Cox wins PA Jr. title
Michelle Cox has been playing golf since she was five years old. The recent Emmaus High School graduate’s love affair with the sport started with some old-fashioned bribery.
“I started hitting golf balls in the backyard with my dad,” recalls Cox. “He has always loved the game and got me into it young. We used to go out for a few holes when I was little and there was always a promised ice cream drink for me afterward. Eventually, I loved golf to the point I didn’t need the ice cream for me to want to play. I’ve played ever since.”
Today with a grip on glory and her game, Cox is a formidable golfer and now a champion. In June, she trailed Jade Gu by three shots at the Pennsylvania Junior Girls’ Championship at Lebanon Country Club.
Cox was down, but not out. She rallied and made up the strokes to force extra holes before winning the title with an exquisite 40-foot par putt on the second playoff hole.
Just getting to the playoff required serious clutchness. Standing at the 18th tee, Cox knew she had to birdie. She grabbed her wedge, wrapped her hands around it like she had at least ten thousand times before, nailed a beautiful shot to about nine feet then rolled in the birdie putt.
“Any tournament win is great for confidence, but this one hit me especially,” said Cox. “With such a strong field, winning this tournament meant so much, especially being one of my last junior tournaments. I really needed this one and I am so happy I was able to do it.”
Cox has worked hard to make it look easy. Cox is consistently long off the tee and has developed her short game, which had been a weakness . In fact, her putting was significant in earning the PJGC title.
“I am so happy with how much it has improved lately and it’s relieving to see the time I’ve been putting into it has made such a huge difference,” she said. “It came up very clutch for me at Lebanon.”
Her Emmaus High School career had an auspicious start as a freshman when she shot a 3-over par at Shawnee Country Club, her year’s low round.
“We won and a lot of the team played well,” she said of the Shawnee round. “It was a really fun van ride back with everyone.”
She went on to place third at districts as a freshman.
Her sophomore year saw continued improvement as she finished second at districts and helped the Hornets to a team title at districts.
As a junior in 2019 Cox ascended to the role of No. 1 player for Emmaus. She led the team to another district title while also earning the individual girls Class 3A district crown by a margin of 17 strokes.
Cox perhaps also has defeated her toughest golf foe - herself. Not one to think birdies were her birthright, she did expect them to become a frequent golf companion. If a ball dared not drop, she could feel personally betrayed. She’s overcome that by realizing that playing winning golf is sometimes about taking it all in.
“I need to slow myself down when the pressure turns on or I make bad swings and bad putts,” she said. “Either I don’t think through the shot enough or I tense up. Taking time to breathe a little extra makes all the difference for hands that feel like lead.”
Psychologists have long utilized positive thinking as a tactic to play better golf. Does it work for Cox?
“Everyone tells you that positive thinking is the key and they aren’t wrong,” said Cox. “But personally I’ve always struggled...I don’t look at the glass half full - it’s always a quarter at best. So being positive doesn’t do much for me, but negatively thinking only hurts. It sounds a little strange, but I literally joke and roast myself in my head so that the negative can still be there but in a positive way. It relaxes me, and lets me shake it off.”
This fall Cox will head west to the Pennsylvania State University to continue her golf career and major in mechanical engineering.
“I grew up all Penn State - I’ve been screaming “We Are” since I knew what football was,” she said. “I never thought I’d be able to play golf there, and when I saw it becoming a realistic goal, it’s all I wanted to do.”
Cox’s goals at State College include starting and traveling for the team, potentially placing in tournaments and creating a host of memories with her teammates “who are my new family,” she said.
But that’s not Cox’s primary goal.
“I want to leave nothing on the table up there,” she said. “I want to be the best player I can be and workout my body and game more than I ever have. I am driven to do that. I couldn’t be more excited.”