3 CWGA Majors in a Row

Truth be known, Jennifer Kupcho would have preferred to be elsewhere this week. After all, the U.S. Women’s Amateur is going on, and the Westminster resident made it to the round of 16 there last year.

Alas, she missed earning a spot in the 2016 championship — she finished a stroke out of a playoff at a qualifying tournament, and she didn’t land an automatic berth by making the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open — so Kupcho made the best of Plan B.

That translated into not only winning the CWGA Stroke Play for the second straight year, but running away with it. After prevailing by 21 shots last year, the victory margin was a “mere” 19 this time around. The win gave the 19-year-old the first single-season sweep of the CWGA’s two majors — the Match Play and the Stroke Play — since Kim Eaton won both in 2004.

“After I won Match Play I was kind of thinking, ‘That would be really cool to win Stroke, but hopefully I won’t be here because I’ll be at the Am.'” Kupcho said Thursday. “That didn’t happen, so it was, ‘Well, hopefully I can get the win (in the Stroke Play)’ and I did, so that’s really exciting.”

The successful title defense at Denver Country Club means that the Wake Forest golfer has won three consecutive CWGA majors — and all in dominating fashion. (She’s pictured above with both the Match Play and Stroke Play trophies, and at left with her dad/caddie Mike.)

The two-time CWGA Player of the Year becomes the first competitor since Wendy Werley in 1988 and ’89 to claim the titles in three straight CWGA majors. (Werley actually won four in a row in those two years.)

A day after firing a 7-under-par 65 and breaking the women’s course record at Denver Country Club — a 68 shot by none other than world-renowned athlete Babe Zaharias on July 3, 1946 — Kupcho posted a 5-under 67 in Thursday’s final round. That gave her a 13-under-par 203 total, just three strokes higher than she shot last year at Pinehurst Country Club, where she also went 65-67 the last two days.

Not only is Kupcho the first to sweep the CWGA Match Play and Stroke Play titles in the same season in a dozen years, but she’s the first to win back-to-back Stroke Play championships since Melissa Martin did so in 2009 and ’10. All told, Kupcho (left, next to a scoreboard on the 18th tee) has won two Stroke Plays and two Match Plays. Her Match Play victory this year came with a 12-and-10 score in the scheduled 36-hole final.

The 2016 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier finished 19 strokes up on runner-up Gillian Vance of Lakewood, a University of Colorado golfer who teamed with Kupcho to win the CWGA Mashie title earlier this year. Vance, the 2015 5A state high school champion, closed with a 77 for a 222 total.

“I’m really happy about (being runner-up),” said Vance (left). “Jennifer, she is a brick wall. She is so good, and I’m so proud of her. There are some really great girls out here. To take second is awesome, next to Jennifer.”

Claiming third place on Thursday, at 224, was Rosana Valdor of City Park Golf Course, a Spaniard who played college golf at the University of Texas El Paso. Fourth was University of Wyoming golfer Taylor Dorans of Erie, who posted a 227.

Asked how she keeps playing well even when she has such a large lead that it’s a virtual lock that she’ll win, Kupcho said, “I just play to what I know I’m capable of. Even if the field isn’t coming up to me, I’ve just got to keep focused and keep going.”

But while Thursday’s outcome was largely a lock as she came into the day with a nine-shot lead, Tuesday’s first round was touch-and-go there for a while. After all, a migraine — a problem she dealt with on occasion during high school — hit her while she was on the practice range prior to her round.

“I got it on the range and I really couldn’t see anything,” she said. “I wasn’t watching my ball flight. I told my mom where I was kind of trying to aim, then I’d hit it and she’d tell me where it would go. I was just warming up, hoping I could actually see when I teed off. That was crazy, and the first six or seven holes were really tough. I kind of felt like I needed to throw up the whole time. It was just kind of getting through, then the back nine I started feeling a little better.”

Asked if she considered withdrawing, and Kupcho said no.

“I played through (a migraine) in high school regionals so I knew I could do it,” she noted. “Since I really wanted this, it was like, ‘Power through. You’ve got this.'”

Kupcho ended up shooting a 71 that first day, then got in a groove on Wednesday and Thursday. Over her final 36 holes, she racked up an eagle, 12 birdies and two bogeys.

