Lauren Coughlin gave her husband a three-week trial as caddie, and she now leads LPGA’s Chevron

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — John Pond had just quit his job in fundraising at the University of Virginia to come travel with his wife, Lauren Coughlin, full-time on the LPGA when a new opportunity presented itself. Coughlin split with her longtime caddie after the spring Asian swing, and Pond begged her to give him the job.

Coughlin said she’d give him three weeks.

“I’ll know after three weeks if we can do it,” said Coughlin. “When I say we, I mean me.”

The Chevron Championship marks their third week together, and Coughlin holds the clubhouse lead at the year’s first major after an opening 6-under 66. She tied for eighth in their first week together and took a share of 32nd the following week in Las Vegas. Last week, the couple attended the Masters together for the first time.

Coughlin and Pond first met at a football Christmas party at the University of Virginia where they lived in the same dorm. Pond, a “mediocre center” on the football team, said his roommate at the time took her on one date, and they later bonded over the fact that she had a car.

“At UVA, you can’t have a car first year and the big boys need to eat,” said Pond with a smile. “So I took full advantage of that, and then that turned into a relationship.”

Chevron: Photos

He proposed at the 2016 ACC Championship after the Cavaliers won the team title, and Coughlin captured her first individual win. Coughlin’s coach gave the mic to Pond during the trophy presentation, and he got down on one knee to pop the question.

For most of their married life, they’ve gone weeks at a time without seeing each other. Pond said they’re probably still in the honeymoon phase even though they’ve been married for six years.

Pond’s decision to leave his job to start taking on a more managerial role – now as caddie – means that they’re going all in on Coughlin’s career.

“I don’t think we’re oblivious to the fact that she’s 31 years old,” said Pond. “Everybody that’s been around her and been with her knows what she’s capable of. I think it would be selfish of me not to give her every opportunity.

Of course, that means that the family’s financial success for now, at least, rests on Coughlin, who has made $126,980 this season inside the ropes before expenses. Pond tells his wife all the time that whether she wins 10 times or never at all or barely keeps her card, his greatest desire is that she leaves the tour with no regrets.

“If you don’t give it everything you have,” he told her, “one day you’ll be sitting there telling people what you could’ve been, not what you were.”

Coughlin, currently 94th in the Rolex Rankings, liked the idea of traveling the world together while they still can. And, after Pond supported them with a steady paycheck early on in the marriage, they’re now in a place where one income won’t put a strain on the budget. Their first globetrotting trip together after Pond left his job included stops in Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Singapore and China.

“He was always like worst case, if after a year we don’t like it,” said Coughlin, “I can go back and get a job again.”

Because they’ve spent so much time apart, Pond didn’t want to do a 180-degree turn and have them spend every waking hour together. He sets up his day the way any other caddie would, getting up around 6 a.m. to go walk nine holes, and then meets Coughlin at the course when she’s ready. This week they’re staying close to the course at Couglin’s parents’ house in The Woodlands, but when they’re away from family on the road they’ll get two rental cars. They typically don’t spend too much time together early week, he said.

When Coughlin finished practice early on Wednesday, for example, Pond went to the store for three hours to give her space to watch “crappy TV shows” if she wanted.

When they are together, Coughlin doesn’t want their conversations to be all about her golf.

“Which, of course, I enjoy that he cares that much,” she said, “but it’s just like, I don’t always love it always being about me and my golf game, specifically.”

Last month during the Ford Championship in Arizona, as Pond, whose handicap is a “dangerous 12,” got fitted by Ping, Coughlin was puttering around a stumbled upon a new putter.

While Coughlin’s ball-striking remains strong, it’s the improvement in short game over the past two years that has really made a difference. A couple of the par saves she made on the front nine Thursday wouldn’t have happened earlier in her LPGA career, Pond said.

Coughlin’s parents moved to The Woodlands a dozen years ago the day after she moved into her UVA dorm. When she’s in town, Coughlin typically practices at the nearby Woodlands Country Club.

She’s happy to be sleeping in her own bed this week. Dad cooked her breakfast Thursday morning, and they had a bunch of friends over for dinner on Tuesday.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Coughlin, “and relaxing for sure, not having to be in host housing or hotel, have a real true home feel to it.”

Coughlin might not be a household name, but she’s got a built-in fanbase with No Laying Up. She’s been part of their Young Hitters program since 2019 and has the NLU logo on the bag.

There’s a financial component to the sponsorship, of course, but it’s the intangibles that have meant the most to Coughlin. She said a few years back that anytime she hangs out with the NLU crew, she comes back loving golf even more.

It’s still early in this championship, but Coughlin has never placed better than a share of 15th at a major, which came last year at the KPMG Women’s PGA. She’s had four top-10 finishes on the LPGA since 2022, her best coming at the CPKC Women’s Open where she tied for sixth. She debuted at the Chevron last year and missed the cut.

“It’s only one round,” said Coughlin when asked about the pressure of leading a major.

Odds of Pond keeping his new job though, so far, look pretty good.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek