Iowa golfer Cardwell lives up to 'Mama Hawk' nickname


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Junior transfer Anna DePalma didn’t know anyone when she first stepped onto the Iowa campus this past summer. Senior golfer Kristi Cardwell knew the new student from Hawaii could use a friend.

“She hung out with me when I was on my recruiting trip,” DePalma said. “We kept in contact, and since then, she’s included me in everything.”

Cardwell, a Kokomo, Ind., native, also saw that DePalma’s living situation was in question if she decided to attend Iowa. It just so happened that Cardwell and her senior teammate Gigi DiGrazia had extra space in their home.

“They knew I didn’t want to live in the dorms so they offered me their extra room,” DePalma said. “I obviously didn’t know the area or anyone, but they still opened up their home and offered me a place to live.”

For two years now, the women’s golf team has called Cardwell “Mama Hawk” because of her maternal demeanor.

“The nickname came from the three freshmen last year,” Cardwell said. “It stuck around through that year. People caught on and now everyone calls me that.”

Her teammates are not the only ones who appreciate Cardwell’s relaxed and calming attitude. Even her coaching staff has noticed the intangibles that Cardwell has brought to the team.

“Kristi is such a reliable person,” head coach Megan Menzel said. “She has a way of checking-in on everybody and brings a little bit of comfort to our team.”

As a senior, Cardwell’s time at Iowa is limited. So with one tournament left in her final fall season, she’s setting lofty expectations for herself and her team. Cardwell would like to win a tournament individually, but it’s her team that she believes is closer to a meet victory.

“It’s going to be a tough field there,” Cardwell said aboutthe team’s final fall tournament, the Lady Northern tournament in Florence, Ind. on Oct. 13-14. “But I believe we can work up into the top three, because we’ve improved every tournament. We’re really close.”

After her days playing for the Black and Gold are over, Cardwell’s future is still likely to involve a lot of time on the course. The 21-year old won her first professional tournament this past summer and would like to continue playing professionally in the future.

“I’m planning on going to golfing school in Florida or Arizona,” Cardwell said. “I haven’t made up my mind just yet, but I’ll continue with that next fall or in the fall of 2014.”

Menzel, a Ladies’ Professional Golf Association  apprentice, knows of the challenge that awaits Cardwell.

“You have to be very dedicated if [professional golf] is what your plan is for the future,” Menzel said. “But that’s what drives her and what continues to make her team better.”

Whether or not Cardwell makes in the world of professional golf, she’ll always be able to look back on a successful career as a Hawkeye golfer and mentor. Her teammates know, better than anyone, that “Mama Hawk” will be missed.

“Golf is an individual sport. We all want to do well and perform,” DePalma said. “But she puts it all into perspective … She has that nickname for a reason.”

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