The eagle came on the 454-yard, par-5 10th hole on Thursday. After a 280-yard drive, she hit a 6-iron to 15 feet and calmly rolled in the putt for a 3 (left).

“Because I’ve played with her for so long, I guess it’s like, ‘She’ll do that,'” Vance said “You just know, and you learn to play your own game. You can’t really do anything about it except praise them because it’s amazing.”

Because the lead was so large on Thursday, Kupcho set a goal of finishing at 16-under-par 200, as she did last year at Pinehurst. And after the eagle on 10, that was well within reach as she was 13 under with eight holes left.

“It was just trying to keep myself motivated to get something,” said Kupcho, who tied for sixth as a freshman earlier this year in the Women’s NCAA finals. “I kind of wanted to get to 200. That would have been really sweet again. But then I probably would have been thinking, ‘It could have been 199.'”

Alas, Kupcho ended up playing her final eight holes in even par and settling for 203.

And with that, she goes out on a high note, summer golf-wise. Kupcho said she isn’t planning on playing any more tournaments before driving back to Wake Forest for her sophomore season late this month.

As for the other seven flights at the CWGA Stroke Play, the gross-score champions were Delaney Elliott and Kylee Sullivan (tied in first flight), Holly Schaefer and Mariah Ehrman (tied in second flight), Emilee Strausburg and Kathy Malpass (tied in third flight), Mary Doyen (fourth flight), Jane Ford and Kelli Poppenhagen (tied in fifth flight), Debbie Mills (sixth flight), and Hee Chung and Vicki Porter (tied in seventh flight).

CWGA Stroke Play
At Par-72 Denver CC

Championship Flight
Jennifer Kupcho, CommonGround WGC 71-65-67–203
Gillian Vance, CommonGround WGA 72-73-77–222
Rosana Valdor, City Park Wga 75-75-74–224
Taylor Dorans, Eagle Trace Lga 74-73-80–227
Calli Ringsby, Denver CC Lga 77-75-78–230
Morgan Sahm, Saddle Rock Wga 79-76-76–231
Anna Kennedy, Denver CC Lga 78-77-77–232
Betsy Kelly, Green Valley Ranch Wga 78-75-79–232
Kim Eaton, Riverdale Wga 80-72-81–233
Jaylee Tait, Raccoon Creek WGA 78-77-82–237
Janet Moore, Cherry Hills CC Wga 76-78-90–244
Tori Glenn, Ridge at Castle Pines N Wga 82-75-WD

First Flight
Delaney Elliott, CommonGround WGA 78-80-77–235
Kylee Sullivan, CC of Colorado WGA 79-81-75–235
Mackenzie Cohen, Inverness Lga 81-80-78–239
Klara Castillo, Kennedy Lga 78-87-77–242
Michelle Romano, Colorado Golf Club Wga 78-83-83–244
Allie Johnston, Red Hawk Ridge Wga 82-80-83–245
Megan McCambridge, Boulder CC Wga 83-79-83–245
Ashlyn Kirschner, West Woods Wgc 83-88-77–248
Courtney Ewing, Desert Hawk Pueblo West Wga 84-80-87–251
Kelly Moran, Boulder CC Wga 82-85-84–251
Tiffany Maurycy, Cherry Creek CC Wga 83-87-85–255
Sydney Gillespie, Highlands Ranch Wga 83-87-86–256
Forre Zook, Colorado Springs CC Lga 88-86-88–262

Second Flight
Holly Schaefer, Columbine CC Lga 84-73-78–235
Mariah Ehrman, Heritage at Westmoor WGA 77-78-80–235
Jacquelin Biggs, South Suburban Family Sports 79-79-79–237
Maddie Kern, Cjga Tournament Club 82-79-80–241
Madison McCambridge, Boulder CC Wga 76-84-82–242
Megan Vernon, Applewood Wga 83-84-78–245
Christie Austin, Cherry Hills CC Wga 87-83-79–249
Kacey Godwin, CommonGround WGA 82-80-88–250
Kelly Martin, Fox Hollow Lgc 87-79-85–251

