Nice guys do finish first

Stephen Cook's magical putting helped him win the state championship trophy earlier this week. The Mingus Union senior sand a 25-foot birdie putt to win a playoff hole against two others.

It looks like another blue moon has risen over the skies of Mingus.

Senior golfer Stephen Cook claimed another state championship for MUHS on Thursday, and Uidenich feels as though someone should pinch him.

"A coach’s dream… that’s what I would call Stephen,’ he said.

It was all too real on Thursday, however, when Cook was facing a sudden death playoff for the state title, locked in a three-way tie. Playing against Chris Oelson from Bradshaw Mountain and Billy Hoyt from Payson, Cook sank a 25-foot birdie putt in a dramatic finish on the 17th hole.

Oelson and Hoyt couldn’t match him.

"The finish was unbelievable because on the first day Stephen had a double bogey on the 17th hole to put him two over," Uidenich said. "And then one over for a bogey on the same hole the second day to bring him three strokes over par.

"That was the hole they determined to have the playoff on, and I looked at Stephen and said ‘Third time’s a charm?’ And it was.

"Stephen had two of the best shots I’ve seen anyone ever make," Uidenich continued. "I’ve been coaching for 16 years and have never seen anything like it."

Cook was the only Mingus player to attend the tournament at Sundance Country Club in Buckeye. After shooting a 74 the first day, he was tied for fifth place with three other players. Shooting a 73 the second day brought him into the three-way tie and set up the spectacular finish on the last hole he would ever play for Mingus.

"Stephen has been an inspiration for the team," Uidenich said, "and a role model for the younger kids. They have something to aspire to."

Cook has aspirations of his own now that his high school golf career has come to a glorious end.

That ending and a 4.0 GPA will ensure a full ride scholarship to college. Stephen plans on attending Arizona State University or Stanford University in the fall, where he will study architecture and golf course management.

And while he plans on giving a pro career in golf a shot, it will be a college degree he is determined to fall back on.

Born and raised in the Verde Valley, Cook first started hitting the golf course with his dad when he was 10 years old. At age 12, he was golfing every day during the summer. In junior high, when he joined his first golf team, he would play in the mornings before school.

"It was like no matter how good you did, you could always do better. It’s all you," said Cook when asked what attracted him to the game. That attraction, along with focus and self-motivation, has now allowed Cook to excel in the game. His graciousness and humility have only complemented it.

"Someone else has to do the bragging for him," Uidenich said.

It’s coach Uidenich and assistant coach Craig Mai whom Cook credits as his major influences and mentors.

However, when asked to what or whom he attributed his win this week to, Cook gave credit to his greatest mentor. "God. God is good. That’s where it all comes from."

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