UWCHLAN >> Downingtown East senior and third-year captain Liddie McCook, the Daily Local News’ 2018 Girls Golfer of the Year, has been described by Cougar head coach Matt Grinwis as “the driving force” behind D-East’s steady progression, which included an 11-0 record this fall, a PAC championship, and a PIAA state runner-up team finish.
So perhaps it’s fitting that the one shot that the Cougars’ driving force remembers best this past season was with a driver.
During the PIAA team championships at Heritage Hills, McCook stood on the tee of the 10th hole, a short par 4, and let fly with her favorite club, a Taylormade M2 driver.
“It felt like one of my best drives of the week,” said McCook. “I walked up to find my ball and noticed that it was just a foot off the front of the green.”
Barely missing her eagle putt, McCook tapped in for a birdie and finished the round with a 76, the second-lowest score in the field that day.
Led by McCook, the Cougars finished second, just four strokes behind three-time state champion North Allegheny. It was Downingtown East’s first appearance in the state team championships, with a five-girl lineup that included two juniors (Anisha Sonti, Katelyn Samples) and two freshmen (Ava O’Sullivan, Ava Lichok).
McCook said, Our goal this year as a team was to make States. We went in wanting to win, but knew that we had less experience as a team than the others. Throughout the day I kept hearing that we were close to the lead, and that my teammates were playing well. It was amazing, unforgettable.”
According to Grinwis, McCook has displayed this leadership throughout her four years as Downingtown East’s No.1 player.
“Liddie’s influence and leadership were evident in how she constantly encouraged her teammates and worked with them in practice to help them improve their own games,” said Grinwis. “Leading the team to our first appearance in the state championships, and nearly upsetting North Allegheny, was a fitting culmination to Liddie’s high school career and the legacy she will leave at Downingtown East.”
McCook’s inspirational post-season began at the Pioneer Athletic Conference championships, where she won the PAC individual title, then shot a 3-over-par 38 at Applecross Country Club to lead the Cougars to a first-place finish in the team championships as well, ending Downingtown West’s two-year reign atop the PAC. She made first team All-PAC for the fourth year in a row.
The next post-season stop was at the PIAA District 1 3A championships, where she rebounded from a 76 on the first day with a 1-under-par 71 in the second round at Turtle Creek Golf Course to finish fourth.
“That was my best round of the season,” said McCook. “My putting was very good that day, but my approach shots were even better. They put me in great positions to have plenty of birdie opportunities.”
McCook’s strong finish at Districts reflected her pattern of play throughout the season, as she birdied the final hole in seven matches this fall.
“Not only did Liddie show a knack for finishing strong, but she also showed a perseverance on the course when she wasn’t having her best day,” said Grinwis. “She maintained focus throughout each round.”
McCook admires the mental attitude of Justin Thomas, her favorite golfer.
“I like him because he was an underdog who fought hard to surpass the early success that his friend, Jordan Spieth, had achieved,” said McCook. “Also, he has a consistent, levelheaded approach to the game, which I have learned is incredibly important when high pressure situations arise.”
Remaining composed under pressure, McCook finished third at the PIAA East Regional with a 77, then after tying for 11th place at the PIAA state individual championships with rounds of 83 and 82, McCook shot a 76 at the state team championship to help give the Cougars a silver medal.
One big plus in McCook’s game is her distance off the tee.
“I consider my driving to be the strongest part of my game because it has always come naturally to me because of my will to hit the ball hard,” said McCook. “Ever since I was little, I always liked to hit the ball hard.”
McCook’s length pays off at her favorite hole, the 9th at Whitford County Club, which is D-East’s home course. It’s a par 5 that can be approached with two good shots, and McCook has birdied it four out of the five matches the Cougars played there this fall.
“Liddie is typically one of the shorter players height-wise, but she is able to hit the ball as far or farther than all of the other young ladies in the state,” said Grinwis. “This goes back to her work ethic and all of the work she has put in over the past decade with her longtime teacher Eric MacCluen.”
McCook has been working with MacCluen, a PGA professional, for more than a decade
“Eric has taught me not only the basics of the swing, but also how to play at a high level,” said McCook. “I have also been blessed with two amazing golf coaches at school, Matt Grinwis and [D-East boys head coach] Scott Yard – they’ve helped and encouraged me throughout my high school years.”
McCook, a member of National Honor Society and Student Council, has committed to play golf for Monmouth University next fall. Eventually, she would like to pursue a career in business.
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