THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Lauren Coughlin giving her husband a chance at becoming her full-time caddie has led to some of the best golf of her career. John Pond had lobbied for the job after Coughlin left her caddie of three years following the Blue Bay LPGA in February. Coughlin gave him a chance at the Fir Hills Se Ri Pak Championship, and she has blossomed since.

The six-year LPGA veteran had her second-best career finish (T-8) at the Ford Championship. She sits atop the leader board through the morning wave of the first round of the Chevron Championship on Thursday, with a bogey-free six-under 66, the best major round of her career, on a course only 15 minutes from her parents’ home.

“There’s no one who knows me better than him,” Coughlin said. “So just kind of keeping me cool and relaxed out there and calm and not getting too far ahead of myself at times or too down on something that happened before.”

Pond has caddied on and off for Coughlin, 31, throughout her time on tour, with the former University of Virginia football player last looping at the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier. At the start of March, he left his job as a fundraiser at his alma mater to go all in on her playing years.

“Fortunately, Lauren’s had a couple of good years out here where we could take that risk now and just kind of go all in on her,” Pond said. “This is her time. This is her career. I can get work whenever I want to.”

He successfully campaigned Coughlin to be her looper by pointing out she has kept her circle quite small throughout her career and may not benefit from bringing in an outside voice. Coughlin has worked with her swing coach, John Lewellen, since playing for his wife, Kim Lewellen, at the University of Virginia from 2011 through 2016. Pond asked Coughlin to marry him after she won the 2016 ACC title.

She agreed to give him three weeks as her caddie, starting recently in Palos Verdes, Calif.

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“I’ll know after three weeks if we can do it,” Coughlin said. “When I say we, I mean me. Because I know he can do all of the things that I need him to do. It’s more just, we’ve never spent that much time together, so it’s just like can I do that, can I have the boundaries that we need to have to where we’re not just constantly about me golf all the time.”

At the Ford the following week is when Pond’s value to Coughlin delivered. She carded an opening 73, and Pond challenged her in a conversation after the round. He believed she got too down on herself for shots she perceived as a mistake, even when statistically they weren’t, such as hitting a hybrid to 40 feet on the green. Beating herself up would bleed into more dropped shots, taking her out of contention even though she’s 34th on tour in birdie percentage (20.89 percent).

“We talk about that [finishing] 18th to 35th every week is just boring,” Pond said. “Like it really is.”

She responded with a 66-69-64 finish, with Sunday’s round the lowest of her career, leading to a T-8 at the Ford.

Pond’s calmness and awareness of Coughlin’s mood paid off with them in the first group off at Carlton Woods on Thursday. They played at their own quick pace and caught up to the group in front of them on the sixth. After Pond left Coughlin alone while she was in the zone, just coming off her sixth birdie of the day on the fifth, he stepped in.

“He was like, hey, it’s fine, we’re in no rush, you don’t need to try to go too fast or anything like that,” Coughlin said.

Their patient approach showed itself on their final hole, the ninth. Coughlin had 100 yards in with a sand wedge, and hit it to 25 feet to the center of the green. Coughlin would’ve beat herself up in the past, but the safe shot kept them away from the water just right of the pin. She narrowly missed the putt to tap in range, capping off a clean round.

“Sometimes I can get too focused on is my swing looking perfect,” Coughlin said, “just wanting to hit it to three feet every time, where it’s like, no, hitting it to 25, 30 feet is a really good shot.”

That patient approach has her in position for an all-time best major finish, with her previous best a T-15 at the 2023 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

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