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Kristi Cardwell wanted to spend her summer building confidence on the golf course as she enters her senior year on the University of Iowa women's golf team. Winning a professional event as an amateur is exactly the type of confidence boost she had in mind.
Cardwell, a native of Kokomo, Ind., won the Pepsi Indiana PGA Women's Open at Hickory Stick Golf Club by one stroke on July 3, besting the field of 100 players, including a handful of professional players. After a first round score of 73 (+2), Cardwell fired a 68 (-3) in the final round to claim the biggest win of her career.
"This wasn't a junior event or high school event," Cardwell says. "It feels pretty good to win a tournament like the Indiana Open."
Cardwell started the final round four shots out of the lead and instantly put pressure on the leaders with four birdies on the front nine. After shooting a 31 (-4) on the first nine holes, Cardwell strung together eight-consecutive pars. She finished with a bogey on 18 and thought the tournament had just slipped through her fingers.
"Almost all of my iron shots were within 20 feet of the pin, except on 18," Cardwell says. "I left myself around 60 feet. I thought the bogey cost me the tournament, but some local reporters came up to congratulate me. I was pretty excited."
The hot and dry conditions forced Cardwell to take a new approach on the course. She was pleased with how she adapted to a different style of play in order to win the tournament.
"The ball was really rolling," Cardwell says. "I had to work around some different shots because you had to bump and run a lot up to the green. I had less than 30 putts in each round, and I felt great during the tournament."
Not only did Cardwell win the Indiana Open, she put together three rounds in the 70s to finish tied for sixth at the Indiana State Amateur Championship on July 18–20. She improved her score each day, shooting 77, 75, and an even par 72.
After a successful summer tournament schedule, Cardwell now has elevated confidence heading into her final year in black and gold.
"The win really gives me a lot of confidence for my senior year," Cardwell says. "I'm still practicing as much back home as I normally would. I'm really excited to get back for my last year."
As a junior, Cardwell finished second at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic, firing a career-low 64 (-4), which was the second-lowest 18-hole score in school history. Her 36-hole mark of 138 also set a new school record and she was named Big Ten Golfer of the Week following that performance.
Building off a solid junior season isn't the only reason Cardwell is eager to return to Iowa City. This fall will mark Megan Menzel’s second year as the Iowa head coach. Menzel's team showed consistent improvement last year and that has Cardwell eager to play.
"It was so much fun to see how she (Menzel) worked with our team last year and the strides we made," Cardwell says. "She has seen our team for one whole year now, and I'm sure this upcoming year will be even better.
"She has a positive effect on the entire team in everything we do; golf, schoolwork, workouts, everything," Cardwell says. "She puts a positive swing on everything. Working under that attitude helped me so much last year. If she is that positive, I'm positive as well."
After a summer filled with confidence boosters, Cardwell is ready to get back into the positive work environment that Menzel has created for Iowa women's golf.
"I'm ready to break more records and get my scoring average lower," Cardwell says. "We are focused on having a great year. We want to break more records, win more tournaments and be a better team."