In September, Lauren Coughlin was ready to quit golf. She had reached a low point.
In December, she finished T7 at the LPGA Qualifying Tournament to earn her LPGA Tour card for the first time. She’ll be a rookie on the LPGA Tour in 2018.
It’s amazing what two months can do for a golfer.
After struggling on the Symetra Tour as a first-year pro in 2017, Coughlin had serious doubts. In 13 starts, she had no top 10’s and finished outside the top 90 on the money list.
Coughlin also didn’t love the lifestyle. She missed her fiancé, former University of Virginia football player John Pond, while on the road.
“I just wasn’t playing well and that wore on me,” said Coughlin while holding back tears of joy after qualifying. “I’m very much a homebody so the travel was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I had a lot of people that pushed me and believed in me.”
Chief among them was her former college coach at the University of Virginia, Kim Lewellen, who won on the Symetra Tour in 1997. Coughlin called Lewellen in September and asked to meet with her.
“She’s definitely like family,” Coughlin said about her former coach. “She’s a mentor, and someone I trust completely. Especially when it comes to golf.”
As soon as Coughlin called, Lewellen knew. A former Tour player who has coached for 15 years, she’s had conversations like this in the past.
“Golf is heavy on our hearts, it’s something we do everyday and it can hurt your feelings sometimes,” explained Lewellen. “I think that’s where Lauren was when she walked in. Golf had really hurt her feelings. She needed to take a step back and do things that make her comfortable and make her feel as good of a player as she is.”
Lewellen wanted Coughlin to pour everything she had left into preparing for Stage II and III of Q-School. If Coughlin made it to Final Stage, Lewellen promised to caddie for her.
“We came up with practice plans and I told her I’d keep her accountable,” explained Lewellen. “I told her ‘if you do all this and get through Stage II, I’ll be there for you’ and sure enough, she did. I was just hoping to be a little bit of motivation.”
A month after that meeting, Coughlin finished T33 to coast into Final Stage.
So, one of the top college coaches in the country flew to Daytona in early December and carried the bag for her former star player.
Lewellen woke up on Monday morning after Coughlin earned her card with a final round, 68 and realized she had five blisters on her feet, the most satisfying blisters of her life.
“I was so excited and my adrenaline was so high that I didn’t realize I had them (blisters),” explained Lewellen. “Everything hurt on Monday and I didn’t feel anything on Sunday. She played phenomenal.”
Eight years ago, Lewellen had to really convince Coughlin, then a high school junior, to come play at Virginia.
“She graduated with a masters degree, she was an Atlantic Coast Conference champ and now this,” said Lewellen. “She even wrote me a really nice note thanking me for holding her accountable and believing. These are the moments why I coach.”
As Coughlin begins her career on the LPGA Tour, she’ll have her golf family close by. During the next month Coughlin will be moving into a house 15 minutes from campus and plans to practice alongside her former team.
“I have no doubt that if I had not come to the University of Virginia and had her as my coach I would not be where I am today as a person or a player,” said Coughlin.