Women's golf wins ACC Championship, rides emotional high

Coughlin highlighted the weekend, becoming an individual champion and fiancée

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Senior Lauren Coughlin held on Sunday to win the ACC women's golf individual championship. The Cavalier won the team championship as well.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

It’s tough to top the feeling of closing out your senior season by winning back-to-back ACC Championships. It’s even tougher to top winning the individual title on the 54th hole at that same tournament. Virginia senior Lauren Coughlin may be the only one ever to experience something that trumps both of those by a longshot in the same hour.

After knocking in her winning putt on the 18th hole in the third and final round of last weekend’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Coughlin not only accepted her trophy as both a team and individual champion, but she also accepted a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, former Cavalier offensive lineman John Pond.

“I don’t think [the victory] hit me because of the proposal. Today it really sunk in. You know, I’m extremely happy and really proud,” Coughlin said.

Coughlin — a fifth-year senior and Chesapeake, Va. native — has been a leader for the young, fiery Virginia squad that heads into the NCAA Regional Rounds in early May playing with a purpose. The Cavaliers have now won consecutive tournaments, and haven’t finished worse than runner-up in the three tournaments played since February.

Virginia coach Kim Lewellen lauded Coughlin for taking advantage of all available resources during her career.

“She took advantage of everything U.Va. could offer her — the strength coaches, the nutritionists, the golf facilities and improved tremendously throughout every single year getting better. Until look — she just won the championship,” Lewellen said.

Coughlin’s progress since her first year — during which she was redshirted — has reflected on the course and with team results over her career. Since starting as an active player as a redshirt freshman in 2012, the team has continued to show its authority with its ACC Tournament finishes each year, and the team has advanced past the NCAA Regional rounds in each of the past two years.

Those five years of training culminated with the 54th hole at the ACC Championship. Entering the hole tied with Wake Forest freshman Jennifer Kupcho at 8-under, Coughlin was convinced she had to make a birdie to seal the deal.

“I thought I needed birdie just to tie her to get into the playoff,” Coughlin said, recounting her emotions coming to the tee box.

After Coughlin smashed a driver right down the heart of the fairway on the par 5-18th, Kupcho pushed her tee shot right. Patiently, Coughlin watched as Kupcho’s second shot found more trouble, then she struck. From 195 yards out, Coughlin stuck her approach shot to within seven feet from the pin to set up an eagle putt to clinch the tournament. From that point, Coughlin knew coming up to green that she could three-putt and still win. The pressure wasn’t all off yet, though.

“I was trying not to make it,” Coughlin said. “I just barely tapped it just to be safe and I left like an inch left.”

For her part, Lewellen was not surprised with how Coughlin closed it out. Having watched and coached Lauren for five years, Lewellen is well aware of her ball-striking capabilities.

“... Did it surprise me? No. She is a phenomenal ball striker,” Lewellen said. “She knew exactly where to play that middle of the green and knew it was going to roll back. I honestly knew she was going to pull that shot off. She has done it all year. She has been so close to win so many championships and this is the one she wanted the most. Darned if she didn’t do it the last day.”

Coughlin didn’t even have time to absorb the emotions of her victory because she claimed she had a hunch the proposal was coming after she secured her victory.

“It was still overwhelming [the proposal] happened as well, but in a good way,” Coughlin said. “I knew the proposal was coming if I won. You know, it would be a good time for him to do it.”

Despite the exciting weekend, Coughlin iterated that there is still work to be done this season for the Cavaliers.

“We still have work to do. We also have the goal of winning in the NCAA Championship,” Coughlin said. “I think it would be disappointing, not making the NCAAs. Not making it into the match play portion, I think that would be the most disappointing result.”

Virginia will hope to accomplish just that starting May 5, when they travel to a yet-to-be-announced location to start NCAA Regional play.

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