Richie Coughlan - The Albatross


TPC San Antonio

It was 11:00 a.m. or so on Friday, November 27, 2009, when I stood on the championship tee box of the 16th hole of the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio. It was a perfectly shaped and designed tee box that looked at a very large, round, two-tiered green, with a large, round, deep bunker strategically placed in the middle of the green. Yes, a large, deep bunker built in the middle of the green! Directly behind it was a multi-story 1,000 room JW Marriott soaring into the sky. To say I was excited was an understatement. I had just made the 1,100 mile drive from TPC Sawgrass to San Antonio to be the leader of the new TOURAcademy at TPC San Antonio.


This was not the first time I had been to San Antonio. Let me take you back twelve years to 1997. That spring I was a twenty-two-year-old amateur golfer finishing up my last year at Clemson University as a member of its golf team. In the spring of 1997, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree.


That same year, after six runner-up finishes, I finally won my first collegiate event and received first team All-American honors. During that summer, I was a member of the Palmer Cup international intercollegiate team at Bay Hill. That was an active summer. I also had the good fortune to be a member of the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup Team versus United States at Quaker Ridge that August.


Post Walker Cup, I still had golf to play. I was exhausted but nonetheless faced with the decision of whether to turn professional in time to compete and try to qualify for the PGA Tour or to participate in the European Tour’s qualifying school running at the same time. The decision was made: I would try both.


My choice would be a life-altering one and would force me to fly back and forth from Europe to the United States during a three-month period. In September, I went back to Florence, South Carolina, and won the first stage of the US Tour school. I immediately flew back to England to finish eighth, qualify, and move on to the second stage of the European Tour. After a quick stop in Ireland, I came back to the States for the US second stage with overflowing confidence.


That week was a telling one. Not only was I on the way to finishing second, but also I was able to card a course record. Two down and one to go in Europe; one down and two to go in the United States. Off I went to North East Spain to Emporda Golf Club, which was not a short trip. Get this, though. I drove to the Knoxville airport, flew to Dallas, connected at JFK, arrived in Barcelona the next day, and drove straight to the qualifying in order to practice. This all seemed crazy back then, but it’s all I wanted at the time. That week went well. Looking back, I may have not been on my A-game, but I managed to squeak through and qualify by one shot.


Wow! European Tour qualifying finals were scheduled at San Roque in the south of Spain that December, but first I had the mammoth task of US Tour finals at the Greenleaf Resort in Haines City, Florida. Greenleaf Resort—what a golf course. Long and narrow, extremely fast greens, the pressure of six marathon rounds, and 180 of the best players in the world at my heels. With five rounds under my belt and positioned eighth at six-under par, I was in great shape with one round to play. The only way I can describe how I felt for the five hours of the final round is with the words, “You have no idea.”


There was so much at stake—maybe a long career on Tour doing what I love, money which I had none of at the time, and maybe a chance to live in the United States and play professional golf. Lo and behold, l did it. I finished eighth overall, with thirty players out of 180 qualifying to the US PGA Tour in 1998. After a ten-day rest and some practice, I also qualified in Spain for the European Tour and was the first professional golfer to qualify for both major tours in the same year on the first attempt.


I will never forget that year: those months qualifying and the way it felt—so much emotion and desire to get there! That feeling, that memory, that love of the game is what drives me today.


The 1998 season yielded one top-ten and two top-twenty-five finishes, including a solid performance at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio that year, which I still find ironic. My professional career included three seasons on the PGA Tour and six seasons on the Nationwide Tour, including four top-ten finishes and seven top-twenty-five finishes here in the United States.


In 2000 I picked up a nagging rib injury, and from 2003 through 2005, I never felt that I was 100% healthy, especially at that level of play. In 2006, I took a summer off to rest and ended up teaching at Schenectady municipal golf course in upstate New York. That was really fun for me. I didn’t miss the touring life: the hotels, the rental cars, the airports, and the miles and months of constant travel.


Sometime late in 2006, I decided to give teaching at the professional level a chance. To do this and advance in the teaching world, I would have to leave upstate New York where I had lived for almost eight years. In December 2006, I packed my bags and made the twenty-four-hour drive to TOURAcademy at TPC Sawgrass, where I would spend almost three years cutting my teeth in the world of professional instruction. And there’s no better place to do it than TPC Sawgrass.


