At this point, we should learn to expect the unexpected in the final round of the CGA Stroke Play Championship.
Two years ago, Jim Knous came from 10 shots behind on the final day to shoot 60 and force a playoff, which Wyndham Clark won.
Last year, Zahkai Brown rallied from six strokes down to overcome third-round leader David Schroeder and claim the Stroke Play title.
Then on Sunday in the 76th edition of the Stroke Play, it was more of the same.
Steven Kupcho of CommonGround Golf Course went into the final round nine strokes behind and in 16th place. He teed off in the sixth-to-the-last group of the day.
Not even he thought he had a chance to win. In fact, it didn’t even enter his mind, even at the end of Sunday’s stellar round. But Kupcho learned a very pleasant lesson as he put together one of the biggest final-round rallies ever by a winner of the Stroke Play Championship, overcoming that nine-stroke deficit to claim the title at Fort Collins Country Club.
“I had no idea I could really win it from that far back today,” the 19-year-old from Westminster said. “I honestly didn’t know how far back I was. My goal was to go as low as I possibly could and maybe give the top five a run.”
The University of Northern Colorado golfer wasn’t even considering overtaking Jordan Burgess of Highland Hills Golf Course, who led after each of the first three rounds. But Kupcho, the low amateur at this summer’s HealthOne Colorado Open, shot the best round of the tournament — a 4-under-par 66 — to overtake the University of Denver golfer and win by one.
Kupcho birdied his final three holes Sunday, while Burgess bogeyed five of his last seven to shoot a 76.
“I’m pretty upset about (letting the lead slip away),” said Burgess, a U.S. Amateur qualifier last year. “… This is my first time in this position in one of these tournaments, and I didn’t handle it as well as I would have liked to, and it looked like Kupcho played a great round today.” (Burgess is pictured at left in light blue while getting a ruling Sunday.)
Kupcho, the CGA Junior Stroke Play champion last year, won the Stroke Play on Sunday with a 3-over-par 283 total after going 69-66 on the weekend. Burgess three-putted the final hole for a bogey, missing a 5-foot par attempt that would have forced a playoff.
Keith Humerickhouse of Gypsum Creek Golf Course, who won the first of his two CGA Mid-Amateur titles at Fort Collins CC two years ago, was paired with Kupcho Sunday and fired a 68 to share third place at 285. Also at that figure were 2009 CGA Mid-Amateur Player of the Year Michael Harrington (70 Sunday), Gonzaga University golfer Brendan Connolly (76) and Chris Hyten of Silver Spruce Golf Course (75).
Only three players broke par in the final round: Kupcho, Humerickhouse and University of Kansas golfer Alex Gutesha (68 for a 289 total).
Burgess was in solid shape through 11 holes Sunday, standing 1 over par for the day and 1 under for the tournament. However, a pitch shot didn’t clear the bunker right in front of him on No. 12, resulting in a bogey, then he three-putted the next two holes for two more bogeys.
After a great drive on No. 16, Burgess pushed his approach into a bunker, leading to another bogey. Then he three-putted No. 18.
“I think the speed started getting off a little on my putts,” said the senior-to-be at DU. “I realize I was a little bit nervous; that could have contributed to that.”
Burgess didn’t know that Kupcho had posted a 66, but he realized that his bogeys down the stretch had opened up a door of opportunity.
“I knew being 5 over (for the day) going into the last hole that I was going to be pretty close with the guys up ahead,” he said.
Kupcho, who tee off almost an hour before Burgess, didn’t know he was making a run at the lead, but some nifty work with his putter down the stretch proved pivotal. He birdied No. 16 from 5 feet, then drained difficult 12-foot birdies on each of the last two holes.
“They were two nasty sliders on the last two (holes),” said Kupcho (pictured at left smiling after Sunday’s round). “I still don’t know how they went in. The one on 17 broke about a foot and a half, and the one on 18 was as slick as could be.
“This is a sneaky tough golf course. You barely miss a shot and you end up in a tough spot. It takes a ton of patience out here.”
Kupcho was deservedly proud of his strong final-round showing Sunday — as he was with the 69 he shot last summer at Greeley Country Club in winning the Junior Stroke Play.
“If there’s been one part of my game I’ve always struggled with, it’s been finishing a tournament,” he said. “Since last summer, to win these two titles finishing strong the last day means so much. It’s something to build on.”
The victory caps a stellar summer for Kupcho. He finished second in the CGA Public Links, made it to the quarterfinals of the CGA Match Play and led the Colorado Open outright after two rounds before settling for low-amateur honors. Then came Sunday’s victory.
“This was always a goal — to win (the CGA Stroke Play) at some point — but I just didn’t think it was going to be this summer. So this is pretty cool,” he said.
And though the tournament season isn’t over, Kupcho is definitely very high on the short list for CGA amateur Player of the Year honors.
“I went into every tournament just wanting to have fun,” he said. “I kind of took this one too serious (in the early rounds of the Stroke Play). I knew that Player of the Year was kind of on the line. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and that showed the first two rounds (73-75). Once I was what I thought was out of it, I just came out and had some fun the last two days. I should have just stuck with the game plan that was working all summer.
“But winning this means a lot. A lot of (college) coaches counted me out coming out of high school, so for me to have this kind of a summer — a Northern Colorado golfer to have this kind of a summer — it’s great. It shows that hard work pays off. And no matter what anyone says, don’t count yourself out.”
