2016-10-20 / Sports

Three-peat complete: Cox wins third straight championship

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

Nichole Cox smiled from ear to ear Monday as she made her way through victory tunnels formed by her fellow Glen Lake students.

She had every reason to.

Cox carded a 150 at the Division 4 state final at Forest Akers West in Lansing with a 72 on Friday and a 78 on Saturday to secure her third straight state championship, outpacing runner-up Megan Watkins of Frankenmuth and Naomi Keyte of Kalamazoo Hackett by four strokes.

The Empire product became just the eighth girls golfer in MHSAA history to win three straight state titles, and the ninth to win at least three.

That’s something to smile about.

“Everyone can have big dreams,” she said shortly after making her rounds on Monday, “because sometimes the big dreams come true.”

For Cox, those dreams began as a freshman when she finished third in her first state finals appearance.

The performance proved to be a springboard for a dominant three-year run that included 29 first-place finishes and four regional championships.

“That opened the door to believing in myself a little more,” she said.

Needless to say, there was a bit more pressure this time. She was the favorite entering the state final, and her opponents were well aware.

But the hard-swinging senior is no stranger to pressure situations, and she proved it from the get-go on Friday.

Cox dropped in three birdies on Day 1, entering Day 2 with a six-stroke cushion. She was unaware of the lead.

“I didn’t want to see who was in second,” she said. “I was too nervous.”

Cox didn’t sink any birdies on Day 2, however, and had a few shaky moments along the way, including a four-putt double-bogey on No. 5.

It didn’t matter. She parred 14 holes on Saturday to lock up the historic win.

“You have a bunch of different emotions besides being happy, and one of them is relief,” Glen Lake coach Paul Christiansen said. “Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, you’ve won before, you’re going to win again,’ but it’s not like you can stop the other girls from doing what they’re doing. I’m just so tickled for her. She’s earned everything, she’s worked so hard for it. She’s only missed three days all season and that’s because she was sick. She’s really earned it and I’m just excited for this accomplishment and for her future.”

Long drives gave the Bowling Green commit a big edge in the tournament, including the final drive of her high school career on No. 3, her second-to-last hole.

The ball traveled about 280 yards.

“She just crunched it,” Christiansen said.

Certainly, Christiansen has seen some great athletes during his 44-year coaching career at Glen Lake, but few have had a love for the game and a work ethic quite like Cox.

In fact, Cox texted her coach on Sunday during a round at Dunes Golf Club in Empire. She started the day with three birdies and an eagle.

“I said, ‘Are you a little more relaxed today?’” Christiansen said. “She said, ‘Yeah.’”

Cox’s parents, Duane and Kristen Cox, were on hand for Monday’s celebratory festivities at the school, reminiscing of when their daughter used to lug a set of plastic clubs around as a toddler.

They too were smiling from ear to ear, and they had every reason to.

“She’s deserving of everything she’s worked for,” Duane Cox said. “She didn’t back into this thing.

“She went out there and took it.”

Kristen Cox would like to thank Christiansen, Glen Lake Athletic Director Jen Johnston, golf pro Lee Houtteman and swing coach Scott Wilson. Christiansen has asked to thank Mistwood Golf Course and Dunes Golf Course for giving Glen Lake girls a place to practice and play.

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