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Canan plays in America's Cup, earns second Player of the Year award over summer
Team Arizona knew what it wanted to accomplish at the Girls Junior America's Cup, and Tacna's Mieke Canan held up her end of the bargain.
"All we wanted to do was shoot in the 70s every day, and we all managed to do that," she said.
But half the fun of participating in the America's Cup had very little to do with golf, and Canan embraced all the new experiences that came her way.
The four-day stay in Logan, Utah, was the reward for a summer-long effort of stockpiling points towards the Junior Golf Association of Arizona's Player of the Year award, which she also won for the second straight year.
Canan's scores of 79, 79 and 76 helped Arizona take ninth place in the 18-team competition, a finish she and her teammates felt good about considering the unfamiliar elements that came into play at the Logan Golf and Country Club.
"It was a pretty tough course, and I've never played at a high altitude before," she said. "Some of the holes were on the side of the mountain, and the rough was a lot longer than what we're used to, so you'd have to punch out a lot.
"And trees. There were a lot of trees."
Usually a par-5 killer with her long and straight drives, Canan struggled to pick up many birdies on three of the four par-5s, particularly hole No. 14.
"The hole sloped from right to left all the way to the green, so you'd have to aim way to the left and let it roll down the hill," she said. "Then you'd have to hit your second shot the same way. It was too long to go for the green in two, and if you hit your third shot short it would roll off the green. I was lucky just to come away with bogeys a couple days."
Canan was paired with girls from all over the western United States, Mexico and Canada. One of her playing partners was a top-10 individual finisher in the tournament.
"They were all really friendly and really good players," she said. "We talked like the whole time and asked questions about where they were from and how different things are in Arizona."
Along with scorekeepers accompanying each group, more than 150 volunteers on the course and large galleries awaiting the players on the ninth and 18th greens, Canan also had New Mexico State women's golf assistant coach Jackie Booth monitoring her play. The two had been in contact previously via e-mail, but finally got to meet face-to-face.
"She followed me most of the round the second day and a little more the third day," Canan said. "We couldn't talk until after the tournament, but it was a good meeting."
Team Arizona's host family, Paul and Claudia Evans, kept the girls busy in the evenings with pizza parties and dinner get-togethers with other teams at the homes of other host families. But Canan said their down time at the Evans' home was just as entertaining.
"I've never stayed at someone else's home, but it was so fun," she said. "They had a basement with two rooms and a big closet and a bathroom and a TV room. It was like we had our own house to ourselves."
The big closet and teammate Anna Kim were the key players in one of her favorite memories from the week.
"We locked her (Kim) in the closet," Canan said. "I guess we were making a little too much noise because the Evans heard us and wanted to know what was going on, It was great."
The oldest of the four Team Arizona players, Canan was in line to defend her JGAA Player of the Year title most of the summer. And with two wins, six other top-3 finishes and a scoring average less than 78, there was little room for anyone else to break through.
Although she won't be honored with the award until October at the JGAA's annual banquet, Canan finished the year with 557.50 points in 14 events, well ahead of America's Cup teammate Brittany McKee (412.50 points).
Canan said she still plans to play in five or six JGAA events next summer, but will focus more on qualifying for higher-profile amateur events around the state and the country, including the U.S. Open.
"I'm just thankful to my parents and my brother for supporting me and going to all my tournaments, and for Mark Croft for his help to get me to where I am," Canan said.