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Youth serves at Coronado

Judging by her age alone, Melanie Chambers still should be a year from playing high school golf.

Judging by her golf scores, the Coronado freshman soon might be ready for a higher level.

Chambers, who skipped the first grade, won’t turn 14 until December, yet she already has become one of Southern Nevada’s top high school girls golfers and could help the Cougars contend for a state title this month.

She has been the medalist in three of Coronado’s five matches this season and should be in the hunt for the Sunrise Region title next week.

“I know a lot of the other girls here from other teams, and they’re all very good. I’ve been beaten by a lot of them,” said Chambers, who often competes against girls who are four years older than she. “It’s just that I’m playing some different tees than I’m used to, and I’m shooting lower scores. That’s just boosted my confidence a little bit.”

It doesn’t hurt that she drives the ball long and straight and handles her approach shots well — and has the maturity level of someone more than twice her age.

“She’s a smart girl, and anytime you’re intelligent, it helps on the golf course,” Coronado coach Joe Sawaia said. “Once you get the basic skills down, this is very much a thinking person’s game. She can think her way around the golf course. She doesn’t make silly mistakes. She plays to her strengths. Her intelligence definitely helps her on the course.”

Chambers’ kindergarten teacher suggested she skip the first grade. Since then, she has been surrounded by older kids.

Chambers has played in the Junior World Golf Championship and participates in the Butch Harmon series for golfers ages 13 to 18.

“A lot of my friends are older than I am, but that’s OK,” Chambers said. “It really doesn’t even matter.”

She’s also a student of the game, looking for ways to improve. Aside from practicing for nearly two hours a day, Chambers also reads golf magazines and will use tips from professional players.

“I like seeing golf when there are good shots going on,” Chambers said. “We get a lot of golf magazines at home, and sometimes they’ll detail how the professional players approach certain shots. I try to get my swing to do what some of the pros do.”

But there still was the question of how well she would do when playing for her school.

“She was the medalist in the first match, and the rest is history,” Sawaia said. “I knew she was accomplished. She had a good junior career and will continue to. I’m pleasantly surprised as far as her consistency more than anything. She’s really solid from tee to green. She manages her game well.”

Chambers started playing golf at age 7 and played in her first tournament a year later.

“I was too young to know what was going on when I first started,” she said. “I just did what my dad told me. Whenever I had a good shot when I was young, I was proud of myself. I kept going and just started practicing more.”

Chambers shot a 3-over-par 75 at Legacy two weeks ago to win a Southeast League match by four strokes and followed with a one-stroke win at Desert Willow last week. In both matches, the second- and third-place finishers were seniors.

“The sky is the limit as far as her ability,” Sawaia said. “It’ll be fun to watch how good she can be.”

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