one of the best golfers in school history and was completing her civil engineering degree after exhausting her athletic eligibility earlier this year.
She recently won an amateur tournament in Europe and competed in the U.S. Women's Open Championship. Barquin was hoping to turn pro next year.
“She had the brutal ability to compete. As a child, you could see that she had something different, and then she continued with her successes,” Luis Arturo Ruiz-Capillas, general manager of the Municipal Golf Course of Llanes, told El Pais.
On Monday, Barquin went to the golf course for an early practice. Hours later, her body was discovered not far from her abandoned golf bag.
Collin Daniel Richards, a 22-year-old drifter with a history of violence, was arrested some hours later -- just before he tried to leave town, police said. He was charged with first-degree murder and ordered jailed on $5 million cash-only bond at the county jail.
It was, said Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell, a "cowardly act of violence."
Back home, Barquin's brother, Andres Barquin, tearfully addressed the press, saying the family has been in contact with authorities in the U.S. and with the Spanish embassy.
“Right now the family is shattered...,” he told local media.
Barquin’s death sent shockwaves across the golf world, including reaching pro golfer Sergio Garcia – one of Barquin's favorite players. Garcia tweeted he was heartbroken by the news, noting he’d had the pleasure of meeting Barquin and calling her a “special person.”
“She was one those [players] who would come in even on a Sunday, which was a day of rest. She would come early and train,” Nacho Gervas, the athletic director for the Spanish Golf Federation, told rtve. “She was in the best moment of her life.”
Maria Jose Rienda, the president of the National Sports Council in Spain, told El Pais: “Spanish sports is in mourning.”
The Big 12 conference champion, Barquin had dreams of making the pro tour and spent hours practicing at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames.
The university had planned to honor Barquin at its football game Saturday for being its female athlete of the year — news that had brought Barquin to tears, according to athletic director Jamie Pollard. Instead, football players will wear helmet decals with her initials to mourn the loss.
"We're all devastated and heartbroken," said Pollard, who choked back tears at a news conference.
A video shared on the Iowa State Athletics Facebook page five months ago details how Barquin transitioned to the United States – learning English, finding her classes and rising to the top of the ranks.
Barquin's former team announced Tuesday it was pulling out of the East & West Match Play in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to grieve their loss. Women's golf coach Christie Martens said Barquin was an "outstanding representative of our school."
A vigil in remembrance of Barquin will be held Wednesday night on the north side of the Campanile on the Iowa State University campus. The vigil is open to the public.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.