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Teeing Off with the Cooks
by Audrey Hanes, photography by Melissa Donner

Austin Cook was 2 years old when he first picked up a golf club. From that moment on, from his years on the Jonesboro High School golf team to his first win on the PGA Tour, his love for the game and his desire to work hard to accomplish his dreams have only grown, all with the never-ending support from his hometown.

Austin was born in Little Rock and moved to Jonesboro when he was 1 year old. He says he has been in Jonesboro pretty much his whole life – about the same amount of time he has been golfing.

“My grandpa was a club pro in Minnesota, and he also tried playing professionally,” he said. “My father and his brothers played the game. I had a plastic club when I was little and would go out to the course with my dad when he would play. I’ve always loved it.”
He has fond memories of playing for JHS, especially because of the tight-knit nature of a smaller team. His time at JHS included two team conference championships and a top-three individual finish at the state championship.

Austin continued his golfing career at the University of Arkansas, where he was named to the 2010 SEC All-Freshman team; was All-American in 2011, the year he also finished 10th individually at the NCAA Championship; was the runner-up at the NCAA Fayetteville Regionals in 2013; and was a two-time SEC Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

“It was always a dream (to make golf my career), but my father and uncle are both doctors, so even though I felt called to that, golf is something I wanted to give a try first,” said Austin. “Once I got to college, I took time to really improve my game and grow. In college, that dream became a little more solid.

“Our coaches in Fayetteville are very good at molding a player and getting them ready for the next level. I had such a big growing period from freshman to senior year, (but) my biggest growing period was my first two years out of college. At that point, the better you play, the more money you make and the better chance you have to get a card for the next year. After college, I got out on my own and learned how to really bear down and grind out a good score – it’s your livelihood at that point. It’s when I got really serious about (my golf game).”

His last semester of college, Austin began dating his future wife, Crys, who is also from Jonesboro. Crys started her bachelor’s degree in natural and applied sciences at Arkansas State University before finishing up at Harding University. She went back to A-State to earn her bachelor’s of science in nursing, and it was during that time that she began dating Austin.

“Long story short, I was adopted when I was 16,” said Crys. “My family has known Austin’s family for a lot longer than they’ve known me. Both our younger brothers are the same age and played on the same soccer team (and) both of our families also spent a lot of summer weekends at the same lake, so we were around one another quite a bit. We didn’t start dating however, until Austin’s last semester of school and my last semester of the nursing program.

“… It’s funny how one of the first serious conversations we had when we started dating began with me asking him, ‘How do you plan to support yourself and your family?’ I laughed after his response to me was, ‘I am going to be a professional golfer.’ Kind of ironic looking at where we are now.”

Austin and Crys have been paired up on and off the golf course ever since. They got married in February 2016, then decided to move back to Jonesboro the following November. Austin says that he has always relied on the support of his parents, who still live in Jonesboro, as do Crys’ parents.

“We decided to move back to our hometown because of family,” said Austin. “My wife and I are very family oriented, and with the amount of time we travel, we made the decision that it would be easier for us to live near family who could help with things here when we travel, like taking care of our two dogs (Axel, a black lab, and Bear, a chocolate lab). It’s great that both sets of in-laws are here.”

When in Jonesboro, Austin says he enjoys playing at both Ridgepointe and Jonesboro Country Club for practice.

“They have two different types of greens – one is bent grass and one is Bermuda,” he said. “It depends on what I’m going to play in future tournaments and what kind of grass I want to practice on.”

Crys frequently travels with Austin while he is on tour, and until recently, caddied for him, as well.

“I love traveling with my husband,” Crys said. “It certainly has its advantages and disadvantages, like living out of a suitcase, but I try to remember not to take any opportunity for granted and make the most of it. There are so many places that I never thought I would ever get to see being on tour. I do sacrifice working full time as a nurse, although I would most certainly do whatever it takes to support us and our livelihood, even if it means caddying for my husband. Caddying was great and I do miss it, but there are still many aspects of the game that I am not able to help Austin with, so it makes total sense to pick up a professional caddy who has experience and familiarity with the courses. I welcome our new caddy, Kip Henley, with open arms.”

