European golf champion killed on US course

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EGA

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Celia Barquín Arozamena won the European Amateur Championship in July

A homeless man has been charged in the murder of prominent Spanish golfer Celia Barquín Arozamena, 22, who was found dead on an Iowa golf course.

Ms Barquín won the European Ladies’ Amateur championship in July and was a top athlete at Iowa State University.

She was found on Monday at the Coldwater Golf Links in the city of Ames, with several stab wounds to her head, neck and upper body, police say.

Ms Barquín is the second female student in Iowa to be killed in recent months.

Police in the Iowa city said they had determined that Ms Barquín died following an assault.

Collin Daniel Richards, also 22, has been charged with first-degree murder, police say. He was ordered to be jailed on Tuesday.

Ms Barquín was found on Monday in Ames, about 30 miles (50km) north of Des Moines, after police were called to investigate an unattended golf bag on the course early on Monday.

“It’s still very troubling for something like this to happen in broad daylight in a community that is as safe as Ames is,” Police Cmdr Geoff Huff said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Who was Celia Barquín?

Originally from Puente San Miguel in Spain, Ms Barquín was finishing her degree in civil engineering this semester, the university said.

During her time in the US, she rose to prominence as a young golfer and was named Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year. She had also missed the first few weeks of university life in Iowa while participating in the Youth Olympic Games in China.

Her successful amateur career reached its highest point when she won the European Ladies Amateur Championship less than two months before her death.

Ms Barquín shot a course-record 63 at Slovakia’s Penati Golf Resort in the third round on her way to a one-shot victory.

That came shortly after her win at the Big 12 Championship, a major American collegiate golf event.

Her European win had secured her an invitation to the professional Women’s British Open next year at Woburn, and she also qualified for the professional 2018 US Women’s Open.

Described as an “outstanding team player” by the Royal Spanish Golf Federation, she was part of the Spanish team that came third and second at the 2015 and 2016 European Amateur Team Championships.

Nacho Gervás, technical director of the Spanish Golf Federation, told El País newspaper: “She was a player who was heading for the very top, without a doubt.”

Who is the suspect?

Collin Daniel Richards had his first court appearance, lasting only minutes, on Tuesday.

According to local media, he had been charged with several crimes in the past, including trespassing, public intoxication, and intimidation with a dangerous weapon.

Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds said authorities consider Richards homeless, and believe the crime to be “a random act of violence”.

A police dog tracked Barquín’s scent to homeless encampment near the course where Richards had been living, according to the complaint.

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Collin Daniel Richards was found with scratches on his face, police say

An acquaintance of Richards told police in recent days he spoke of his “urge to rape and kill a woman,” according to the complaint.

Police have not said whether Ms Barquín was sexually assaulted.

Richards was later found by officers with “several fresh scratches on his face consistent with a fight and was attempting to conceal a laceration his left hand,” added Cmdr Huff.

Investigators also found two pairs of shorts with traces of blood and a knife the suspect allegedly gave to two other people after the attack, according to the complaint.

Those two people had planned to drive Richards out of town, but the suspect asked to stop at the encampment to collect his tent. It was there officers arrested him.

Cmdr Huff said that there was no known relationship between the suspect and the victim.

Tributes from the golfing world

“We are all devastated,” said Iowa State’s head women’s golf coach, Christie Martens. “Celia was a beautiful person who was loved by all her team-mates and friends.”

In a video profile of the young golfer published in April, Ms Barquín spoke about how Ms Martens had been “like my second mom, always taking care of me”.

Iowa State said she “was one of the most accomplished players in Cyclone golf history”, referring to the university’s sporting nickname.

Ms Barquín will be honoured by the university at a football game on Saturday, a statement said.

Her team withdrew from the East & West Match Play tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan so that her teammates could return to campus to grieve.

The European Golf Association paid tribute to “a delightful young lady who inspired all who met her”.

In her native Spain, her death made headlines and many came forward to express their sympathy.

Spanish professional golfer Azahara Muñoz posted a photo of the two together on Instagram, writing: “Waking up to the news that Celia won’t be around anymore is heartbreaking.”

The head of Spain’s Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco, spoke of his deep shock at the tragedy and solidarity with Celia Ms Barquín’s family.

The country’s sporting minister José Guirao said Ms Barquín had had a great future ahead of her, adding, “her loss leaves us broken”.

At the Iowa Capitol, Governor Kim Reynolds called the crime “a horrific, horrific senseless death”.

The death comes after the murder of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, who was found dead after she went missing on a run on 18 July.

“As we all learn more about what happened in this senseless tragedy again, we will look for opportunities and ways that we can do better,” Governor Reynold said.