Rosie Cook never liked golf before — though she had also never played it until some 20 years ago.
She laughs, even wells up with emotion, when thinking about her life pre-golf. She considers where she was, in her native Malaysia, before meeting Tom Cook, who was in the country for work and who would become her husband.
The couple moved to Tacoma, Washington, in 1997 before settling down in Bend a year later. Tom enjoyed a number of recreational activities: golf, softball, tennis, skiing and snowmobiling. Rosie never participated in such activities. But she was open to adopting at least one as her own.
“She was terrible in tennis,” Tom recalls, “so-so with snowmobiling, pretty good with skiing, but she found her sport after struggling for about a year with golf. She developed a very good swing early on and stuck with it and really did it by herself and improved ever since.”
Adds Rosie: “It’s like, ‘What have I been doing my whole life?’ I’m playing golf that I never dreamed about. … I never thought I’d come this far.”
It is quite remarkable, actually. Even early on, Tom sensed a naturally smooth swing in Rosie. She stuck with it, he says, and honed it on her own. More than 20 years later, Rosie is among the top golfers in Oregon, if not the entire Northwest.
“It’s unbelievable to see her dedication and love for the sport,” Tom says. “As mentioned, we tried several (other activities), but that was the one that worked. Obviously when we started I was better but very soon she caught up. It is amazing to watch her from the beginning to now sometimes setting course records for women at various places.”
Rosie considers Tom as more than her husband. He is her instructor, her supportive structure, and, in a way, her inspiration. In fact, when she does finish well at tournaments, she feels obligated “to buy something for him, too,” she laughs.
If that is the case, Tom has been receiving gifts from his wife quite frequently in recent years.
Last week, for example, Rosie continued her dominance at the Bend Ladies Invitational at Bend Golf Club. Until 2014, she had never won the prestigious regional tournament. She was second three times, third once and fifth once. Since 2014, however, she has won four Bend Ladies tourneys, including last week’s impressive seven-stroke victory.
Rosie Cook does not have a conventional day job. “I have a golf job,” she says. The sport has become her life. Her spring, summer and early-fall schedules are loaded with tournaments. But even off the course, she cannot — and does not want to — get away from the course.
Consider where she and her husband of 19 years live: just off the 18th green at Awbrey Glen Golf Club. Why would she want to compartmentalize her life away from the sport? After all, it has helped her become who she is today.
“I learned in golf to be who I am and a lot of people support me and believe in me and love me no matter where I’m going,” Rosie says. Now, she continues, “everywhere I go, people know me. It’s like, ‘Oh, my God, they know me?’ It’s like, ‘Wow. I can’t believe it.’”
She does not like being asked her age. She says only that she is in her 40s, but that number should not define her. How she plays, how she lives, is what should.
“I want to enjoy my life,” she says. “I don’t want to get old too fast. I know I will accept what happens when it comes. But … I just want to be healthy and happy and enjoy my game and the weather and the people I love.”
That lighthearted mindset is typical Rosie Cook. Like anyone, she hates making mistakes. But she is not one to let miscues lead her mind and heart astray. She will not allow herself to take things too seriously, though her facial expressions during tournaments might say otherwise.
Even then, she concedes, she struggles with knowing WHEN to be serious. She calls herself “a fun lady” and is frequently smiling and laughing. “This is fun,” she says. “I just have so much fun.
“When you try so hard, that means something bad might happen. But when you take it easy, you just let it go. And what happens, happens. … You just play your normal game and be patient and just relax.”
Cook appears fearless. Even on Monday, when she was at Columbia Edgewater Country Club for the Portland Classic Amateur Open. It’s a one-day, amateur-only event that guarantees the winner a spot in the LPGA’s Cambia Portland Classic later this month. The stakes are high. But Cook is not easily intimidated. (Beaverton High graduate and current University of Arizona golfer Gigi Stoll won the event; complete results were unavailable.)
“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” Rosie says. “As long as you’re not scared and you’re confident and know you can do it, it’s like, ‘Just jump in and swim.’”
Monday’s event in Portland was Cook’s fifth LPGA qualifying tournament. She has yet to crack into a professional tourney, but she does not hedge her confidence or waver from her love of the game.
She does not play for the accolades or the trophies. She golfs for her friends and family, for her husband, who introduced her to the sport.
Every win, every high finish, every record is secondary to Cook simply enjoying her life in golf. Everything that has transpired since her golfing life began more than 20 years ago — and anything that is in store for the future — is magical for her. She cannot explain her emotions and thoughts of life in the sport.
She does not need to explain, though. Because when it comes to golf, there is only one sentiment that sums up her relationship with the sport:
“It’s like a dream come true.”