Ann Arbor’s Mia Melendez Tops 15-and-under Girls’ Points List
FARMINGTON HILLS – Mia Melendez of Ann Arbor worked on her golf game as she became bigger and stronger and hit the ball farther, and those factors worked together in championship fashion in 2021.
Melendez, a 14-year-old Ann Arbor Greenhills student, has been named the Golf Association of Michigan Junior Girls’ 15-and-under Player of the Year, Kyle Wolfe, director of junior golf for the GAM announced today.
“It feels great to be player of the year,” she said. “After all of my accomplishments this year I feel I’m well-deserving and I worked hard to earn this title.”
GAM Players of the Year are determined by the Player of the Year points system presented by Carl’s Golfland. Points totals can be found on a pull down from the PLAY tab at GAM.org.
Previously James Piot of Canton was named the GAM Men’s Player of the Year, Kimberly Dinh of Midland was named the Women’s Player of the Year, Terry Delcamp of Grand Blanc was named the Senior Women’s Player of the Year, Jerry Gunthorpe of Ovid was named the Senior Men’s Player of the Year, Rick Herpich of Orchard Lake was named the Super Senior Player of the Year, Sophie Stevens of Highland was named the Junior Girls’ Player of the Year and PJ Maybank III of Cheboygan was named the Junior Boys’ Player of the Year.
Later this week the GAM will announce the 15-and-under Junior Boys’ Player of the Year.
Melendez, a member through the Polo Fields Golf & Country Club, won her first GAM tournament to start 2021 in the season-opening GAM Junior Kickoff, and then was the stroke play medalist and overall winner of the 15-and-under age division in the Michigan Girls Junior State Championship. She totaled 1,330 points for the season.
Alena Li of Okemos, a Youth on Course Michigan member, won the GAM Invitational 15-and-under title at the end of the season and was runner-up to Melendez in the Michigan Girls Junior. She finished second with 820 points.
Lauren Timpf of Macomb, Burning Tree Golf Club and Youth on Course played most of her tournaments in the overall or higher age division. She still managed 650 points in 15-and-under play keyed by topping Melendez in the final match of the GAM 15-and-under Match Play Championship.
KT Leinwand of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Country Club had 613 points, and Lillian O’Grady of Grand Rapids and Watermark Country Club had 430 points to round out the top five.
Melendez, who works with Dave Kendall of Kendall Golf Academy as her instructor, said she has worked on all aspects of her game in recent years.
“I definitely improved a lot this year and in winning some big tournaments like the Michigan Junior Am I could see my growth,” she said. “I was able to show my strengths as a player.”
She feels her long game with the driver and irons has become the best part of her game.
“I stay solid and I hit the ball straight and far, and my mental game is stronger, too. It helped me secure wins in tournaments this year.”
She said the short game is what she hopes to improve the most for 2022.
“Mostly chipping and pitching,” she said. “I want to get up and down for more birdies since I hit my driver so far now. I want to take advantage of the distance.”
Her goals for next year include continuing to win tournaments and testing herself at higher levels.
“I want to do better in AJGA tournaments and in the GAM tournaments I think I will play in the overall divisions because I’m up to those standards now,” she said. “I want to take on the competition at a higher level.”
Melendez said topping Li in the final to win the Michigan Girls’ Junior State Amateur was the highlight of the season.
“I played really well in stroke play but didn’t really know what to expect in match play and the matches were so intense and exciting,” she said. “I stayed solid and built a lead on Alena and was able to secure a win. I was proud of that.”
Looking ahead Melendez hopes to improve enough to play college golf and thanked her parents, Robert and Tori, for getting her to this point.
“They bring me to all the tournaments and motivate me during the tough times,” she said.
Wolfe said Melendez winning the GAM Junior Kickoff tournament propelled her to a breakout season.
“That victory really gave her a lot of confidence,” he said. “Not only did her golf game improve over the summer, but it was cool to see her become more confident and comfortable doing post-round champion interviews. Mia is quiet, but she is very confident and there isn’t a shot that she doesn’t think she can pull off or a putt she won’t drain under pressure.”