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July 17, 2013

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — At the conclusion of the Virginia State Golf Association’s Women’s Amateur Championship, they hoisted the trophy together and smiled for the cameras Saturday in Richmond.

Lauren Coughlin, of course, had done the hardest work at the Country Club of Virginia’s Tuckahoe Creek Course, defeating Amanda Hollandsworth 3 and 2 to repeat as champion. John Pond’s role?

“I just try to keep the mood kind of light, make sure she’s having fun,” he said Tuesday.

Coughlin and Pond, who have been dating for more than a year, are student-athletes at the University of Virginia. She’s a redshirt sophomore on Kim Lewellen’s golf team, and he’s a redshirt sophomore on Mike London’s football team.

An accomplished golfer, the 6-3, 310-pound center is not. “But when he hits it, he hits it very far,” Coughlin said. “He doesn’t really hit it that often, though.”

“I try to break 100,” Pond said.

Pond, a graduate of Matoaca High School in Chesterfield County, rarely plays more than a round or two a month. But he’s a loyal boyfriend who loves Adam Sandler’s turn as a golfer in the movie Happy Gilmore, and so when an opportunity arose last year for Pond to caddie for Coughlin on the first day of match play at the State Amateur, he couldn’t pass it up.

In 2012, the tournament was held in Williamsburg, and Coughlin edged UVa teammate Elizabeth Brightwell 2 and 1 for the title. A year later, Pond was off Saturday after a week of summer-school class and workouts at UVa, and so he caught a ride to Richmond with football teammate Ross Burbank to caddie for her again.

“He doesn’t really know much golf,” Coughlin said, laughing. “He’s more just there to keep me calm and stuff.”

Pond said: “I’d like to think I know a little more than she gives me credit for, but I definitely don’t know half of what she knows.”

Coughlin, who was born in Minnesota, moved to Chesapeake with her family when she was around 10. She graduated from Hickory High School in 2011 and then enrolled at the University, where as a freshman she redshirted on a team that finished fourth at the NCAA tournament.

Saturday’s championship match was 36 holes. With 12 to play, Coughlin was seven up, but Hollandsworth rallied. With five holes to play, Coughlin was only two up.

“And that’s when I really tried to lighten her up, because I could tell she was getting a little tense,” said Pond, who, naturally, also is a fan of the film Caddyshack. “So I just tried to keep her calm and keep her relaxed.”

Pond couldn’t offer much technical advice, but he could quote lines from Happy Gilmore. And that tactic seemed to have the desired effect on Coughlin.

“He just uses a whole bunch of different ones, and somehow they all pertain to the situation that we’re in,” she said. “I don’t know how he does it.”

Pond, like Coughlin, wore UVa gear Saturday. Hollandsworth’s caddie was her father, who wore a Virginia Tech polo shirt and cap.

“It was kind of nice,” Pond said with a laugh, “because he knew a lot of golf and he was talking to his daughter, and I was just sitting on the green, cracking jokes and smiling. He was sitting there with this long look on his face.”

Lewellen watched Coughlin play twice last week and liked what she saw from a golfer who figures to crack the Cavaliers’ lineup in 2013-14. Coughlin played in two events for UVa as a redshirt freshman.

“You could tell that she was getting better and better throughout the week,” Lewellen said. “She plays a lot off of energy, how she’s feeling. That’s why she does particularly well in match play, because once she wins one she gets confident and wins another.”

In match play, Coughlin said, “I like that I can be aggressive. You’re only playing that one person. It doesn’t matter what everybody else is doing. I just do really well head to head. I know it doesn’t matter if I shoot 80, as long as it’s better than the girl I’m playing.”

This week, Coughlin is competing at the Women’s North & South Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, N.C. Lewellen believes Coughlin’s accomplishments this summer, especially her second State Amateur title, will pay dividends for her as a Cavalier in 2013-14.

Coughlin agreed. “It definitely helps a lot. It kind of proves that I can play. I beat a lot of good junior girls [en route to the championship].”

Lewellen didn’t get to witness Pond in action as Coughlin’s caddie, “but I’ve obviously seen them together,” she said. “He’s a big, big guy. He supports her with her sport and encourages her with her sport, and I think because of his love of Virginia and his love of sports in general that it’s a good match to have him on the bag.”

Pond said: “I’ve definitely enjoyed it both years. It’s fun to get out there and see somebody that actually knows how to play golf.”

Coughlin and Pond celebrated her latest victory with an old friend: Happy Gilmore.

“We went out that night, got the movie and watched it the next day,” Pond said.

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