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Boys golf season preview: DeKalb's Cook a student of the game

In instructing others, DeKalb’s Cook strengthens his own game

DeKalb golfer Jacob Cook, a senior, follows through on his drive during team tryouts Friday at River Heights Golf Course in DeKalb.
DeKalb golfer Jacob Cook, a senior, follows through on his drive during team tryouts Friday at River Heights Golf Course in DeKalb.

Lessons Jacob Cook received at the DeKalb Park District Junior Golf Instructional Clinic in elementary school are still part of his game today.  

This summer the Barbs’ senior golfer was an instructor at the same clinic in which he was a participant. Cook wanted to make sure the next generation of DeKalb golfers has a solid foundation of golf fundamentals.

But junior golfers who received quality instruction weren’t the only beneficiaries. Through the lessons he provided junior golfers, Cook found that working on their swings was the fine tuning he needed entering his senior campaign on the links this fall. 

“I was in the golf camp when I was a kid and remember the help I got with my game,” said Cook, who was a sectional qualifier as a sophomore. “I really received some solid advice when I was younger. This is the future of DeKalb golf. My experience made a difference for me, and I feel like I can help prepare future players for their high school experience.” 

Being a golf instructor came natural for Cook. As a player he has constantly fine tuned his swing through video analysis. Footage from every range session is reviewed as Cook looks for the ideal shoulder turn, club face angle and tempo.

“Teaching at the camps is work, but I don’t think of it as a job,” said Cook, who added he’d like to qualify as an individual for the state tournament. “I like to do it. It’s really fun. When a player has struggled and then they hit a good shot, I can tell they are happy with the result and it feels good.

“I’m fortunate I had help as a junior player. I’m always looking at video of my swing to get better. The fixes I helped junior players make in their swings carried over to my game as well. I’ve gotten better at seeing why I missed a shot because I’ve been watching and teaching them.”

It’s a practice that has led Cook to post a lower average in each of his three varsity seasons. 

While Cook knows the Barbs’ home course, Kishwaukee Country Club, well because he is a junior member, he thoroughly scouts tournament courses.

Every shot is mapped out in practice rounds and discussed. It’s a thorough plan to avoid the high scoring blow-up holes that can ruin a round. 

“Jacob is a very cerebral player that has gotten better every year,” DeKalb coach John Cordes said. “He made the most improved player when we return from the summer every year. The work he does with junior golfers allows him to really study his game.” 

While Cook did not advance out of the loaded Class 3A St. Charles East Regional at St. Andrews Golf and Country Club in West Chicago last year, DeKalb teammates Ben Melms and Connor Hoyle were sectional qualifiers. 

With Cook, Melms, Hoyle and sophomore Austin Freeman, the Barbs have four experienced players who can contend for medalist honors at each meet and tournament.

“I like to have a plan and play it safe on the course,” Cook said. “I have high hopes for our team. We have the talent to make a run at conference.”


Coach: John Cordes (21st season)
Key players: Ben Melms, junior; Connor Hoyle, junior; Jacob Cook, senior
Ready for impact: Austin Freeman, sophomore
Cordes’ take: “This is the best group we’ve had in several years. We played very well last year and have a lot of returning talent. I want our team to embrace and understand what they can do because this is a very special group. We have a tough conference, regional and sectional. But we’ve set the bar high and want to see if we can keep the momentum we had last year going.”
Outlook: Competition has been fierce at the Barbs’ preseason qualifying. Freeman’s 2-under-par round Thursday at River Heights Golf Course in DeKalb featured a 5-under 31 on the back nine. The Barbs top four all return and want to make another run at the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Meet after a second-place finish last year. 

Coach: Dave Burdick (6th season)
Key players: Keegan White, sophomore; Trent Scott, sophomore
Outlook: White and Scott are underclassmen who will anchor the Sycamore lineup. Both will have two years to get varsity experience and tune up their games for a run at state.
Burdick’s take: “This is going to be a growing year for us. We are going to learn, get better and have fun.”

Coach: Mike Lauer (4th season)
Key players: Tommy Lucca, junior; Nick Adamczyk, junior
Lauer’s take: “Tommy really enjoys and loves the game. You can see the passion. He played a lot in the summer and I think that really sparked him. Nick lives right next to the Oak Club of Genoa and is out there playing all day. He’s ready to make a run at state, too.”
Outlook: Opportunities to fill the Cogs’ lineup will be present all season. State qualifier Lucca and sectional qualifier Adamczyk will anchor the G-K lineup. But, Lauer hopes to find a third and fourth score from a variety of candidates.

Coach: Kyle Donka (2nd season)
Key players: Daniel Small, senior; Hunter Sierstad, senior
Donka’s take: “After the top two scores we had a big drop off last year. Hopefully, with a year of varsity experience we can improve upon that this fall. We did a lot of teaching golf last fall. This year we want to get into playing golf on the course.”
Outlook: Injuries plagued Small’s season last fall. After a summer of golf he’s healthy and ready to make a run at the state tournament. Sierstad has the course savvy to post consistently low scores.

Coach: Dave Olson (6th season)
Key players: Peyton Gatz, junior; Jake Wiesler, senior
Ready for impact: Drew Headley, junior

Coach: Mark Meyer (10th season)
Key player: Jesse Denton, senior

Compiled by James Nokes

• Dave Olson and Mark Meyer could not be reached for comment.

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