Freshman finishes seventh to lead Illini

By Jon Gluskin

Amidst rain and poor playing conditions, Illinois freshman golfer Kristine Cook tied for seventh place at the Lady Aztec Fall Invitational in Chula Vista, Calif. on Monday.

Cook broke par in the second and final round. This was the first time all season a member of the Illini accomplished this feat.

“I knew I had been hitting it well and playing well,” Cook said. “I knew I had been capable of shooting that score, but it had never come together.”

Cook played well to lead the Illini, but the team still only managed a 12th-place finish out of 15 teams. Baylor won the tournament, which was hosted by San Diego State. Baylor’s score of 590 put it in first by a wide margin over Northern Arizona and Long Beach State, who tied for second at 601.

The tournament was supposed to go three rounds, but inclement weather cut it short. Tuesday’s final round was cancelled.

“I was hoping that we’d be able to play all three rounds,” said Illinois head coach Paula Smith. “The team and I were disappointed we didn’t get to play that last round. We had been going in the right direction.”

Cook shot 76-71 to finish with a 3-over par 147. This was the first top-10 finish of her career. Junior Megan Godfrey finished next best for the Illinois, tying for 28th (154). Freshman Seul Ki Park tied for 60th, at 161. Sophomore Meghan Naik tied for 70th at 163. Freshman Casey Burden tied for 73rd (165).

Cook was pleased with her overall game. She said she did not have any double bogeys or three-putts, which was important for her success.

“Pretty much everything worked,” Cook said. “I really didn’t make any mistakes; I just played pretty consistent.”

The Illinois were playing at the Auld Course for the first time. While the team has played in the Lady Aztec Invitational before, it had never been held at this course.

“They were playing in rain and a hilly course, so I was proud of them under the conditions,” Smith said. “Already, they’re looking forward to heading back there next year. They all wanted another opportunity at that course. When you have a course like that, you always want to play it.”

The Illini were not used to playing out West. And they were not accustomed to playing at a course with a landscape such as the one at Auld, Cook said.

“I think it was one of the toughest courses we played,” Cook said. “Just having played 36 there got us ready. It just helps to play in these tournaments to prepare for every other one. Playing in whatever competition you’re playing in, you learn something new.”

The Illini are scheduled to complete their fall season on Nov. 1-2 at the Edwin Watts/Palmetto Intercollegiate in Kiawah Island, S.C.

“Just continue with the process,” Smith said. “I just see each person making headways in competition and that’s all I’m asking them to do.”