Amaya Melendez learned to play golf from her Dad, who took up the sport after an injury ended his basketball career. At the age of 7, after watching him learn to play, she picked up a club for the first time at a course in her hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Amaya was very strong for her age, having been a competitive gymnast for a few years, and golf came naturally to her.
After a few years, and with some help from her Dad refining her grip and her form, Amaya was officially hooked on golf. Her two younger siblings Mia (12) and Robbie (7) – also Youth on Course members and competitive golfers – followed in her footsteps as she had her Dads, and golf became a family affair for the Melendez’s.
“Golf has been a big part of my life and my family and it’s been a positive experience. We rely on each other. It helps us do our best. We’ll play together and my Dad will set up competitions for us. We do chipping contests, trying to chip balls into a bucket. We compete in different tournaments across the country, which is really cool. “
Being an older sister is a role that Amaya takes very seriously. She knows that her siblings are watching her, both on and off of the golf course, so she says that she tries to set a good example for them. Her brother (born right-handed) even plays golf left-handed because Amaya is left-handed.
“It’s nice to be an older sister. I have to be responsible and set the best example. It feels good that they look up to me. I try to be a good role model. It motivates me.”
Amaya and her siblings use their Youth on Course memberships to try new courses and practice as much as they can to prepare for tournaments.
“It’s really nice to golf with my family – my little siblings – because it’s fun and we can learn together. We enjoy playing different courses across Michigan. When we go to new courses, normally the rate would be $40+ but instead we only pay $5 [or less]. It’s a nice thing to have access to play different courses.”
Not only do they play golf and practice together, they cheer each other on at their competitions. Amaya had the opportunity to caddie for her brother at the US Kids Golf World Championships in Pinehurst, North Carolina last year.
“It was really cool to see him compete. I had never been a caddie before, so it was cool to help somebody else pursue their goals. I would tell him just to move onto the next shot and focus on what’s in front of you – not what’s behind you. He did pretty well and it was nice to know that I helped!”
Amaya says that her desire to be a role model and help others doesn’t end on the golf course. She loves animals and volunteers at the local Humane Society, has helped wrap Christmas presents for underprivileged children during the holidays, and spends a lot of time helping her Mom at an organization she started in their community called Thirst and Pantry.
“We help provide food for people in need – it gives you a really good feeling in your heart to know that you’re helping other people. I like helping people. Whether it’s volunteering or helping out my siblings in life, I like to help.”
Amaya is a member of the Pioneer High School golf team in Ann Arbor, MI. Their coach encouraged the entire team to sign up for Youth on Course, and she says that the extra time on the golf course practicing has helped them bond.
“Youth has Course has helped me build a community through golf. My teammates and I do team gatherings at different courses and it helps us bond and brings us closer to one another. I really like how golf is a really peaceful place to be – a nice environment to go out and relieve stress. Golf helps you gain mental toughness and to learn to deal with adversity.”
Amaya recently attended the Golf Association of Michigan’s Centennial Event hosted at Oakland Hills Country Club, where she had the chance to meet two equally famous people; YOC VP of Programs Michael Lowe and Jack Nicklaus!
“It was a really nice experience to meet new friends at the event and also to play golf with Michael Lowe. I met new friends there and it helped me build my golf relationships. Youth on Course has really helped me to build more friendships. It was also really cool to meet Jack Nicklaus and hear him talk about how he approaches golf and how he got to where he is today.”
Her goals right now are to keep up her grades and pursue collegiate golf. She says if it works out, she might pursue the amateur track to try to get on the LPGA. In college, she’d like to study Biology and find a career where she can help people. She’s had a lot of practice doing that up until now, so no doubt she’ll achieve her goals.