Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 14, 2014

Ashland's Cox makes turn to St. Francis

Rocky Stanley
The Independent

ASHLAND — Evan Cox played a major part in building Ashland Blazer’s boys golf program into something special.

He wants to do the same at the next level.

Cox, a senior, will continue his career at the University of St. Francis, located in Fort Wayne, Ind.

First-year Cougars golf coach Tim Alexander made the five-hour trip for Wednesday’s signing, which was attended by several of Cox’s family members, friends, coaches and school officials.

On more than one occasion, Alexander said he felt “very fortunate” to successfully recruit a golfer and person of Cox’s caliber to the NAIA school.      

“In my opinion, Evan was under-recruited,” Anderson said. “He’s a high-quality kid from a great family.”

Mitch Hall coached Cox on the high school team for the first time this season, but has been around him since he was a seventh-grader.

“I’ve been amazed at his natural talent and swing,” said Hall, who was named the Region 12 Coach of the Year by the Kentucky Golf Coaches Association. “Listening to Evan, he really thinks through shots. He’s extremely competitive, a diamond.”

Beginning his freshman year, Cox helped Ashland win three consecutive regional championships. He earned All-State honors as a junior in 2012 after ranking sixth on the state points list. The regional tournament medalist was also selected All-Area Player of the Year.

Ashland finished sixth at the State Tournament in 2011 and placed 12th in 2012.

Though happy to help the Tomcats make it back to Bowling Green last fall — as region runner-up — Cox’s play fell short of his expectations.

“I know he struggled a little bit his senior year,” said Anderson, adding that some college coaches may also have backed off because Cox continues to play high school baseball. “I think Evan has kind of got a chip on his shoulder to prove people wrong that passed on him.”

But not Saint Francis, a school of about 2,300 students that Cox contacted during the recruiting process.

“They are getting a player,” said Bob Blankenship, Ashland’s golf coach through Cox’s junior season. “I know Evan’s senior year didn’t go like he wanted it to, but his junior year was phenomenal. He has all the ability. It’s a matter of putting it back into place.”

Cox also considered Virginia Wesleyan, Pikeville and Western Kentucky (walk-on offer), but a trip with his father to Fort Wayne in early January made the decision much easier.

“Coach Alexander was very welcoming, everything was nice,” said Cox, who maintains a 3.75 grade point average and plans to study business. “I liked that it was small.”

Another big incentive was the opportunity to contribute as a college golfer right away.

“I feel like I can start playing there and make an impact,” Cox said.

He can’t wait to join three other incoming freshmen in what Anderson calls probably the best recruiting class in the progam’s history.

“I’ve talked to the other guys,” Cox said. “It’s going to be a team effort. We all want the same thing, a conference championship.”

The Cougars compete in the 10-team Crossroads League, consisting of eight Indiana schools and one each from Ohio and Michigan.

Alexander, an assistant golf pro for 10 years, didn’t start at Saint Francis until three weeks before the start of the 2013-14 season. He’s already making a difference with the men’s and women’s teams.

“Our men’s stroke average dropped five shots since I took the job,” Alexander said. “It’s 15 for the women from a year ago.” Alexander said.

Cox said Ashland baseball coach Jeff Wilcox was happy about the timing of his signing because it won’t be a burden for the senior this spring.

Cox pitches and plays shortstop for the Tomcats, who won region titles each of the past two years.

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.