Alumni Spotlight: Lucas Cohen
Posted on April 4, 2017
Lucas Cohen graduated from the Professional Golfers Career College in 2002 and is currently “living my dream, I’m the happiest man ever. I’m so lucky.” Just what makes Cohen so happy? Cohen is currently the owner of the New York Golf Park along with operating his own Start to Finish Golf Academy. For someone who has played and loved golf since the age of 3, this truly is a dream come true.
Cohen was born in Upstate New York in the Hudson area, but then moved to South Florida at age 7. Cohen played all sports growing up from baseball to soccer and golf. After high school he went to college in Gainesville for Graphic Design. However once he graduated he had a change of heart about his profession. “I realized I didn’t want to sit behind a computer desk all day long and I like talking to people way too much. So I decided to try a career in golf, I had an opportunity to go, my folks actually asked me what I would think about having a career in golf.” Cohen took a moment to contemplate the idea “I just thought to myself that I would really, really like that. From then on my life completely changed.”
Cohen heard about the Professional Golfers Career College from a friend and the two were supposed to enroll together, but his friend was unable to however Cohen still enrolled. “I went to the golf college after graphic design school. I got an associates from Santa Fe in Graphic Design. Then I got another associates from the Golf College in 2002.” Cohen fondly recalls his favorite part of the PGCC experience which was “playing golf every day and the opportunity to learn about the game as much as I wanted to.”Cohen further describes his time as a student at PGCC, “I felt like I immersed myself in golf. I woke up in the morning, went to class, learned about the game, went and played the game, studied playing, studied teaching a lot, I took several lessons and then I just played.” By Cohen fully engrossing himself in golf while here at PGCC he was able to improve his skills as well as expand his knowledge of the golf industry. Cohen notes “And I wasn’t that good when I was there, but I got a lot better though… I was the 2nd most improved in the class. The most improved in the class went from like 25 to a 9 handicap. I went from like a 9 to a 2.7 handicap.” Cohen’s game improved to the point he was able to pass his PAT. PGCC gave Cohen plenty of preparation and a lot of enthusiasm to start working in the golf industry.
Cohen was able to capture the illusive hole-in-one while at PGCC. “So I hit my first hole-in-one with Wilky (PGCC Faculty Jim Wilkinson) at Cross Creek… on the 3rd hole which was a par 3 and I knock it in, I just knocked it in off the tee with Wilky. I had birdied the 2nd hole.” Coming off the Ace and stepping up to the next hole, a par 4 roughly 300 yard hole with hazards along the left side, Cohen asked Wilky “Should I go for it? I’ve hit the green before” to which Wilky replied “Come on Luke they didn’t come here to see Babe Ruth bunt.” A classic Wilky line notes Cohen. Unfortunately Cohen hooked it into the hazard but still shot around 73/74 on the day. When Cohen first had played Cross Creek golf course he felt intimidated by it but by the time he finished at PGCC he “ended up winning a little Pepsi Tour event there after shooting a 72 or 73 to win that day.”One key tool Cohen took away from PGCC is the networking opportunities. “I still keep in touch with more people from my class than everyone else in the class.” These connections help Cohen know what his classmates are doing in the industry now. Cohen shares about his fellow alumni, “One of them makes the wedges for Vokey, for the tour players for Titleist… another guy that was in our class is Caddying at a course in Vegas.”
Upon graduating from PGCC Cohen took his first job at the Country Club of Pittsfield, in Western Massachusetts. Cohen describes it as “the best job I’ve ever had, and I worked at a half a dozen places after that.” At Pittsfield, Cohen worked for Brad Benson, who knew the business well, taught Cohen a lot and “won the Golf Professional of the year in the section in 2014.” After that Cohen moved to Colorado where he worked at the Red Sky Golf Course, which has 2 courses. However Cohen felt Colorado wasn’t for him. He had fallen in love and the two moved back to Florida, where they had a couple kids but Cohen always stayed working. “I worked in South Florida at the PGA Tour academy when I moved down there.”
After that Cohen took the culmination of his knowledge and his passion for golf and opened his Start to Finish Golf Academy. His website http://starttofinishgolf.com/ contains Cohen’s basic teaching philosophies and theories. Cohen explains “Its super simple, it talks about the body and how you have to start properly and setup properly for each and every shot.” But why Start to Finish? Well Cohen continues to elaborate, “Before you can execute a good shot you have to be setup the right way, so that’s the START. So each shot has a different Start, you got to be in the right starting position. The TO is the swing. Then the FINISH, I have my students hold the finish at the end because that’s where you get muscle memory, if there is such a thing.”Cohen points out that everybody is different, but there are a few constants. “There are certain things that everybody needs to do, like you need to grip the club the right way. So if you start there, it’s always good.” Cohen is passionate about teaching and growing the game with youth. “I’ve been a US Kids certified golf instructor for years.”
Lucas’s efforts to grow junior golf has not gone unnoticed by the golfing community. “I was just nominated for Teacher of the Year and Junior Golf Developer of the Year in 2014. Then in 2015 I was nominated for the Junior Golf Developer award and I won the Player Development award, for offering a diverse program where there are all different types of lessons to take.” In 2016 he received the Youth Player Development Junior Golf Leader award, by the PGA Northeastern New York (NENY) Section, which recognized his extraordinary and exemplary contribution and achievements in youth player development. Cohen is known for coming up with creative ways to get kids into golf and has been featured in PGA Magazine for his innovative Golf Baseball game.Wait, Golf Baseball? “So Golf Baseball is a game where all you need are little kick balls (or nerf balls) and a couple over-sized clubs.” Cohen elaborates on his innovative game, “You get 6 cones, then you setup home plate like a tee box and they put the ball on the ground then they rip it.” He explains that a player can only get out if the ball is caught in the air, no tagging or anything else. The runner can only be stopped by returning the ball to the pitcher. “It’s a lot of fun and goes by real quick,” says Cohen, “The kids run around and swing a club at a big ball and they love it.”
Golf baseball is just one of the many unique learning programs Lucas utilizes to engage youth at his Start to Finish Golf Academy. The home of the Start to Finish Golf Academy is the New York Golf Park (http://nygolfpark.com/), which Cohen owns and operates. Cohen returned to his roots, “I went back to my hometown and bought this range and turned it into a beautiful little golf academy.” However he notes that without him there it’s not an academy but “just a real pretty driving range with a miniature golf course and batting cages.” When he first purchased the range it was “a dump” but he’s improved the conditions to make it a wonderful place to practice the game. Cohen describes the scene “At the back of the range is a Stud farm, so there’s horses on the hill behind the range, it’s gorgeous. Then to the left there’s apple orchards and to the right you look across the way and you see the silhouette of the mountains in the distance, simply beautiful.”
As Cohen noted earlier, once he made the choice to pursue a career in golf he completely changed his life. For anyone else in a similar situation Cohen was in, thinking of getting into the golf industry, he has this to say about the Professional Golfers Career College, “I would definitely recommend it because it’s a way to gain expertise really quickly and learn a lot about the business and gain a lot of connections right away.”
Finally Cohen leaves us with a quick golf tip: “With each and every shot that you ever hit, finish in balance.”
(Photos Taken from NENY PGA, Lucas Cohen & the Start to Finish Golf Academy Facebook)