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From the Diamond to the Rough

Golf and Coffee Led Dennis Cook to a Round With His Airness.

After all his success as a three-sport star at Centralia High School from 1979-82, it’s a bit ironic that Dennis Cook’s biggest thrills have come on the golf course. Cook hit the pinnacle of his sports highlights a year ago November when he played back-to-back days of 36 holes with the legendary Michael Jordan.

“It was awesome,” said Cook,” who now resides in Burlington following an interesting business career.

It was while Cook owned and operated the Waiono Coffee Co., that he had a good friend who was the director of golf at Kapalua, the resort that hosts the PGA’s Mercedes Championship. In that memorable November, Jordan’s son was playing basketball for the University of Illinois and the team was in the islands for a tournament.

Cook’s friend was in charge of setting up Jordan to play golf each day during his weeklong stay, and Cook got to play with the NBA superstar, and golf fanatic, two days in a row at McKenna Beach Golf Club in Maui.

If Cook dies tomorrow, he can be satisfied in saying he beat Jordan in their first round of 18, shooting a 73, to Jordan’s 74.

“Actually, I started off real well,” said Cook, a self-taught golfer who never took up the game until age 29, and has had his handicap as low as 1.5. “I was 3-under through 14 holes and Jordan actually called me a ringer at one point. Pretty soon he found out I wasn’t.”

Over the next three rounds in two days, Cook said he shot about 80 each time, and Jordan stayed consistently about 75.

“Needless to say, I gave him a nice handful of money before he left,” Cook chuckled. Cook said Jordan was great to golf with.

“He was a very personable guy,” Cook said. “I think he really finds a comfort zone on the golf course, where he’s out there with three other guys and no crowds to contend with.” And he said he had game.

“He had a much better short game than I thought,” he said. “His length and ball-striking were average, but his ability to get up and down, and make putts when he had to -- that was beyond my expectations. He’s just a naturally clutch guy.

“To him, it was like making a free throw to win a championship. If he had to do it, he could. He was able to will a few putts into the hole.” Jordan told Cook when he played golf with Tiger Woods, Woods would give him five strokes a side. But after he left Hawaii, Jordan was heading to Florida to play golf with former NFL great Lawrence Taylor and some other people.

“He said they were easy money,” Cook laughed.

“It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime thing, to play with him. It was kind of surreal.”

Thank Sam Bakotich of for the story.

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