ATLANTA – Illinois senior Alex Burge and Baylor senior Laura Lonardi were named the first recipients of the Tom Cousins Award on Monday at a ceremony for the inaugural East Lake Cup.
The award is named after philanthropist Tom Cousins – who helped revitalize the East Lake community and transformed it into a thriving neighborhood – and was established to recognize a male and female college player who excels in academics, is engaged in the community and has demonstrated an ability to overcome adversity. Burge and Lonardi were selected by a panel of golf industry leaders.
Burge completed his undergraduate degree in business management at Illinois earlier this year. He grew up in Bloomington, Ill., with a father who was deaf and, as a young boy, found it difficult to develop a bond with his dad until golf became the reason they became closer and spent more time together.
“Golf changed my life, and continues to change my life because it introduced me to my father the way a young boy should be introduced, with patience and a wiliness to listen and learn,” Burge wrote in an essay that can be read here. “Golf introduced me to my hero.”
Lonardi, of Verona, Italy, was named the Big 12 Women’s Golf Scholar Athlete of the Year this year and recorded three top-10 finishes for the Bears during the 2014-15 season. Lonardi organized a youth caddie program in her hometown of Verona to raise funds and awareness for Dravet syndrome after it affected a family friend. Dravet syndrome is a rare form of epilepsy that is resistant to medicine.
“When my mother and I heard Isabella’s story and the difficulties that her son had to endure every day, we decided that we wanted to do something to help and we came up with an amazing idea,” Lonardi wrote in an essay that can be found here.
The East Lake Cup was hampered by weather delays on Monday. Burge’s Illinois squad holds a 4-0-1 lead over USC in its semifinal matchup. Burge was 1 up over Andrew Levitt after 10 holes when play was suspended because of darkness. On the women’s side, USC holds a 2-1-2 advantage over Baylor. Lonardi and Tiffany Chan are all square after 10 holes.
Coverage of Day 2 of the East Lake Cup begins at 1 p.m. ET on Golf Channel.