Let the record show that Michelle Cox, a Penn State sophomore, struck the opening tee shot in the inaugural round of the National Golf Invitational on May 12. That’s particularly notable considering that Cox had barely been in the field 12 hours.
All spring, Penn State has traveled with a squad of six players. Cox was often the sixth, but she made all seven starts with the team in the second half of the season – most notably in the Big 10 Championship, a play-six-count-four format. So when Penn State’s leading scorer Mathilde Delavallade was out of the five-woman NGI lineup at the last minute, Cox suited up at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes in Maricopa, Arizona.
Delavallade and Penn State head coach Denise St. Pierre had made the trip to Arizona straight from Athens, Georgia, where Delavallade had competed as an individual in an NCAA regional. Meanwhile, they waited for an NCAA waiver that would allow Delavallade to tee it up with her team in another postseason event, the inaugural NGI.
St. Pierre had told Cox to be ready, in case that waiver didn’t come through. Cox found out shortly after the team practice round that it hadn’t.
“When I found out that Mat is not playing and I’m up,” she said, “it was go-time.”
So Cox went from off the tee sheet to first one at-bat on Friday morning, thus hitting the historic first shot. She didn’t think about the significance until later.
“I mean it’s pretty cool. I hit a decent drive too,” she said, noting that it wasn’t in the fairway but still “totally fine.”
From there, Cox went on a heater, making her first of four birdies at the par-4 second. She was in between clubs at the par-3 sixth but made a confident swing and picked up another birdie. She went for the green in two at the par-5 seventh and chipped in there for eagle.
“Those two holes were just a huge momentum swing going forward and I got really comfortable on the course after that,” she said, noting that she was much more relaxed on the first tee at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes than she normally might be at tournaments.
Pretty cool “Player / Coach” Hospitality at the National Golf Invitational, presented by @golfweek at @AkChin_SoDunes Ice cream, ping pong, corn hole, VIP couches, music and more pic.twitter.com/WYWNsvhTvo
— Kris Strauss (@krisstrauss) May 12, 2023
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