Third Flight
Emilee Strausburg, The Club at Rolling Hills Wga 84-77-79–240
Kathy Malpass, Hiwan Wga 80-81-79–240
Brittany Roberts, Wellshire Women 79-86-84–249
Cindy Snow, Pinery CC Wga 86-85-79–250
Jennifer Hocking, Colorado Springs CC Lga 88-79-83–250
Nina Dulacki, Broken Tee Englewood Wga 91-83-81–255
Katherine Moore-Lilly, Cordillera Wga Valley 87-84-87–258
Ruth Van Zee, LGA at Blackstone/Black Bear 85-84-90–259
Jessi McVay, CommonGround 86-88-93–267

Fourth Flight
Mary Doyen, Foothills Wga 84-80-80–244
Liz Kennedy, Tiara Rado Lga 85-79-86–250
Sue Hartwell, West Woods Wgc 84-81-86–251
Laurie Steenrod, Saddle Rock Wga 85-83-85–253
Karen Williams, Wellshire Wga 88-83-84–255
Sandra Young, Eisenhower Wga 88-81-87–256
Kendra George, Ravenna Wga 81-87-90–258
Kate Connor, South Surburban 83-88-89–260
Dr. Andrea Grilli, The Club at Rolling Hills Wga 93-83-86–262
Meagan Arvidson, Lga at Blackstone/Black Bear 81-80-101–262
LeAnna Rosenow, West Woods Wgc 93-84-89–266
Kathleen Johnson, Ranch CC Lga 93-88-DQ–DQ

Fifth Flight
Jane Ford, Hyland Hills Wga 86-89-86–261
Kelli Poppenhagen, Meadow Hills Wga 90-86-85–261
Liza Grant, Denver CC Lga 89-85-89–263
Susan Schell, Arrowhead Wga 88-88-90–266
Carla Stearns, Wellshire Women 92-89-86–267
Sophia Montoya, Elmwood Golf Course 86-93-90–269
Katty Rothberg, Cherry Creek CC Wga 91-89-93–273
Karen Hale, CC of Castle Pines 96-90-91–277
Jessica Nisbet, Ptarmigan CC Wga 87-94-101–282
Kimalee Hull, Pinehurst CC Wga 91-94-97–282
Melis Ward, Wellshire Wga 100-87-95–282
Patty Smogor, Saddle Rock Wga 94-97-92–283
Patricia Swanson, West Woods Wga 103-89-92–284
Marie Driessen, The Pinery CC 95-96-94–285
Ouida Neil, Broadmoor Wga 100-93-94–287

Sixth Flight
Debbie Mills, Meridian Wga 89-91-82–262
Laura Dunston, Canongate Colorado Wgc 89-87-90–266
Jo Ann Higgins, Fox Hill Club Wga 88-92-87–267
Mariko Coplin, Willis Case Wga 88-90-90–268
Karen Chase, Fox Hollow Lgc 90-88-95–273
Chris Jansen, Broken Tee Wgl 89-95-93–277
Ria Woodruff, Saddle Rock Wga 88-94-100–282
Diane Ferrara, Broken Tee Englewood Wga 96-92-95–283
Elizabeth Kraemer, Legacy Ridge Wga 92-94-100–286
Wendy Atkinson, Ranch CC Lga 95-97-94–286

Seventh Flight
Hee Chung, Meridian Wga 92-84-90–266
Vicki Porter, Foothills Wga 89-86-91–266
Jean Miller, West Woods Wgc 88-92-90–270
Alison O’Connor, Collindale Wga 95-82-96–273
Patricia Sato, Ranch CC Lga 94-87-96–277
Jenna Knutson, Indian Peaks Golf Club 94-91-96–281
Emma Robinson, Pueblo CC Wga 94-96-92–282
Andrea Dikeou, Castle Pines Wga 98-90-95–283
Claudia Gallegos, South Suburban Wga 91-98-94–283
Karen Leuschel, Riverdale Wga 90-91-102–283
Karin Hathaway, Wellshire Women 94-96-95–285
Linda Raunig, Broken Tee Wgl 102-93-91–286
Mary Smith, Fox Hollow Wga 88-96-110–294
Jennifer Tempas, Columbine CC Lga 98-99-98–295
Lisa Schmid, Green Valley Ranch Wga 106-97-101–304
Kim Gosche, Saddle Rock Wga 95-WD