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Canto sets new Calvin golf standard
By Mark DeHaan

This past fall, Carlia Canto set a Calvin record for lowest strokes-per-round for the women’s golf team at 82.7. And, being just a sophomore, she has two more years to even further lower that mark.

Canto started off the season averaging just over 84 strokes per round, then hit a 79 at Milham Park Golf Course in Kalamazoo to lower her average to 83. Canto then hit rounds of 81 and 83 in the fall MIAA tournament to lower her final average to 82.7, and the Calvin record. Canto said the pressure of closing in on the record helped her: “I embraced the pressure and used it to help me focus and strengthen my game.”

Canto started playing the game at the age of nine with her parents. “I started out as a caddy for my parents, watching them play and just learning the basics of how the game works,” said Canto. “They started adding in fun games with my brother and me such as ‘closest to the pin from less than 100 yards,’ and the winner was rewarded with money or ice cream.

“Eventually, I was winning too frequently so they started me with golf lessons and junior golf tournaments.” Canto continued to improve her skill with golf professional Stan Brion. “My family and Brion gave me the opportunity to love the game through competition, and I built on that.”

A graduate of Port Huron High School, Canto attended Calvin after visiting the campus several times. “In all the three or four visits at Calvin, my family and I encountered great hospitality from the students and staff. It’s a beautiful campus, Calvin has high acceptance rates to med school and the professors take time to help their students,” she said.

A biochemistry major, Canto wants to continue with a medical career, possibly in sports medicine. As with any sport, performing at a high level on the course and in the class room is a challenge, though.“I have a better understanding of what to do and expect now, but, of course at Calvin, it’s a challenging task to do the very best in both,” she said. “To me, academics is as important as golf, and I try to find balance and do the best I can in both.”

When Canto decided to attend Calvin, she was just one of two Port Huron High School graduates to come to Calvin. But, following Canto’s lead, two more Port Huron graduates—and golfers—decided to attend Calvin. Twins Jackie and Laura Richert have aided in bringing golf to a higher level.

“I know they are good, hardworking players, and it helped influence the team to raise the bar,” said Canto. “When we are grouped together to play, we get really competitive and I absolutely love it. They are great girls and have a good playing attitude.”

Not only did Canto have a great season personally, but she led the women’s golf team to a fourth-place finish in the MIAA regular season and the final spot in the spring MIAA tournament. The four-team MIAA tournament will determine which college will represent the MIAA in the NCAA III national tournament.

With our team’s potential and great talent, our team is a threat, and I truly believe we have a great chance to make it to nationals,” said Canto. “Making the spring conference tournament should get us that spark, a big hope, and a huge belief that with hard work anything is possible.”

Personally, Canto, a second team All-MIAA selection, hopes to continue to improve her game to where she is consistently breaking 80, a feat that only one MIAA golfer achieved this year. With her strong play in her first two years, Coach Jerry Bergsma believes she can get there. “Carlia has already shown in her two years playing at Calvin that she has the ability to go low and compete with the top golfers in our conference,” said Bergsma. “She has a complete game: driving for distance, control with her irons and a solid short game. Carlia has continued to work on her game after the fall season in anticipation of the spring events. She is eager to lead our team as we look to continue to take steps forward in our program’s development.”