Jennifer Kupcho Nails Her First LPGA Title in Mission Hills’ Swan Song
Jennifer Kupcho had her nails painted green Sunday at the Chevron Championship, and in a week that was seemingly all about the past, it was only fitting that Kupcho – whose own past includes almost everything there was to achieve in golf – captured her first LPGA Tour title.
The 24-year-old was the final winner at the Dinah Shore course at Mission Hills Country Club to make the leap into Poppie’s Pond, a tradition that started in 1988, as the championship is moving to the Houston area next year.
She won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur and those green nails were a nod to that historic victory in 2019. Kupcho had a distinguished collegiate career at Wake Forest. She was named NCAA Player of Year in her graduation year.
But for all of her in-the-rear-view successes, Kupcho is glad people are now going to talk about her present.
“I think that’s the biggest thing about it all, was I keep getting asked about Augusta three years later. It’s like, “have you not seen what’ve been doing here?” “To add that to the list is something I’ve been wanting for a few years now.”
“To add that to the list is something I’ve been wanting for a few years now.”
Since turning professional Kupcho has had a handful of top-10 results and was part of a Solheim Cup team, but a win stayed outside her grasp until Sunday.
The win did not happen in the clean sort of way she would have liked – especially after starting the day with a six-shot lead – but come Sunday night in the Californian desert she had both a robe and a trophy.
And those are two tell-tale signs of a winner of the Chevron Championship.
“I think it’s surreal,” said Kupcho.
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Kupcho made seven bogeys on Sunday, including on 17 and 18, but still topped Jessica Korda by two shots after her final-round 74. The late bogeys didn’t matter as no final-round chaser could make up enough ground.
“I came out just trying to shoot a couple under. Kupcho said, “I mean, I had a six stroke lead and I shot eight-under yesterday. So I decided that if someone can do that, then they should be in a playoff.” “That was my mentality, and what I was fighting for all the day. Obviously didn’t get there, but still pulled it out.”
Korda’s runner-up result is her best career finish at a major. After Kupcho’s back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 1, things got interesting in the back nine of Mission Hills Country Club’s back nine. 13 and 14, but Korda had a bought of back spasms and ended up needing physiotherapy.
Korda made an eagle on the par-4 third but a bogey on the par-4 15th, and failing to convert any more birdie tries coming in left her just short of Kupcho.
Still, Korda was pleased with her result after starting the week 3 over through 7 holes, and gave a special shoutout to Kupcho, who she called “kind of the future” of American golf.
“It’s awesome. It’s been a long wait, and I feel like all of the hype around (Augusta National Women’s Amateur as well) Jen’s amazing, which is amazing,” Korda said.
Kupcho made the leap into Poppie’s Pond alongside her husband Jay Monahan (no, not that Jay Monahan), who is a caddie for American Sarah Schmelzel. Kupcho also received a putting tip from Monahan, which she used throughout the week. Although Kupcho struggled Sunday, she needed only 24 and 25 putts in rounds one and three, respectively.
“For a while her through stroke was getting a little too far on the side, and so I honestly just set up a drill for her to kind of try and work through that, get the stroke a little more straight back, all more straight through, and she’s been doing such a good job working on it,” said Monahan. “It’s nice to see it pay off.”
The move of this event was bittersweet – seemingly the word of the week – as the purse increased by 60 percent to $5 million, but the legacy of Mission Hills, like the leap, will be left behind.
“To be a major winner is really special,” said Kupcho, “and to be the last person here at Mission Hills to jump into Poppie’s Pond, it’s all really special.”
And while that green nail polish will eventually get wiped away, one thing for Kupcho is permanent: she’s now a major champion.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.