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Former Hawkeye switches roles for women's golf

BY ALEX FRENCH | FEBRUARY 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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Laura Cilek is no stranger to Division-I golf.

A four-year letter-winner at Iowa, she competed for the Hawkeyes from 2007-11. She played 109 rounds with the Black and Gold and posted a career-best 78.6-stroke average her senior season.

Cilek's demeanor on the course earned her four Big Ten Sportsmanship Awards. Off the course, she was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten student-athlete.

The Iowa City native worked in the pro shop at Finkbine upon graduating last spring and also filled a vacancy on first-year head coach Megan Menzel's staff.

After serving as the interim assistant coach for the fall season, Cilek's position became permanent in January.

"Once I started working with Coach Menzel, I wanted the job even more; I'm so lucky to have the chance to begin my coaching career under such a great coach and role model," she said. "I knew if it was meant to be, the full-time opportunity would happen, and I'm glad that it worked out."

It turns out Menzel was aware of Cilek's postgraduation situation and said the 23-year-old showed strong interest in the position.

"As the season went along, we were feeling each other out and what qualities she'd bring to our program," Menzel said. "I knew it would be a nice fit for us, especially in recruiting. It's a critical time for us to get caught up, because we're in a transition in coaching staff."

Cilek's presence — although she was absent for the team's first tournament this spring, the Claud Jacobs Challenge — appears to have put the current Hawkeye golfers at ease. Junior Kristi Cardwell, who competed alongside Cilek for two seasons, said she enjoys having her former teammate on the sideline.

"It's nice to have someone there that you know," she said. "We were already close, and she knows me personally, so it's easy to get along with her."

Cilek did concede that approaching the game from the coaching perspective is different but said her athletes have made the adjustment easier. Their trust, she said, allows her to help them achieve their goals as athletes.

In fact, she said her lifelong loyalty to the Hawkeyes has also help outline how she can help her team.

"Growing up in Iowa City, it means a lot to me to be able to be a part of the program," she said. "I had a great experience here as a student-athlete, so I want to try to convey my experience to [our] student-athletes. That's one of my goals."

The newly named coach said she believes her team has the talent and mindset to make it to the NCAA Regional Tournament this year, and she hopes her passion for the game can help the Hawkeyes get there.

"I still get the itch to get out and play," she said. "I think it's important to still have that love for the game as a coach."


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