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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Sep. 24, 2015 3 years ago

After the competition: Local golf pro Chris Couch reflects on road back after injuries

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by: Jennifer Nesslar Reporter

Chris Couch4

WEST ORANGE — Chris Couch remembers the feeling he got during the PGA Tour and the web.com tour, when he saw the looks on his daughter and wife’s faces at the end of the round. 

“When I think about that, I get sad,” Couch said.

In 2012, Couch, a successful professional journeyman for most of his career, herniated disks in his lower back, and his injuries have sidelined him from competition ever since. He hopes to return to the game, but for now, he is left with the memories of his family’s excitement.

Despite missing his family’s involvement in his pro sports life, Couch and his family are still a team. He coaches students at the West Orange Country Club, and Julia is his manager. She schedules all his appointments for him.

Six months into his injury, Couch decided he needed to find another way to stay involved in the golf game. He needed the money and wanted to give back to the golfing community. So he decided to become a coach. He provides individual golf lessons for his students, and his goal is to see his players improve their game, regardless of level.

Because Couch competed in tournaments himself, he stays in touch with students when they are at tournaments. He even sends video lessons to help his students during their competition. 

Couch has coached William Wrigley for the past five months. Wrigley, a recent graduate of West Orange High School, trains with Couch to prepare for tournaments. He appreciates Couch’s outlook on golf.

“It’s different from everyone else since he’s been on the field,” Wrigley said.

And Couch misses playing golf in competition. He hopes one day to return, but it all depends on how his injuries progress.

“I’ve always known that God has a plan for me, and if His plan is taking me down the teaching road, so be it,” Couch said. “I’m happy with that.”

Couch went pro in 1995. In Couch’s career, he has one PGA Tour victory and five web.com victories. The PGA victory is the most memorable for Couch. He was in New Orleans for the Zurich Classic in 2006. 

“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “I chipped in on the last hole to win. Then the ball rolled, it was slow-motion going toward the hole. It looked like it was going in the whole time, but I couldn’t believe it when it fell.” 

Couch shot 269, only one point ahead of the runner up, Fred Funk, who shot 270.

Couch’s high-school golfing career was also successful. He played at Coconut Creek High School in Fort Lauderdale. At one point, he was ranked No. 1 nationally; No. 2 was Tiger Woods.

His success during his high school career led to a full-ride scholarship at the University of Florida. 

Couch always has had to work hard to make a living. From 1996-2002, he found sponsors to play under. Since then, he has been a journeyman player, moving between the web.com and PGA Tour.

Making a living as a journeyman player is “very difficult,” Couch said. There are about 250-300 members in the PGA Tour, but only 125 get their card, which makes them eligible to play in the event. During events, the more cuts a player makes, the better. They must make enough cuts to make the PGA Tour money list. Players make money only if they are on the money list.

“You can make $700,000 and lose your job,” Couch said.

Couch is optimistic about the future of the game of golf, though he know some area golf courses are struggling. He blames their struggles on the state of the economy in recent years, as well as sites like Golf Now. These sites allow people golf once a week without having to purchase a membership at a local golf course.

“It’s sad to see, because some (golf courses) might not make it,” he said. “They’ve been around for a long time.”

To schedule lessons with Chris Couch, call Julia Couch at (407) 325-2241.

Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].

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