After my time at TOURAcademy TPC Sawgrass, I moved on to TOURAcademy Weston Hills in South Florida. TOURAcademy as a company was in the expansion phase at the time, and an opportunity to open an academy at TPC San Antonio presented itself. So, in December of 2009 I once again packed my bags and embarked on another move—to the great state of Texas and TOURAcademy TPC San Antonio.


At TPC San Antonio in 2009, we were all just beginning. TPC operations were just getting underway, the JW Marriott had recently opened, and, of course, as the fates would have it, that same year we were to host a PGA Tour Event. The Valero Texas Open was to take place on the extremely difficult Oaks Course —remember that bunker right in the center of the green!


Initially, it took some time and effort to get our business going at TOURAcademy TPC San Antonio. Not only was the property new, but so was the TOURAcademy brand. Lessons were also slow, but soon enough, our academy brand, mission, and teaching vision started to gain traction, not only with TPC members, but also with locals from the city, as well as people across the state and traveling in from other locations.


That is my story—where I started, where I have been, and how I am where I am today.  I love San Antonio; I love the game of golf; but most of all, I love teaching others how to love it, get better at it, and hopefully introduce someone new to it.


Anyone interested in a total game improvement should come to TOURAcademy TPC San Antonio for private one-on-one instruction, a day or multi-day golf school or training, or even to prepare your son or daughter for a life that includes such a great lifetime sport such as golf!


With seven permanent locations (and more to come)—plus a unique traveling academy, TOURAcademy on the Road—TOURAcademy is the nation’s most prestigious source of golf instruction programs. Whether you’re a beginner or an aspiring TOUR player, we’ll help you improve your skills and enhance your enjoyment of the game.


Our TOURAcademy locations include TPC Sawgrass, TPC Scottsdale, TPC Las Vegas, World Golf Village, Tiburon Naples, Florida, TOURAcademy International, TOURAcademy on the Road, and now the amazing TOURAcademy at TPC San Antonio right on your doorstep.


TOURAcademy Philosophy and Foundation


The philosophy of the TOURAcademy is built upon the concept of a total game experience (i.e., full swing, short game, and on-course instruction; club fitting; fitness). This experience is designed to improve every facet of the student’s game in a safe and nurturing environment.


When we lay out a path of improvement for a student, we consider:


1) What the pros are doing


Our instructors coach some of the top golfers in the world, from the PGA Tour and Champions Tour to the and LPGA Tour, and are fully aware of all of the latest trends in swing instruction, training aids, practice, and equipment technology.


2) Geometry of the golf swing motion


From advanced learning systems such as The Golfing Machine and the evolution of 3D video, our instructors have a much better understanding of how the clubhead, club shaft, and clubface should move in the swing, relative to the body and the ground.


3) Biomechanics of the golf swing motion


Through the use of 3D motion capture technology, our instructors are now able to view a golfer’s swing from any angle (above, below, face-on, down the target line, etc.) and, perhaps more importantly, measure what the body is doing during the swing.


4) Ball Flight Data


Ben Hogan once said, “The ultimate judge of your golf swing is the flight of the golf ball.” And with launch monitor systems such as TrackMan and FlightScope, we can now pinpoint exactly why the golf ball is doing what it’s doing. By better understanding the information being delivered to the golf ball through impact, you can better understand and control your ball flight. Our foundation is supported by a systematic approach to development, and we call this our building-block approach. Here is what it looks like.


Building-Block Approach


Building a better golf swing is much like mastering English in grade school—you don’t advance to eighth-grade English class without first passing fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-grade English. There’s a logical progression to learning that takes place. Each step you take builds on the previous one. This building block approach is the template we use at the TOURAcademy to help our students develop a more complete game.


In the full swing, the very first step is Mastering the Basics of grip, posture, and alignment (i.e., the setup), so that the student has a solid foundation to start from for all shots. They then learn how to educate their hands, arms, and body to the proper alignments necessary to strike the ball solidly at impact, before learning the correct sequence of the pivot and dynamics of the golf swing.




