Ryan Coghill has never been to Oakmont, Pennsylvania, or the country club named for it.
A year from now, the U.S. Professional Golf Association will hold the U.S. Open there, and Coghill plans to play in it as an amateur.
Coghill, 29, is nothing if not realistic.
“I figure the odds are about a million to one,” he said.
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An airman first class in the Air Force Reserve, Coghill has a 40-hour-a-week job as a loan officer and spends one weekend a month at Joint Base Lewis-McChord with the 36th Aerial Port Squadron.
The rest of the time he’s been thinking about, practicing, imagining or playing golf, a game he first began playing as an 8-year-old.
“We’d hit balls, putt, just have fun with the game,” said Coghill’s father, Monte. “When he reached his teens, he’d played a few team sports, and I thought it would be good for him to play an individual sport.
“He had one lesson when he was about 13. When he was 14, I realized how much natural ability he had.”
As a high school golfer in Mill Creek, Ryan got his handicap down to 1.3. Today, it’s a three — and the closest he’s been to professional golf was last month at Chambers Bay for the U.S. Open.
“I volunteered through the military to help out the first two days,” Ryan said. “I watched Jordan Spieth, Justin Day and Tiger Woods.”
And not just on the course.
“I watched them work at the driving range, doing the same kinds of things I do — shaping shots, working on different height in your approach shots,” Ryan said. “It was pretty exciting.”
Because every man needs a goal, Ryan Coghill set his: He wants to be among the handful of amateurs to earn a spot in the 2016 U.S. Open.
“I think he’s got a 25 to 30 percent shot,” father Monte said. “It’s all about the mental game, how hard he’s willing to work. He can do it, but he’ll have to devote two to four hours a day to it.”
Ryan is giving the game four days a week at this point.
Like most fathers and sons, he and Monte don’t always see eye to eye on what should be done. Monte has coached his son through high school, a role he’s found hard to give up.
“It can be annoying,” Ryan said, laughing.
For years after high school, Ryan acknowledges, he toyed with one job, then another, and golf became a game played occasionally with friends.
On Oct. 31, 2013, he joined the Air Force Reserve, signing up for six years.
“My goal is to be with the Air Force 20 years,” Ryan said.
Since enlisting, he and his father have been connecting on solid ground, playing 18 holes every Saturday and Sunday.
Those are the only rounds Ryan plays each week. The rest of his golfing routine is practice.
“I’ll go to the driving range after work, and one day I might hit balls, the next just swing the club, not hit a ball at all,” Ryan said.
“In school, your competitiveness drove you, and all you wanted to do was win.
“I’ve had to learn to control my emotions, let good and bad shots go and focus on what’s next. I’ve had to learn to control competitiveness.”
And, it turns out, his temper.
“Ryan would get mad, and a club would fly,” Monte said. “We were playing together in Seattle a few months ago, and one of the guys in our group mishit a driver and threw the club. It nearly took both of us out.
“Driving down the fairway in our cart, Ryan said, ‘Now I know what that looks like ... .’ And he hasn’t thrown a club since.”
Among the potential challenges to Ryan’s quixotic dream are two factors that share his attention — his girlfriend, Rebecca, and the military.
Ryan cares deeply for each.
“Everyone knows about my golfing goal, and it’s real to me,” he said. “But if I had to give up either golf or the military, I’d give up golf. I love being part of the Air Force Reserve. It’s given me a lot.”
“I love the game,” he said, “but I’m learning a bad day on the course is like a bad day at work — you just have to let it go.”