By Brad Morris
WILLIAMSPORT — Losing a two-time All-Ohio girls golfer to graduation would hamper many programs the following season as they looked to replace that formidable anchor at the top of the lineup.
But that hasn’t been the case for the Westfall Mustangs.
While the production of Maddi Shoults, who earned her place as one of the top girls golfers in Pickaway County history with her play on the links, couldn’t be replicated by one person, the Mustangs have replaced that production as a team, led by senior twins Emily and Maddie Cook.
“There is no secret in what has led to our success this season. It’s required a lot of hard work and putting in the extra time practicing and preparing to have success in our matches and tournaments,” Westfall coach Jonathan Barker said. “When our girls show up at the course to put their work in, they know that Emily and Maddie are going to be there leading the way with how hard they work.
“That pushes our other girls to follow their example and has led us to the success that we’ve had so far this season.”
The Cook twins also led through their play last week in helping the Mustangs win a district championship and return to the state tournament after a one-year absence in 2021, when they fell six strokes short of qualifying.
Westfall lowered its team score from a year ago by two strokes, shooting 357 to top the 10-school field at the Pickaway Country Club.
Emily Cook shaved 12 strokes off her 2021 score, shooting an 82 to tie for runner-up medalist honors in the 60-golfer field and lead the Mustangs. Maddie Cook trimmed 11 strokes off her 2021 scorecard to shoot an 89.
“Maddie and I knew that we both had to step up this season, so we’ve been working even harder practicing and getting more help to improve our games,” Emily Cook said. “I knew coming into this season that I had never been good with my irons and wasn’t that great off the tee.
“I’ve always been decent at chipping and putting. My tee shot is a lot better this year and I’ve also been doing much better hitting my irons.”
Added Maddie Cook: “My irons have always been my strong suit, but where I’ve come the longest way is with my three-wood, chipping and putting. It’s a lot better than it used to be. Emily and I can both hit our tee shots around 220 yards, so I think we’ve improved at approaching the hole and then finishing once we get on the green.”
The Cook twins started taking golf lessons in elementary school and their interest in the game prospered from there.
“Our grandma signed us up for golf camps when we were around six and then we started going to them every summer,” Emily Cook said. “We liked the game enough to where we signed up to play in middle school.
“We weren’t the greatest golfers to start out with and have had to put a lot of work in, but golf is a good fit for us, and we enjoy playing.”
Both Emily and Maddie Cook believe they have a reserved temperament when they are competing on the links, but there are some differences if a spectator were to observe the twins playing a round.
“We both can be kind of reserved, but I think I show my emotions a little bit with being happy after a good shot or a little disappointment if I didn’t hit a shot the way I want to,” Emily Cook said. “Maddie is a straight-faced and calm golfer.”
“I wouldn’t go quite that far,” Maddie Cook interrupted. “It’s something you have to look for, but I do a little motion with my club and have a little body language when I don’t hit a shot the way I want to.”
The Mustangs have built a strong tradition on the links over the last 12 seasons, qualifying for the state tournament five times, where they have finished as high as third.
Westfall had competed until this season as an independent due to the Scioto Valley Conference not having enough teams to compete for a conference championship.
The Mustangs captured the first-ever conference championship last month at Jaycees Golf Course with a nine-hole team score of 174. Emily Cook turned in a scorecard of 38 to earn conference player of the year honors, and teammates Paige Weiss, Maddie Cook, Alexa Oney, Marianna Packer and Kathryn Lockhart all joined her in making first-team.
“When my coach came over to me after the round and said that I had won player of the year, I was a little surprised to be honest about it. There are some pretty good golfers in the conference,” Emily Cook said. “It was nice that we had a conference championship to finally compete for and win. It was a different experience that we all enjoyed and the whole team did well in the match.”
Maddie Cook credited Weiss for taking the top spot in the lineup that was formally held by Shoults and the entire team for the success that the Mustangs have had and hope to still achieve at the state tournament.
“Paige has been big for us, taking over that top spot and doing a nice job and then Emily and I have worked to have solid scores behind her (in the lineup),” she said. “We’ve had a lot of success overall as a team this season and everyone has played a big part in it at one point or another.”
Barker felt the experience that the Cook twins offered was an advantage for the Mustangs in the district tournament and he plans to continue and lean on that experience beginning on Friday during the first day of the state tournament at The Ohio State University Gray Golf Course.
“We had something that the other teams in the district tournament didn’t have. We had two players who had played in the state tournament twice before, so they had that experience of playing big tournaments and could lead with that experience,” he said. “We’ll have three players starting (on Friday) who will be playing for the first time at the state tournament but, again, we’ll have that experience with Emily and Maddie, and I know that they will help to lead us again.”
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