Profile: Pioneer’s Amaya Melendez finishes her “round” in elite company

Amaya Melendez started off strong at the tee as a ninth-grader, made the turn by turning heads as a sophomore and junior, and signed her last scorecard as a senior as one of the top 10 players in the state.

The Pioneer golfer was already one of the best on the team as a freshman, and by the end of her “round,” she was clearly one of the best in the state. Melendez fired a four-over-par 76 to finish ninth overall at the MHSAA Division 1 State Finals at Forest Akers East in Lansing on Oct. 16.

It was the third top-10 finish of her career as she helped land Pioneer tenth in the state as a team.

Let’s begin our round at the end. And Melendez says her final trip around the golf course wearing Pioneer purple and white went pretty well considering the elements.

“I handled myself pretty well in the tough conditions (cold and windy),” she said. “I stayed composed through the bad shots and was able to face adversity throughout the round.”

She finished her round like she always does, staying positive, keeping things in perspective, and circling areas on the scorecard that need improvement.

“In a round of golf, no one ever hits all perfect shots, but what separates you is how you deal with the shots that aren’t perfect,” she says. “That is the difference between winning and losing.

“And there is always room for improvement, and I have areas that I want to improve on.”

Golfers will tell you that putting makes or breaks a round. It certainly helped Melendez make hers.

“My putting stayed consistent throughout the tournament and I never had more than two putts,” she said. “I lipped out on a 50-foot putt for eagle on a par five but still ended with a birdie.”

She was proud of herself because even in bad conditions playing against elite competition and in a pressure-packed environment, she stayed calm, focused and composed. She didn’t let the bad shots take her down the scorecard.

“I had a lot of fun with my playing partners and really got to enjoy the last 18 holes of my high school career,” she says, flashing that impressive “perspective” side of her game. “I am happy to have finished in the top 10 for the third time and finish my high school golf season in a good light.

“I also had a lot of people rooting for me. My coach, teammates, and family all watched and supported me throughout the round.”

It’s been an amazing ride for the talented Melendez, who will be forever proud of wearing the Pioneer purple.

“It feels strange to me that my high school golf career is over,” she says. “It went by really quickly, but I enjoyed every moment of it. I am happy that I get to take these memories with me and I will cherish them forever. I will miss my team a lot and my coach (Bill Lyle).”

But she’s also ready to grab a club and tee off on the next challenge.

“I am excited for the next chapter of life and look forward to improving my golf game and taking on new challenges,” she says.

One challenge Melendez is currently facing, along with everyone else in the world, is the current pandemic. She says school is going well as she continues to adjust to taking classes online.

“It has been challenging not being able to do stuff in person,” she admits. “I used to get help from the teachers during lunch and after school but now I don’t have access to that anymore. I hope that with time things will get better and maybe later this year I will have access to that again.

“But doing school online leaves me a lot more time to focus on my golf. I don’t have to worry about rushing after school to get to the golf course and I live on a golf course so I can even practice throughout the day during the lunch break.”

Not only did Melendez place ninth in the state finals, but earlier in the her senior year, she fired the best round of her career with a 68. The low score is high up on her impressive highlight list.

“I was really happy because I was able to make putts and stay focused throughout the round,” she said. “I also enjoyed the round because I got to play with some amazing people (Kate Brody and Violet Sinistaj).”

Melendez has had three special coaches over the years, swing coach Dave Kendall of the Kendall Golf Academy, her high school coach Bill Lyle and, last but not least, her father Robert Melendez. And while they all have contributed to her success, they would all agree that her hard work and love of the game is what has made her so special.

“I have been working on the mental aspects of the game and learning how to deal with the ups and downs of the sport,” she says, always contemplating ways to improve. “Before states my game was in a really good place and I went into the tournament feeling confident in myself and confident in my game.”

That confidence certainly paid off and gives her confidence to take a swing at the next level.

“I love to play golf and definitely want to continue playing,” she says. “I am currently in the process of deciding on the next chapter.”

It will no doubt be a successful chapter.