An avid metalhead, Lauren Coughlin first came to Las Vegas, Nev., for a Metallica concert last February and has returned to Sin City this week to make her Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards debut, opening with a 5-and-4 victory over Andrea Lee on Wednesday. Racing out of the gate, Coughlin won the first four holes with two pars and two birdies to grab an early 4-up lead. She moved to 5 up with a par on No. 6 and extended her lead on the par-5 seventh hole, making birdie to go 6 up on Lee. Lee won holes 8 and 10 with pars to cut her deficit to four, but Coughlin erased those efforts with a winning par on the 11th to move back to 5 up. Although Lee tried again to make another late run, winning the par-3 13th, Coughlin ultimately closed the door with a par on No. 14 to take the victory in her first-ever match at Shadow Creek.
“It was the first time I played match play since college so I was really excited about it. I love match play. It's just you and your opponent. There is no one else that you have to worry about, and so I really like that. It kind of takes a lot of the pressure off. I was just pretty carefree, excited to be here,” said Coughlin, who graduated from the University of Virginia in 2015. “I think I was like 3-under through 7 or something like that, which I was pretty excited about. Just was clicking. I hit some really good shots to start. Made a couple putts as well. Andrea wasn't hitting it all that well to start. I hit some really, really good shots, too.”
This is Coughlin’s sixth season on the LPGA Tour and she has just one career top-10, a tie for eighth at last year’s LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship. The Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play is her seventh start of the 2023 season. So far this year, she has missed two cuts and recorded two top-25 finishes, a T23 at the LPGA Drive On Championship and a T25 at the Cognizant Founders Cup, and seems to have carried some of the form she found two weeks ago at Upper Montclair Country Club with her to the desert. Five of the eight quarterfinalists in the 2022 edition of the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play went on to become Rolex First-Time Winners later in the year last season, and while it’s only day one of round-robin pool play, Coughlin hopes her luck continues throughout the next four days of matches.
“It was one of my big goals this season at the start of the year was to get into this event and qualify for this event. I was really excited. I played pretty well at Founders to kind of ensure that I was going to get in it,” Coughlin said. “My husband talked to me about it last night. You really only have to beat seven people this week, which when you put it like that it's kind of crazy. Again, a normal event you're thinking about you have to beat 143 other people and this is completely different. You're only playing against your one opponent, and it's just really fun.”