UF Women’s Golf: Waidner Recipient of East Lake Foundation’s Tom Cousins Award

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

The award is presented to the golfer who best exemplifies the civic, community, and philanthropic qualities of East Lake Foundation founder, Tom Cousins.

Senior Lauren Waidner has been named the recipient of the 2020 Tom Cousins Award, presented by the East Lake Foundation.

Tom Cousins purchased the East Lake Golf Club in 1995 with the goal of resurrecting the property in order to use the profits to develop the local East Lake community. His goal was to use the game of golf to improve the lives of those who were financially and educationally disadvantaged.

Twenty years ago, Cousins founded the East Lake Foundation. As a charitable organization, the foundation has been dedicated to helping families rebuild and helping children reach their highest potential. Based on the framework Cousins utilized to rebuild the East Lake community from one of despair to a national model of redevelopment, the East Lake Foundation employs a holistic approach to community revitalization, “incorporating mixed-income housing, cradle-to-college education, and community wellness.”

The Tom Cousins Award is presented annually to an outstanding male and female golfer who epitomizes the standards of the East Lake Foundation, both excelling academically and demonstrating extreme engagement in his or her community.

Lauren Waidner is the first Florida women’s golfer to receive this award. Prior to entering college, Waidner was a member of the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Leadership Links Program and raised money for Reach Out and Read. Since joining the Florida women’s golf program, she has been hyperactive in the Gainesville community, mostly focusing her attention on healthcare. She became a member of Streetlight, a program that mentors and supports critically ill adolescents, helped to organize a Climb for Cancer event, and works with the Florida Student-Athlete Advisory Committee visiting local schools and packaging shoes for underprivileged children.

Golf is often viewed as an individual sport in which you walk for hours with just your own thoughts, but Waidner has reflected that it is easy to get consumed in your own status as a student-athlete. During her time in Gainesville, she has challenged herself to modify her perspective to view golf as an opportunity to change the lives of others and has used her platform to help others while encouraging her teammates to do the same.

Utilizing the internship program sponsored by the University Athletic Association, Waidner worked at UF Health Shands during the summer of 2019. During her time, she developed a relationship with a critically-ill patient whose perspective altered Waidner’s idea of strength. This experience led her to Streetlight, a volunteer program that provides support and resources to critically and chronically ill adolescents. Over the past year, Waidner has visited the hospital weekly. In her own words, “the game of golf is no longer just a game for me, but rather an outlet through which I can find new ways to help others.”