Back in 2015, during his first full year as a professional after a successful run of PGA Tour Monday Qualifiers, Austin qualified for the Web.com Tour. On the tour, he posted eight top-25 finishes, four top-10 finishes and two top-five finishes in 23 events during his first year. Austin’s second year on the Web.com Tour was even better; out of 24 starts in 2016, his 11th ranking after two top-three finishes, eight top-10 finishes and 15 top-25 finishes secured his spot on the 2017/2018 PGA Tour.

“The tournament when I realized it was going to happen was when I finished second in Salt Lake City,” said Austin of earning his tour card. “There was so much excitement. … My wife was there, my buddy who was caddying for me was there. It was a huge sense of relief that this thing I’d always dreamed about was really going to come true.

“My next feeling was urgency – knowing that I needed to play well on the PGA Tour to get more starts later in the season.”

So far, Austin’s rookie season on the PGA Tour has been one for the books. In his fourth start on the tour, he took home the cup at the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga. That win secured his spot on the tour through the 2019-2020 season, as well as invitations to play in the 2018 Masters, the 2018 Players Championship and the 2018 PGA Championship. As of press time, Austin was ranked third in the FedEx Cup.

“It’s a sense of accomplishment and self-pride,” said Austin of his win. “I can always say that I can win on the PGA tour. I have the game, that’s good enough. I’ve now proven to myself that I can do it. All the little doubts that have been in the back of my head are gone. I’m so proud of myself for being able to accomplish this and finish off a tournament well and win.”

Crys says she felt pure joy and cried tears of happiness when Austin won and that it was an emotional time for everyone who has supported him along the way.

“I knew Austin was capable of bringing home the win, but there were moments when I thought to myself, ‘Holy moly, he is going to win this thing; is this real right now?’” said Crys. “… Being able to be there to watch him make one of his lifelong dreams become a reality was incredibly gratifying yet a humbling experience. What made it sweeter was getting to celebrate the win with my parents and his parents by our side. Even a few friends from our local community made it out to watch the win and celebrate with us afterwards.”

Following his win in Georgia, Austin will take a break for a few weeks during the winter to let his mind and body rest. He says he hopes to prolong his career the best he can by taking care of himself.

“The first week (back) is in Hawaii. I’m really looking forward to playing against the other tournament champions,” said Austin of the Tournament of Champions. “After two weeks there, it’s straight to California. Leading up to The Masters, I’ll play three weeks on, one week off. But, if I can get into a WGC (World Golf Championship) between now and then, that might change my schedule a little.”

Crys says that their plans are to keep playing strong golf, to stay focused and to keep pushing to accomplish more of their goals. One of those goals, to play in The Masters, is something Austin secured after winning the RSM Classic. Another goal, she says, is for Austin to be named Rookie of the Year, something she feels he is right on track to do.

“Austin has what it takes to do great things on the PGA tour, setting his sights high,” she said. “With his persistence and dedication to the game, there is no doubt in my mind he will persevere.”

Both Austin and Crys thank their friends, family and especially God for helping get them to where they are today.

“I have to give the glory to God,” said Austin. “He has given me the strength to fight through all the hard times and get me to where I am today. I have to give so much credit to my wife and family for everything they’ve done for me. I also want to thank everyone in Jonesboro for all their support throughout the years. It’s great to have so much support from my hometown; it’s just awesome.”

“Most definitely we would like to thank our parents and families for their constant love and support,” added Crys. “To our friends, we are so grateful to have so many of you all showing support and so many of you all travel near and far to support. It is so great to know all of you are in our corner. And to the local community of Jonesboro, surrounding areas and the State of Arkansas, we hope we are making you proud.

“And most importantly, we give all the glory to God, because without our relationship with Christ, we wouldn’t be where we are today. He has led our paths in the perfect direction and continues to show us more of that path each and every day. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.’”

To keep up with Austin, follow him on Instagram at @AustinCookGolf or visit pgatour.com.