A passion for golf, coupled with tremendous natural ability, has propelled Rim Country Middle School sixth-grader Blake Cannon onto the national stage.
The 12-year-old will step into the spotlight in October when he travels to Orlando, Fla. for the national championships of Mutual of Omaha's Drive, Chip and Putt contest.
Cannon qualified for the national event by winning both the Arizona and Southwest Regional championships. He captured the Arizona crown April 29 at Desert Mirage Golf Course in Glendale.
For the state competition, 129 junior golfers in four age groups -- 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14 -- entered the links shoot out.
Competing in the 11-12 age group, Cannon emerged victorious by shining in all three of the golf fundamentals.
The win qualified him for the Southwest Regional Championships held May 5 at Angel Park Golf Course in Las Vegas, Nev.
There, Cannon again demonstrated superior golf skills, finishing first overall, out-dueling Jordan Lippetz of Reno and Estevan Gonzalez of Las Vegas.
A field of 24 qualifiers from Arizona, California and Nevada competed in the Las Vegas shoot out.
The play of the young golfers impressed event director Michael Kennedy, also a Mutual of Omaha general manager.
"We wish the best of luck to the boys and girls who will journey to Orlando to compete in the national championships," he said.
The competition was later aired by The Golf Channel, which is a co-sponsor of Drive, Chip and Putt.
In the links frays, young golfers, regardless of their skill level or previous exposure to the game, compete free of charge in driving, chipping and putting. Prizes are awarded to the top finishers in each of the skills.
Drive, Chip and Putt was held this year in 85 cities across the United States.
Since the program's founding nine years ago, an estimated 100,000 junior golfers and their families have participated. For Cannon, the Drive, Chip and Putt was yet another of his sports endeavors that include participation in the Pitch, Hit and Run, Payson Little League and the Junior Golf Association.
Last summer, Cannon was a member of Payson's 9- and 10-year-old division of the Little League All-Star team that advanced to the state tournament, after winning area and district championships.