24 Hawkeyes to Watch: Laura Cilek

May 3, 2011

Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Friday, Aug. 13, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2010-11 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.


IOWA CITY, Iowa — The phrase, Have your cake and eat it too is a strange one. Why would you buy cake and then decide not to eat it? Nevertheless, the theme is simple, and when something is so good that it is considered above and beyond, you are “having your cake and eating it too.”

That phrase is fitting for University of Iowa women’s golf senior Laura Cilek. Cilek, a native of Iowa City, Iowa, wrapped up her four-year career as a Hawkeye by not only excelling on the golf course, but off it as well.

Cilek was honored by the Big Ten Conference with the Women’s Golf Sportsmanship Award on April 25 for the fourth consecutive season. The award is given to student-athletes who display sportsmanship and ethical behavior, are in good academic standing and demonstrate good citizenship outside of athletics.

“I have done my best to set a good example and be a responsible, hardworking teammate,” said Cilek. “I love the game of golf, and I think people can see that in the way I carry myself in and away from practice.”

UI head women’s golf coach Kelly Crawford feels the same.

“It is a testament to her as a person, being such a great ambassador for our program,” said Crawford. “She’s always showing sportsmanship on the golf course and professionalism with her playing partners.

“It’s off the course as well, always the right attitude. I think that carries over into her personal life as well… she’s well deserving of that honor.”

“I have done my best to set a good example and be a responsible, hardworking teammate. I love the game of golf, and I think people can see that in the way I carry myself in and away from practice.”
UI senior Laura Cilek

Cilek has been honing her craft on the course over the last four years. She started as a walk-on as a freshman after graduating from nearby West High School. Through hard work and practice, Cilek earned her mark as the captain of the Hawkeyes during her sophomore season.

Because of her status as a walk-on, it took Celik awhile to gain confidence in her game and to gain the spot on the team. That is no longer an issue. They say hard work breeds success.

“I have a lot of confidence in my short game, as we have spent a lot of time practicing that over my four years here,” said Cilek.

Crawford agrees, and credits Cilek’s confidence in her game.

“She’s made some significant improvements in her short game, but she’s also made huge strides with her swing,” said Crawford. “She’s not a real long-ball hitter, so she had to rely on her short game a lot more.

“More than anything, you don’t have to have a great short game, but if you’ve got a lot of confidence, it makes your short game even better, and she really believes that she can get up and down from anywhere.”

The hard work and confidence has paid off as Cilek opened her senior season with three top 10 finishes. Not bad for someone who started playing just as a way to spend time with her grandfather.

“When I was little I first started going out on the golf course with my grandpa just so that I could drive the golf cart,” said Cilek. “Eventually he bought me a set of clubs, and told me that if I wanted to drive the cart I was going to have to start playing the game.”

Cilek started playing indeed, and now, after a solid four-year career at Iowa, will move on to the next chapter in her life. The political science major (with a minor in communications) said she will keep golf a part of her life.

“Golf is a sport you can play forever,” said Cilek. “Even though I’m done with my collegiate golf career, the game will still be a big part of my life.

“One of the best things about collegiate golf is the opportunity you get to play golf courses all over the country. I remember going to Big Ten’s my freshman year at Penn State, and that course will always stand out in my head. The coach there did an awesome job setting it up for us, and each hole you can see the mountains surrounding Happy Valley.

“There are a handful of courses I could ramble on about, each one has a unique aspect about it and that’s what is so cool about golf.”

Being able to see various courses across the country, and continuing to play her favorite sport long after wrapping up her collegiate career?

Talk about having your cake and eating it too.