WEST POINT — When 17-year-old Cohen Trolio needs a caddie, he doesn’t have to look far.
No further than Old Waverly Golf Club, where the teaching professional is VJ Trolio, Cohen’s father.
“I’m the cheapest, most efficient walking caddie he’s got,” VJ said with a laugh.
The two have honed their skills through years of practice, and Cohen reaped the benefits this summer. In mid-August, Cohen, a junior at Oak Hill Academy, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur in Pinehurst, North Carolina, a rare achievement for a golfer as young as he is.
“It was a cool experience,” Cohen said. “It was cool having Dad on the bag.”
For VJ, it’s a simple matter when Cohen’s in the middle of a round. “On the course it’s about sticking to expectations, sticking to strategies, sticking to routines, encouragement picking out the good line.”
It can be harder when VJ has to switch from coach and caddie to father — it’s the hardest relationship to balance, he said — but he and Cohen have figured out a working arrangement.
“We try our best to define the lines when you’re a coach and when you’re a dad, and we leave coach and student, that relationship, outside our front door and always try to make sure we’re dad and son when we walk in that door,” VJ said.
And it wouldn’t be possible without Cohen’s mother Allison, who takes Cohen to most of his tournaments. But unlike VJ, Cohen and little brother Collins, Allison doesn’t play golf.
“Thank goodness,” VJ said. “That’s the reason she’s level-headed and she can help us.”
Allison and Collins made the trip with VJ and Cohen in Pinehurst, and so did Cissye Gallagher, a former LPGA player and the wife of former PGA Tour player Jim Gallagher. The Trolios have a close relationship with the Gallaghers, and Cohen credits Jim Gallagher in particular for improving his game.
“He knows a lot, so when I have big things coming up, I’ll always give him a call,” Cohen said. “Me and him just jell because we’re both golf nerds.”
And when the two face off for matches, Cohen more than holds his own — but Gallagher’s a tricky foe.
“He still gets me,” Cohen said. “He’ll get me sometimes.”
Gallagher and VJ have both been all over — “you name a golf course, he’s played it,” Cohen said of Gallagher — and they’ve made it to places Cohen has never been but aspires to play someday.
That includes Augusta, home of The Masters, and Cohen knows how close he came to changing that. Had he made it to the U.S. Amateur finals, he would have received a spot in The Masters, and he would have also been granted an exemption into the U.S. Open. But there’s time for that later.
“I just turned 17, so I got a good ways to go,” Cohen said. “And I hopefully have plenty of chances to play in The Masters. And if not, then we’ll see what happens, but I’m not too disappointed about it.”
For now, Cohen’s focused on his junior season at Oak Hill, where as well as golf he plays varsity basketball.
“Basketball is a whole lot easier than hitting a golf ball,” Cohen said. “But when it’s cold outside, it’s 7:30, 8 o’clock at night, when it gets dark at four, there’s really nothing else to do.”
Understandably, Cohen is choosing to focus on golf only when he moves to the next level. He committed to LSU the summer after his freshman year, and he’s looking forward to playing under coach Chuck Winstead in Baton Rouge.
“He’s an awesome coach, one of the best out there for sure,” Cohen said. “The atmosphere around the team is cool. I’m good friends with a lot of kids who are coming in, so it’s exciting.”
VJ, who knows the importance of the relationship between a young golfer and their coach, also knows Winstead’s skill. He’s happy with Cohen’s choice.
“t doesn’t matter to me where they go,” VJ said. “They just better love the coach.”
VJ made it clear he had no golf input on the decision — it was Cohen’s own to make.
“I play dad on the whole college thing,” he said. “I just completely play dad.”
So while Cohen’s still around, VJ makes sure there’s still time for them to play a round at Old Waverly or Mossy Oak, clear of any lessons or tournament obligations.
“On Sunday afternoons we get out there and get dirty with it,” VJ said.