ATLANTA, Ga., Nov. 3, 2015 – The first recipients of collegiate golf’s newly established Tom Cousins Award were announced Monday evening during the inaugural East Lake Cup presented by Hewlett Packard Enterprise in Atlanta, with Laura Lonardi (Baylor University) and Alex Burge (University of Illinois) each receiving the award.
Established as a way to recognize a male and female collegiate golfer who excels in academics, is engaged in his or her community, and has demonstrated an ability to overcome adversity, Lonardi and Burge were selected by a panel of industry leaders for their accolades both on and off of the golf course. The award is named after developer and philanthropist Tom Cousins, who laid out a bold vision to revitalize the East Lake community of Atlanta by providing cradle-to-college education, mixed-income housing and community wellness to break the cycle of poverty to create a holistic environment. East Lake now acts as a national model for community redevelopment through Purpose Built Communities for transforming a struggling community into a thriving neighborhood.
Lonardi, of Verona, Italy in 2015 was named the Big 12 Women’s Golf Scholar Athlete of the Year, and recorded three top-10 finishes during the 2014-15 season. Away from the course, Lonardi organized a youth caddie program in her hometown of Verona to raise funds and awareness for Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that is resistant to medicine after it affected a friend’s family. The program was a fundraising success, and it rewarded the top two fundraisers with the opportunity to caddie for European Tour player and Italian golfer Matteo Manassero in a Pro-Am event.
Burge completed his undergraduate degree in business management at the University of Illinois earlier this year, and in 2014 he won the University of Illinois Open. A native of Bloomington, Ill., he grew up with a father who was deaf, and as a young boy often found it difficult to develop a strong bond with his dad, until golf became the outlet to fill the void. Tagging along with his dad to play a few holes after school in the evening, and later traveling together to compete in junior golf tournaments, the pace of the game created an atmosphere for easier communication, shared stories, and fatherly advice. Golf helped cultivate a relationship between a father and son. “Golf changed my life, and continues to change my life,” Burge says. “Because it introduced me to my father the way a young boy should be introduced, with patience and a wiliness to listen and learn. Golf introduced me to my hero.”
Lonardi and Burge are joined by their respective teammates this week to compete in the inaugural East Lake Cup presented by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with the four semifinalists from both the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships contested earlier this year reconvening for a college match play championship. Due to inclement weather, Monday’s semifinal matches were suspended due to darkness, and will resume at 7:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday and be televised on Golf Channel. Once the matches have been decided, the championship and consolation matches will be paired and are scheduled to tentatively begin at 11:30 a.m. ET, with coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET on Golf Channel.
Stanford University (2015 NCAA Women’s National Champions); Baylor University (2015 Women’s National Championship runner-up); the University of Southern California (USC), currently the top-ranked team in the country in both the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings and Golfstat Relative Ranking; and six-time National Champions Duke University. The women’s division features three programs currently ranked in the top-six in the Golfstat Relative Ranking.
Louisiana State University (LSU), the reigning 2015 NCAA Men’s National Champions; USC, who lost to LSU in the championship match; the University of Illinois, who has won three of their last four fall collegiate events and is currently the top-ranked team in the country according to the GCAA Coaches Rankings, and the University of Georgia, two-time national champions.
East Lake Cup Coverage Continues Tuesday on Golf Channel
Online Media Center: Press releases, tee times, interview transcripts, logos and images from the East Lake Cup will be available during the East Lake Cup presented by Hewlett Packard Enterprise at the East Lake Cup Online Media Center – available on NBC Sports Group Press Box, NBC Sports’ official press site.