Brooke Cusumano’s spikes will be tough to fill on the Southern Illinois University women’s golf team. The senior has left her stamp in the Salukis’ record books.
Cusumano now owns the best single-season scoring average in SIU history. Her average round score of 75.78 tops that of Alison Hiller, who previously held the record with 76.36 strokes per round from the 2001-02 season.
“It’s like a dream,” Cusumano said. “To finish with that record, it feels like a dream. I can’t even describe how much it means to me.”
Cusumano, a Westminster Christian Academy graduate, is the all-time leader at SIU in rounds played. She is second all-time in rounds scored in the 70’s. Her round of 68 at the Jan Weaver Missouri State University Invitational last season is the second-lowest score carded in program history.
Moreover, Cusumano is the second-highest tournament winner in program history, with three victories and four runner-up placements. She finished inside the top 10 a whopping 23 times while helping the Salukis to 13 team tournament wins.
During her career, Cusumano earned six Missouri Valley Conference Golfer of the Week awards, surpassing fellow Saluki Kelly Gerlach’s five awards from 2004-07 to become the most decorated MVC Golfer of the Week awardee in program history.
SIU golf coach Alexis Mihelich praised Cusumano’s work ethic and commitment.
“I have been a head coach for 10 seasons and she has been the hardest worker I have ever coached,” Mihelich said. “I usually arrive to practice first and am the last to leave. In her senior year, she always beat me to practice and was still on the putting green when I pulled out of the parking lot. Never before have I ever coached a player who would stay at the course longer than me.”
For Cusumano, four years went by in the blink of an eye.
Mihelich recalled, “After her freshman year, I sat her down in my office and I said, ‘Look, we are losing two strong seniors and you will need to come back and step it up.’ I told her what she needed to do over the summer to improve and she did it and as a sophomore played No. 1 for me. She never lost her No. 1 spot for the next three years.”
Each year, her scoring average lowered and her technique improved dramatically. For Mihelich, a nailbiter tournament finish in Cusumano’s second year stands out as her favorite coaching memory in a decade.
“Her sophomore year, she finished second at the MVC Championships,” Mihelich said. “She needed to be top five at the tourney to be all-conference and she knew it. Coming down the stretch as a team, we were tied with Illinois State for third place. She birdied her final hole and the ISU girl bogeyed and we beat ISU by two strokes.
“Seeing her finish second as a sophomore in a tough field was very fulfilling. After that moment, we established a lot of trust in our coach/player relationship.”
A memorable senior season wrapped up with one tournament victory after another, including a team win by 22 strokes.
“This year as a senior, I got everything together,” Cusumano said. “I was mentally tough and I was mentally prepared to play and compete. It all came together at the right time.”
Off the golf course, Cusumano brought her A-game to coursework as an exemplary student-athlete, earning an accounting degree with a 4.0 grade point average. She was awarded the conference’s Elite 18 Award for excellence in the classroom and on the course.
After graduation, Cusumano’s competitive drive shifts to new ventures. She has a summer internship in St. Louis with major accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. She’ll also be taking a graduate assistant position at SIU this fall and will work toward a master’s degree in accounting.
She plans to take the exam to become a Certified Public Accountant [CPA]. That has her more concerned than draining a 15-foot putt for eagle.
“It’s pretty hard. Out of all my things I’ve done, I don’t think I’ve ever been more worried about anything than taking the CPA exam,” Cusumano said.