Senior women’s golfer Lauren Cox made the decision to return to North Texas for a fifth year of eligibility as soon as she had heard that it was an option. Cox was one of the few senior student-athletes at North Texas to utilize the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to spring sports seasons being cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
In March of this year, the NCAA Division I Council voted to give spring sports athletes an additional year of eligibility after their seasons were cut short. Cox and two graduate transfers from the track and field teams, Michael Gonzalez and Deja Moore, were the only Mean Green student-athletes to utilize this fifth year of eligibility — with 19 other senior student-athletes at North Texas opting not to do so.
Cox’s decision to return for another year was a culmination of many factors. It included delaying her graduation to December to not overdo her course load and the cancellation of Q-school, which was her post-college pathway.
“The LPGA also canceled Q-school this year because of COVID and that was my future plan,” Cox said. “So to stay at UNT for another year was the right decision for me.”
“Q-school,” or qualifying school, is a pathway to professional golf that gives collegiate golfers like Cox a chance to earn their way onto the LPGA Tour. Q-school consists of two qualifying stages followed by the Q-series, two tournaments played in back-to-back weeks to determine the 45 best players who will graduate and join the LPGA Tour for the season according to the Golf News Net.
With the golf academy being cancelled for 2020, Cox’s love of college golf and appreciation of her teammates made her decision to return easy.
“I love the environment that we have and to get to practice with everyone,” Cox said. “Trying to play pro golf is very individual, and to get to practice with the team every day for four years, now five, is just so much fun and I wanted to keep doing it for another year.”
Junior golfer Audrey Tan is grateful to have Cox back too, relishing her leadership on and off the course.
“To be able to continue learning from her and just looking up to her is great,” Tan said. “It contributes a lot to my own learning process and growth. She just plays a huge role in how I go about my golf game and even life in general because she’s an amazing golfer, friend and person.”
As one of the most accomplished golfers in North Texas’ history, Cox has broken the program record for season scoring average in each of the last two seasons and individually won the Entrada Classic last spring to become the first women’s golfer to win a tournament since the 2012-13 season. She has also been named to the All-Conference USA first team in each of the last two seasons and qualified for the 2019 NCAA tournament as an individual.
The Entrada ended up being the team’s last tournament of the season, an abrupt end to their season with several tournaments left to play.
“The day that we got home from our trip was the day we found out,” Cox said. “I was definitely really sad, and in a few days I found out that I was getting another year, so it was a lot of emotions all at once, just as the summer has been, just ups and downs.”
After ending a promising season so abruptly, head coach Michael Akers was grateful to get another opportunity this year with Cox returning.
“I was certainly not looking forward to telling [Cox] goodbye last spring, and we were having such a great season, then the season just gets canceled,” Akers said. “To get that news of her being able to return … I was just thrilled.”
While the spring schedule is still undetermined, Akers did say the team plans to play three tournaments this fall hosted by Oklahoma University, the University of Texas and Oklahoma State University, respectively. He also described changes for the upcoming season such as having teams golf only with their own members in tournaments to maintain bubbles and coronavirus testing prior to each tournament, with negative results mandated to compete.
Akers looks forward to adding a new freshman in January and getting back to competing this fall after the season’s abrupt end in March.
“We’ll be at full strength in January, but we still have six really good players this fall,” Akers said. “Last year we finished the season ranked No. 51 in the nation and I really feel like we’re a top 30 team when we put everything together, so I’m really excited to get started again.”
Featured Image: Senior Lauren Cox lines up her putt in practice on Sept. 7, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas