Richie Coughlan cheats death in car smash
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By Brian Keogh (Irish Sun)

US Tour struggler Richie Coughlan is just happy to be alive after cheating death in a horror car smash.

The accident happened over Christmas when the 27 year old Birr golfer was back home, visiting his family.

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 Resort.

"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 tour."

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 1991.

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 dollars.

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 School.

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 in touch."

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 week.


© Brian Keogh 2002

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