US Tour struggler Richie Coughlan
is just happy to be alive after cheating death in a horror car
The accident happened over
Christmas when the 27 year old Birr golfer was back home, visiting
Said Coughlan: "It's a
miracle I'm still here. I was just heading from home to the gym
for a workout at around one o'clock in the afternoon when I hit
black ice in a rental car I was driving.
"It went out of control
and I hit two pillars. The pillars were destroyed and the car
was a total write off and I was very lucky to walk away with
minor back and neck injuries."
The accident looked to be the
last straw for Coughlan who played for most of last season with
a couple of cracked ribs. But he's determined to continue with
his battle to make it on the US PGA Tour.
He said: "I've had a few
problems in recent years but the accident has put everything
in perspective. "I'm a fighter and even though I sometimes
get downhearted in the States I know I can come back and do it
on the course."
Hapless Coughlan has been back
in the United States since January, but he'll need all those
fighting qualities to stay on the tour this season. The flame-haired
Offaly man crashed to 203rd on the money list last season, where
only the top 125 retained their cards.
But Coughlan still has a slim
chance of staying on the world's biggest tour. He said: "I've
been given a five tournament medical exemption by the tour to
make the money I need to retain my card.
"I need to earn $326,000
in those events to earn as much as the guy who finished in 125th
on the tour last season. It's better than nothing, I suppose,
but it's a tall order after the injury.
"I'm much more mobile
now but my back and neck are still a little stiff, so it's not
going to be easy." Coughlan played in 26 events on the US
Tour last year, but made just eight cuts after cracking a couple
of ribs in a freak accident. The 1997 Walker Cup player was pulling
a heavy bag from a lift in San Francisco when he did the damage.
Thinking he was suffering a recurrence of an old muscular injury,
the Midlander shrugged off the pain before realising that something
was wrong. After several x-rays, an MRI scan and extensive tests
he eventually discovered that he had two hairline fractures of
the fourth and fifth ribs.
Despite going back on the road
after just a two-week lay-off he never threatened to win the
big cheque he needed to jump up the money list.
His best finish came in the
Greater Milwaukee Open last July where he was tied for 25th and
won $25,000. But in the end he earned just $80,000 on his way
to 203rd place on the money list.
"I stayed out there on
tour but my wedge game deserted me near the end," admitted
Coughlan from California this week. "But I still fell that
I belong out here and that I can play this tour. Coughlan missed
the cut in the first of his five exempt tournaments, the AT and
T at Pebble Beach last week but he's still optimistic about his
chances. After this week's Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines
Coughlan will have three more chances to earn the money he needs
in the Nissan Open in LA, the Touchstone Energy Tucson
Open in Arizona or the Genuity Championship at the Doral Golf
"You never know in this
game. If I can earn the money then I'll have a full medical extension
for the remainder of the season. If I don't then I'll play the
It's all an adventure for Coughlan
who first got a taste of elite golf when he caddied for Phil
Mickelson and David Duval in the Walker Cup at Portmarnock in
He made the Great Britain and
Ireland team himself in 1997 and then won his Tour card on both
sides of the Atlantic later that year, before opting to stay
Stateside. A Speech Communications and Psychology graduate form
Clemson University Coughlan lost his card in his first season
- missing out on 150th place and Tour salvation by a mere $200
And since then life has been
full of ups and downs. After spending some time in Europe in
1999 and on the Hooters tour in Florida in 2000, he regained
his US Tour card for 2001 by finishing eighth at the US Tour
Now he's back on the road again,
struggling to make a buck. And with only small purses on offer
on the BUY.Com Tour, Coughlan is hoping for an invitation to
the Murphy's Irish Open at Fota Island. "If I'm not on the
main tour I'll be looking for an invitation. Tell them I'll be
Whatever happens, Richie Coughlan
isn't going to go away in a hurry. But with the punishment he
keeps taking, can he keep it up for long?
Chubby Chandler reject Peter
Lawrie is ready to give golf one last chance.
The Dubliner was let go by
Chandler's ISM management company at Christmas and now he's seriously
looking at his future in the game.
Said Lawrie: "When I turned
pro I said I'd give myself five years to make it in this game.
This is my fifth year and if I don't get off the Challenge Tour
this year I'll definitely have to reconsider my position.
"You can't give five years
to a job and not make any money and I'm treating it as a business.
If your breaks don't come you have to look at yourself and ask
yourself what happens.
"There's no bad blood
between myself ISM, they didn't do a lot for me anyway. But I
hope I can finish in the top 15 this year and get my card. Then
they might regret letting me go."
The Dubliner finished 58th
on the Challenge Tour last season and earned just ¤20,000.
"I owe some money at this stage, but it's getting to the
stage where you have to ask yourself if you have what it takes
and I'm very focussed on what I have to do this season."
Suzie O'Brien plans to kick
off her professional career in South Africa. The Nedbank Ladies
Classic in Johannesburg at the end of March looks like being
her first event.
"Nothing has been confirmed
but if I do go to South Africa then I hope to start on the Tour
in May with the Tenerife Open followed by the Ladies Irish Open
at Killarney," she said.
Ireland's Alison Coffey and
Elaine Dowdall will play in the Bell's Ladies' Amateur Golf Championship
of South Africa in Cape Town from 10-15 March. They form part
of the GB and I Curtis Cup squad that will take on South Africa
in a 36-Hole Test Match at Windsor G C in Randpark the following
© Brian Keogh 2002