Mid-round homework session doesn’t keep Kupcho from shooting 69 at Colorado Women’s Open
by Gary Baines
The timing of the CoBank Colorado Women’s Open isn’t ideal for a college golfer like Jennifer Kupcho, which is why the Westminster resident hasn’t competed in the tournament the last couple of years after placing second in 2014.
It hasn’t been easy, but she’s shoe-horning the event into her schedule this week, much to the delight of tournament organizers. After all, it’s nice to have a player in your field who finished 21st in the U.S. Women’s Open, won the Canadian Women’s Amateur, qualified for last week’s LPGA Tour stop at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open (though she elected not to play) and finished second in the Women’s NCAA Championship Finals. And she’s the winner of the last three CWGA Stroke Play Championships to boot.
To make playing in the Colorado Women’s Open a reality this week, Kupcho (left) had to fly back to Colorado on Tuesday evening after starting school at Wake Forest in North Carolina on Monday. In fact, during a mid-round lightning delay on Wednesday afternoon at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club, the No. 3-ranked women’s amateur in the world was working on some homework that’s due on Thursday morning before her second-round tee time.
“I have an assignment due for an education class before my tee time tomorrow,” she noted. “It’s due before that class — there it’s 9:30, so 7:30 our time. I was thinking, ‘I could either do it now or I could do it later tonight when I want to sleep. So just do it now.'”
Then a day after things wrap up in the Women’s Open, Kupcho will fly to Charleston, S.C., where she’ll play at Kiawah Island in Wake Forest’s season opener Monday and Tuesday.
But Kupcho isn’t here just to make an appearance. She has a good chance to become just the second amateur to win the Colorado Women’s Open — joining Paige Mackenzie (2006) — and nothing changed in that regard in Wednesday’s opening round.
Despite playing in windy conditions in the afternoon, the 20-year-old shot a 3-under-par 69 despite three-putting for par on her final hole. That leaves her in a share of sixth place after the first day.
The back-and-forth in order to play at GVR “is a little crazy,” Kupcho admitted. “It’s kind of different not getting to spend a whole lot of time with my team since (a lot of players are newcomers). But it’s fine. I like traveling and playing different tournaments. And it’s good to be back home.
“I just chose I wanted to play in this. I hadn’t played in it in a couple of years. I thought it would be a lot of fun — and it is.”
On Wednesday, Kupcho finished with five birdies — including three straight starting on her 10th hole — and two bogeys.
“I played really well,” she said. “I was hitting the ball better than I thought I would. I’ve been slacking a little on practicing since going back to school.”
On the CWO leaderboard along with Kupcho are a couple of first-time Colorado Women’s Open participants who just advanced through the first stage of the LPGA Q-school process. Andrea Wong (left) of San Francisco shot a 6-under-par 66 to grab the first-round lead. And Gabrielle Shipley of Hastings, Mich., who won the Women’s NCAA Division II national title last year at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora, opened with a 67 along with Liz Breed of Wayneboro, Pa., who played the back nine in 6-under 30. Tied for fourth at 4 under par are Wendy Doolan of Lakeland, Fla. (68) and Karlin Beck of Montgomery, Ala. (through 12 holes).
“Last time I was here (in Denver), I played great,” Shipley said, referring to her national collegiate title. “And coming off of Q-school, qualifying for stage II, it was just all good vibes going into this week. Coming back here to the area is happy altogether. So I’m excited.
“My approaches were on fire today. And these are the best-rolling greens I’ve played on all this year — and they’re the quickest I’ve played on. Usually, what you see is what you get, so you can trust it more because there’s not bumps everywhere.”
Wong, a winner of four college tournaments while at Cal-Davis — including an NCAA Regional last year — is exempt this year on the Ladies European Tour. On Wednesday, she started her round with three straight birdies and racked up seven overall, four of which came on the par-5s.
“I’ve always heard how the Colorado Open is one of the best state opens,” Wong said. “I have really good family friends that live nearby. And two of my good friends from college are road-tripping from the East Coast and happen to be in Denver so they came and watched my front nine which was really fun. It was just a good day.”
Because of an hour-long weather delay on Wednesday afternoon, round 1 wasn’t completed. It will resume on Thursday at 7:15 a.m. Second-round tee times won’t be affected.
Notable: CGA executive director Ed Mate was part of a threesome on Wednesday — and will be against Thursday — that included pro-am teammate Lauren Coughlin, the defending champion, and Kupcho. Coughlin and Mate lead the pro-am competition after posting a 10-under-par 62 net best-ball score on Wednesday. … In the competition for low-amateur, Kupcho leads by three over 2016 low-am Jessica Dreesbeimdieke of the University of Denver, Baylee Price of Broken Arrow, Okla., and Maggie Cowart of New Braunfels, Texas. … The championship field will be cut after Thursday’s second round to the top 42 players and ties. … A reminder: The purse for this week’s tournament is $150,000, with $50,000 going to the top professional finisher.
For scores from the Colorado Women’s Open, CLICK HERE.