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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, January 12, 2002

'Old man' does well by the sea

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Columist

John Cook is referred to as the "old man" these days and not just at home in Florida where his 16-year old son, Jason, is regularly outdistancing him with iron shots.

Cook was playing Waialae Country Club when some of the other players in the Sony Open in Hawai'i field were just beginning to swing rattles.

And, the tournament victories, which have come to number in double figures, are fewer and further between for Cook these days.

But there was the 44-year old Cook yesterday holding off both the twilight of his career and the rest of the Sony field with his driver.

Age wasn't having any more luck creeping up on him than the other 141 golfers. Most of whom found themselves marveling at the scoreboard emblazoned with his Sony tournament record low of 62 (later matched by 22-year old Charles Howell III) for a 12-under par 128 and a three-shot lead at the halfway point.

For two days at Waialae now, it has been as if they turned back the calendar to the wonder year of 1992, when an up-and-coming Cook won the Hawaiian Open with a record low 72-hole total of 23-under 265 as part of a three-tournament victory haul and $1.1 million take.

Suddenly, as he matched his career-low round, it was as if the three rounds of tuck and pull changes designed to toughen Waialae over the intervening years, the first of which were hastened by Cook's record binge, had never happened.

Indeed, there was the same caddy, Kirk Kuzmanic, at his side and the same confident gait to his play.

"I remember a lot of the same faces from '92," Cook said. "A lot of it comes back to you but it has been a while. It does seem like 10 years. I'm a little older — a lot older — and not any wiser."

Wise enough, however, to recognize there are still a couple of productive campaigns to be waged and perhaps some more victories to be celebrated before it comes time to start counting down the days to the Senior Tour and that AARP card.

"At times you think you want to kind of move on into the sunset," Cook acknowledged. "(But) my son doesn't want me to do that and I don't want to do that. I think that's what motivates me (competition at a high level). I know that in the last year, my last 18 months, I've hit the ball the way I used to hit it. I feel a lot more comfortable in what I'm doing. I wouldn't play right now if I didn't think I could."

His children — two daughters are out of high school — are old enough , "that I really don't have much to do but practice and work on my game," Cook says. "And, playing with the kids and the membership (at the country club where Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara are also members) keeps me sharp."

With time peeking over his shoulder, he has nevertheless been giving a one-for-the-aged performance.