CGA Stroke Play Championship
At Par-70 Fort Collins CC
Steven Kupcho, Commonground GC, 73-75-69-66–283
Jordan Burgess, Highland Hills GC, 68-68-72-76–284
Brendan Connolly, Ridge at Castle Pines North, 69-73-67-76–285
Michael Harrington, Kissing Camels at Ga, 69-72-74-70–285
Chris Hyten, Silver Spruce GC, 69-68-73-75–285
Keith Humerickhouse, Gypsum Creek GC, 73-70-74-68–285
Kirby Pettitt, Harmony Club, 73-75-68-71–287
Derek Fribbs, Colorado National GC, 77-68-69-73–287
Kyle Danford, Fort Collins CC, 76-67-73-72–288
Kory Harrell, Pine Creek GC, 72-72-69-75–288
C.J. Kim, CommonGround GC, 73-71-72-72–288
Alex Gutesha, Meridian GC, 75-70-76-68–289
Aj Morris, Maroon CC, 72-71-71-75–289
Ben Krueger, Pine Creek GC, 72-70-71-76–289
Michael Lee, Greeley CC, 72-71-73-74–290
David Oraee, Highland Hills GC, 76-67-77-70–290
Christopher Wilson, Eisenhower GC, 74-73-71-72–290
Alex Kephart, Eisenhower GC, 69-77-71-73–290
George Bollinger III, Red Rocks CC, 71-71-75-73–290
David Schroeder II, Broadmoor GC, 71-79-69-72–291
Jonathan Marsico, Castle Pines GC, 74-72-70-76–292
Taylor Stamp, Broadmoor GC, 74-71-71-76–292
Cameron Harrell, Pine Creek GC, 78-71-74-70–293
Eric Parish, Commonground GC, 75-71-76-71–293
Danny Riskam, Columbine CC, 70-76-74-74–294
Nick Berry, Meadows GC, 71-71-73-79–294
Cameron Brown, Sonnenalp GC, 72-71-79-72–294
Jonathan Park, Green Valley Ranch GC, 77-71-72-75–295
Minkyu Jeon, The Meadows GC, 74-70-76-75–295
Gus Lundquist, The Club at Pradera, 73-75-76-73–297
Joshua Mathis, Colorado Springs CC, 78-71-72-76–297
Blair Matthews, Commonground GC, 74-76-73-75–298
Steve Connell, Riverdale GC, 73-77-73-75–298
Sean Robbins, Commonground GC, 77-70-71-81–299
Chris Schwartz, Harmony Club, 70-73-75-81–299
Lanny Cameron, Mariana Butte GC, 76-74-74-76–300
Kaleb Mahanes, Coal Creek Mens GC, 71-74-77-78–300
Cody Kent, Red Hawk Ridge GC, 76-73-75-78–302
Wes Martin, The Courses at Hyland Hills, 75-73-74-80–302
Joseph Schwark, Colorado National GC, 76-74-77-77–304
Alex Buecking, Columbine CC, 75-74-74-82–305
Dylan Mitchell, Lakewood CC, 74-76-81-75–306
Stephen Fernandes, Meridian GC, 75-75-79-78–307
David Holtgrewe, Cherry Hills CC, 68-79-78-83–308
Ken Cosper, Ptarmigan CC, 74-76-WD
FAILED TO QUALIFY
Brian Richmeier, Meadow Hills GC, 76-75–151
Zach Tripp, Foothills GC, 76-75–151
Adam Vasilakis, CC of Colorado, 77-75–152
Will Roth, Omni Interlocken Resort, 72-80–152
Connor Rakowski, Ironbridge GC, 75-78–153
Dillon Mcdonald, Red Sky GC, 79-74–153
Wlad Colmenares, Legacy Ridge GC, 74-80–154
Chun-Ji Kim, Highlands Ranch GC, 75-79–154
Jim Fucillo, Eisenhower GC, 80-74–154
Matt Porter, CommonGround GC, 76-78–154
Christopher Good, Lone Tree GC & Hotel, 76-79–155
Drew Trujillo, Bridges G&CC, 82-73–155
Jason Coffin, Colorado National GC, 80-75–155
Shane Unfred, Highland Meadows GC, 80-75–155
John Ahern, Bear Creek GC, 77-78–155
Thomas Roos, Spring Valley Golf, 77-79–156
Mark Brown, Highlands Ranch GC, 80-76–156
Tyler S Winslow, Lake Valley GC, 79-77–156
David Ramsden-Wood, Denver Athletic Club, 82-75–157
Damon Dageenakis, Flatirons GC, 78-79–157
Clint Miller, Meadow Hills GC, 80-77–157
Jordan Gallacher, Highlands Ranch GC, 76-81–157
Grant Porter, Commonground GC, 76-82–158
Geoff Nuwash, Commonground GC, 77-81–158
Jeremy W Deems, Lake Valley GC, 83-78–161
Grant Suggs, Collindale GC, 83-78–161
Zachary Coe, Eagle Ranch GC, 77-84–161
Dan Deppen, Broadlands GC, 85-78–163
Nathan Johnson, Fort Collins CC, 81-84–165
Patrick Griffin, Flatirons GC, 86-79–165
Casey Hannen, CommonGround GC, 84-81–165
Bill Parker, Avid Golfer Passport, 80-91–171
Josh Ostmeyer, Estes Park GC, 86-90–176
Chris Beabout, South Suburban GC, 81-WD
Andrew Cornella, The Club at Flying Horse, 78-NS
Cameron Freeman, Collindale GC, 79-WD
Rick Kelly, Commonground GC, 84-NS
Jeff Gravina, Pinehurst CC, 81-NS
Mike Chavez, Applewood GC, 78-WD
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