Middle School Student Plays In Golf Challenge

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Turn the television to the Golf Channel on turkey day and you might catch a glimpse of a Rim Country Middle School seventh-grader heating up the country club links.

Thanksgiving is when Mutual of Omaha's Drive, Chip and Putt will be aired on a tape-delayed basis.

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Blake Cannon is one of three Arizona youths to qualify for the national Drive Chip and Punt finals to be held tomorrow, Saturday, in Orlando, Fla.

The prestigious youth golf contest, which Payson's Blake Cannon is competing in, actually was played Sept. 15 in Orlando, Florida.

The teenager, accompanied by his parents Brent and Michelle, left Payson at midweek to travel East for the competition.

In the months before the family departed, Blake Cannon worked to perfect his links skills.

"He practiced a lot, I think he is ready," his father said.

Blake Cannon is one of 84 competitors from the United States and Canada who advanced through regional qualifying in four age groups.

The only other Arizona golfers to qualify were 14-year-old Cooper Nagaki of Phoenix and Andrew Proctor, 8, of Chandler.

The Payson youth 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 the four age groups -- 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14 -- entered the links shoot out.

Cannon emerged victorious, by shining in all three of the golf fundamentals -- longest of two drives, closest to the pin on three chips and fewest putting strokes from 7 feet and 20 feet.

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.

In the links frays, young golfers, regardless of their skill level or previous exposure to the game, compete free of charge in the three golf skills. 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.

While Cannon is in Orlando, he will also compete in the Robert Gamez Celebrity Invitational tournament, along with the other Drive, Chip and Putt qualifiers.

The tournament will be played at the Celebration Golf Club at the Orlando World Center.

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.

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