COLUMBIA — When your family is thousands of miles away, it's good to know you can count on those around you.
Missouri women's golfer Hannah Lovelock is a native of Surrey, England. When she is on the course for the Tigers, she has been one of their top players entering this weekend's Big 12 Conference Tournament at The Club at Old Hawthorne.
The junior, who missed the entire fall season because of back surgery to repair a herniated disc, is one of three Missouri players in the top 15 at the event after the first two rounds. After shooting a 74 on Saturday, Lovelock is in ninth place at 1-over-par, just two strokes from joining a six-way tie for second place. Texas' Madison Pressel leads at 7-under-par after shooting a 66 on Saturday.
“We’ve played this course more times than I’ve had hot dinners,” Lovelock said after Saturday's round. “I’m just going with the flow; what will be, will be. I just want everyone to capitalize on our home course."
There have been times, however, when Lovelock didn't feel so comfortable with her surroundings. When she was dealing with her back problems, she found she needed to depend on teammate Marissa Cook for support.
"I’ve got an adopted family here in the States,” Lovelock said. “I’m tight with Marissa’s family big time. They do a lot for me, like letting me stay there when I go back home with Marissa. They are like a second family to me.”
The relationship means Cook is part of Lovelock’s family, too.
“When Hannah’s parents come in town I’m their daughter," Cook said. “It’s a sister-from-another-mister kind of thing, and it’s really nice to have that bond.”
The relationship hasn’t gone unnoticed by the rest of the team.
"We like to call them 'the old married couple,'” Missouri head coach Stephanie Priesmeyer said.
Teasing aside, their bond is something Cook and Lovelock say they cherish. It also helped Lovelock through the worst parts of her injury.
"I would get an very sharp intense pain running down my leg,” Lovelock said. “It was horrible.”
Luckily Cook was nearby.
“She would wake up in the middle of the night and come crying in my room, just bawling,” Cook said. “So I’d comfort her, but it was hard for me to know what to do.”
With support from Cook and encouragement from the Missouri coaches, Lovelock has made a successful return this spring.
“She’s our horse. She has proven herself again this season,” MU assistant coach Mindy Coyle said. “We’ve just been emphasizing not trying to get it all back at once. We don’t want her to try and make up for not being out on the course and hurting herself.”
As they did when she was hurt and unable to compete, Lovelock's teammates continue to support her. Now it's out on the course.
Cook is right behind Lovelock in the standings. After shooting a team-best 70 on Saturday, Cook is in a five-way tie for 10th at 2-over-par. The Tigers' Taylor Gohn is in a four-way tie for 15th at 3-over-par.
Entering Sunday morning's final round, Missouri is tied for third with Texas A&M in the team standings at 12-over-par. Texas leads at 7-over-par, two strokes ahead of second-place Iowa State.