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Coach Riley and Golf Team Begin Spring Season
Feb. 8, 2018

After exiting full-time play on the PGA Tour back in 2013, Chris Riley literally lived the life of Riley for a spell. His main task the next couple years: coaching daughters Taylor and Rose in softball, plus schlepping them about to soccer.

“I was the soccer dad,” joked Riley.

Eventually, the golf itch needed to be scratched. He was a volunteer assistant coach at his UNLV alma mater.

“I fell in love helping mentor young men,” said Riley.

Last June, Riley was named USD’s men’s golf coach and now he’s about to begin his first spring season as the Toreros’ head coach. The season commences Feb. 12-13 with the Toreros hosting the USD Intercollegiate tournament at The Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe.

The 11-team tournament includes USD, UCLA, Santa Clara, UC Riverside, New Mexico State, Wichita State, Idaho, USF, Cal Poly, Seattle and Sacramento State.

Few golf coaches carry Riley’s credentials. He played in more than 300 PGA Tour events, plus the 2004 Ryder Cup. He won once on the PGA Tour and once on the Tour, plus finished second four times. Top 10 finishes: 33.

He was ranked as high as 21st in the world. Career earnings: $11,525,199.

Riley grew up in San Diego, attending Madison and Patrick Henry. You do not rise to being one of the best in the world at an endeavor as difficult and humbling as golf without a drive, and his USD goals are lofty.

“I want to be a top program in the country,” Riley said. “It’s going to take a little bit of time, but I don’t think it’ll take a lot of time.”

His 2018 team is a veteran squad, the 12-man roster counting one graduate student, three seniors and three juniors. His No. 1 player is senior Daniel Lopez from Los Angeles.



“He has all the talent in the world,” Riley said of Lopez.

At tournaments, teams field five-man rosters with the highest score tossed out. After Lopez, Riley said the competition is tight for the next four playing spots.

“They’re all so close, I can’t even make a call yet,” he said.

The team features a distinct foreign flavor. There’s a player from Spain, England, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico and Guam.

“They all love soccer more than anything,” Riley quipped. “It’s great to have all that variety. They’re good guys.”

Riley said he helps his players more on the mental side of the sport than the physical aspect. As an example, he cited when a player hits a solid shot but maybe he’s dealt with a bad break, perhaps a bad bounce. How does he respond?

“You have to accept the shot and move on,” he said. “I have one player who reacts to every shot. I told him, ‘It’s got to be exhausting being you.’ He knows. That’s just his personality. We’re working on that.”

Bottom line, Riley is enjoying his new gig.

“I love it,” he said. “The young men, making their way through life, helping them, trying to get the best out of them, helping them reach their potential. I enjoy watching young men improve at what they’re doing.”

At a school with USD’s academic standing, Riley said he does not have to lecture on the importance of studying. He mentioned one player whose focus isn’t on landing a spot on the PGA Tour but earning entrance into Stanford’s business school.

“They know what they need to do academically,” Riley said. “That’s the easy part.”

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