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Austin-Cooke was a true friend of Hawaii golf

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Codie Austin-Cooke was the Michelle Wie of 1934, a child golf prodigy who played one of the most remarkable rounds in Hawaii history and won four state women’s match-play championships before she was 18.

Cooke, who died Wednesday, two weeks shy of her 91st birthday, quit playing competitively before starting a family, but the game remained in her blood. She was inducted into the Hawaii Golf Hall of Fame in 1995, was a devoted volunteer at the Hawaiian Open and local LPGA events, and was best known in her later years as an avid walker who put in at least 10 miles a day "urban hiking" up to Oahu Country Club.

She was the small, smiling woman walking with purpose from her home near University Avenue over to Ala Moana Park and then up to Nuuanu Valley, taking the bus the final leg in her later years. She checked every pay phone and newspaper rack along the way for change and often showed up at OCC with "vast sums" of cash she found along the way.

"I think she found as much as $600 one time," said longtime OCC friend — and "100 and a half"-year-old — Herta Stevens. "It took her days before she found out who lost it, but she made the effort to give it back. This person wanted to repay her, but she said no. The person insisted and Codie told her, ‘Give me $5 for a McDonalds ice cream.’ "

Cooke was a unique combination of loner and outgoing social director. She would sip coffee alone on the OCC lanai for hours and rarely ate at the club, but was widely known for making new members comfortable and introducing them to others at meals she hosted. There is a salad named after her on the OCC menu.

She smiled often and was always upbeat and uncomplaining. She would walk to OCC, spend the day and walk home in time to watch the news.

"A doctor told her a long time ago that her cholesterol was very high, so she started walking and kept it up," said Ann King, whose husband, Senior Judge Samuel P. King, knew Codie from their days together at Punahou. "That’s what she did. She loved to walk."

When Cooke was little, she loved to golf. Her golf legend dates back to 1934, when she won the Hawaii Territorial Women’s Championship. She started golfing a decade earlier when her parents gave her clubs and she played barefooted.

She learned the game from OCC pro Alex Bell, who "suggested" she wear shoes, according to a chapter on Cooke in the book "A Century of Golf, Oahu Country Club."

"That was awful," Cooke reportedly said. "I put them on and they felt like battleships."

Properly shod, she won her first title as a Punahou freshman, shooting a 79 from OCC’s lone set of tees. No woman had broken 80 there before. The newspaper called it "the greatest exhibition of golf ever seen in Hawaii."

She would win three more times, then take a steamer to attend USC, where she quickly became the women’s champion at California Country Club. After she married, she never played competitively again. Her sons, Glen and Gary "Skip" Winterbottom, were her pride and joy but never took up the game. She was fine with that.

Their mother loved all sports, read voraciously about them and followed USC and Punahou religiously, between those long walks.

"She was an avid, avid athlete," said friend Amelia Andrade. "She used to talk about playing with Francis Brown. She was a great advocate of bringing people together and she wrote the class notes for Punahou School (Alumni Bulletin) for years. She was passionate about all three of those things.

"She was a lovely woman, upbeat, never complained, never talked bad about anyone."

To her dying day.

Cooke’s health had been failing since January, but the last time Andrade saw her at the hospital she gave her a "thumbs up."

Ann King saw her a week before she died in the hospital, of complications from old age.

"The last thing she said to me was," King recalled, "Manoa Cup, next week."

There will be no formal service, in accordance with Cooke’s wishes.

 

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