The short game steps are similar to the full swing, in that we have the students master the smaller motions of the putting and chipping strokes first before moving onto the partial (pitching) and fuller swing motions (lob shot, bunker shot).



Instruction Programs—Golf Schools


At the TOURAcademy we offer a variety of golf school programs, including our new lite menu, full-day offerings, and custom private experiences. Whether it’s a two-day short game school or you want to have your own instructor at your beck and call like a tour player, the TOURAcademy has the right program and plan for you to get better.


Lite Training


Lite Training programs are designed for golfers of all skillsets to get your game moving in the right direction. The first step to getting better at the game of golf is getting good information in the right order with the appropriate game plan. TOURAcademy Lite Training programs focus on half days of instruction, providing ample opportunity for afternoon activities such as playing golf, going to the beach, club-fitting, or a relaxing afternoon at the spa.


Full Training


Full Training programs are great for the serious golfer not only looking for good information in the right order, but also wanting more supervised practice time with full swing and short game development. Spending adequate time on the lesson tee combined with transferring that to the golf course is critical. Our Full Training will give you the time needed for this happen.


Custom Private and Elite Training


Want to have your own instructor at your beck and call like a tour player? Don’t see exactly what you are looking for? No problem! Let one of our reservation specialists customize your own one-to-four-day experience on the dates and times you prefer, and one of our TOURAcademy instructors will take care of your game’s every need. Perfect for singles, couples, or small groups, our private training golf schools allow more focused time to spend on the areas of your game that need the most attention.


Private Lessons


Every TOURAcademy location offers a complete menu of private lessons for beginners to low handicappers. Our experienced staff can organize your entire package, including preferred lesson scheduling, playing lessons on the golf course, accommodations, and more. All lessons include a written game plan for improvement after the lesson is complete and may include state-of-the-art video analysis based upon the instructor’s discretion.


Please visit for private lesson pricing and scheduling.


Beginner Instruction Program


The Beginner Instruction Program is designed to teach the new golfer all the things he or she would need to know in order to enjoy the game of golf, from what is needed when you arrive at the course to learning the full swing and short game so that you can play well in the weeks and years to follow. This program is taught by our trained and certified TOURAcademy instructors and is delivered through three levels: Level 1—Get Ready, Get Set, Get Going; Level 2—Fundamentally Fun; and Level 3—Play, Play, Play.


Club Fitting


The TOURAcademy club fitting philosophy is to blend the education of club fitting with instruction. This approach allows a player to be fit for long-term progression and development rather than any current compensation. Each student will be provided with the proper equipment to maximize their performance in all facets of the game.




For the serious golfer seeking individualized fitness coaching, the TOURAcademy offers golf-specific performance training at our TPC Sawgrass and World Golf Village locations. Headed by Gabriel Lopez, Director of Performance for the TOURAcademy and Perform6 Golf Fitness, the training offers students several different coaching packages, including two- and four-hour fitness experiences and three-, six- and twelve-month membership programs.


Our Instruction Staff


Richie Coughlan, Senior Certified Instructor & Head Instructor


Each TOURAcademy Instructor is a carefully selected career-teaching professional certified to the exacting standards of the TOURAcademy brand. Certification requires a commitment to the Standards of Excellence and a demonstrated level of expertise in instruction, fitness, and club fitting.




• 5 years mandatory teaching experience with or without the TOURAcademy

• Certified to teach all instruction programs

• Proficient in using video and launch monitor technology

• Demonstrated ability to build a lesson clientele of repeat customers


Wayne Mitchell, Certified Instructor


Wayne Mitchell was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and graduated from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, where he was a member of the 1973 Big State Conference Golf Champions. He has been a Class A member of the PGA since 1978.









Or for Private Lessons, Junior Programs, or Beginner Programs, contact the TourAcademy TPC San Antonio directly at 210.491.5804


Richie Coughlan—Head Instructor


Wayne Mitchell—Certified Instructor



- Richie Coughlin








Sign up to receive stories, videos, and tips direct to your email.

Follow us on Facebook for breaking news, insider reviews, events, and videos!

Subscribe with us and receive 6 print editions for $14.95 ($20.00 value).