Kupcho wins 2nd straight college tourney; Clark top-ranked men’s college player in country
by Gary Baines
Anyone who has followed Colorado golf even casually in recent years knows that Jennifer Kupcho of Westminster, and Wyndham Clark and Hannah Wood, both of Highlands Ranch, are special players.
After all, Kupcho (pictured) was the CWGA Player of the Year in both 2014 and ’15, has won three straight CWGA major championships by crazy margins, finished sixth in the women’s NCAA Championship finals and qualified for the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open. She also advanced to the round of 16 at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Clark won the 2010 CGA Amateur Championship at age 16, was named the Big 12 Player of the Year in 2014, and has qualified for five U.S. Amateurs.
And Wood won the 2014 CWGA Stroke Play, a college title during her freshman season at Oklahoma, and joined Kupcho in qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open. Wood also made it to match play at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
But this fall, the three Coloradans have really been making their presence felt on the national collegiate golf scene.
— Kupcho, who just this week was named the Golf Person of the Year by the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, on Sunday won her second straight college tournament and has finished no worse than eighth in Wake Forest’s four events this fall.
This time around, the Demon Deacon sophomore shot rounds of 73-66-68 for a 9-under-par 207 total and a three-stroke victory at the Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, N.C. In the last 28 holes of the tournament, Kupcho made a dozen birdies. She became the first Wake Forest woman to win consecutive tournaments since 1993.
Even before her performance in Wake Forest’s fall finale, Kupcho was ranked No. 4 nationally among female college players by Golfweek and No. 10 in the women’s Golfstat Cup standings. That’s heady territory indeed.
— While Clark (left) hasn’t yet recorded a college win — this season or in his career — he’s come close a bunch, and currently he can lay claim to being the No. 1-ranked men’s college player in the nation, according to both Golfweek and Golfstat.
The University of Oregon, where Clark transferred from Oklahoma State, has only played two tournaments so far this fall, but the fifth-year senior from Colorado has been very much in contention in both.
Earlier this month, a week after finishing second in his debut as a Duck, Clark placed third in his first college tournament in Colorado, the Paintbrush Invitational at Colorado Golf Club in Parker (READ MORE).
Clark has now posted a dozen top-six finishes as a college player, including five runner-ups.
Though Clark was frustrated at not getting a victory at Colorado Golf Club — a course he knows well — he likes the way he’s started the season. And what’s not to like? Clark is currently No. 1 on Golfweek’s Haskins Award watch list. The Haskins Award is given annually to the nation’s top men’s college player, as voted by players, coaches and media.
“Looking back at it, two top-fives is a very solid start,” he said after the Paintbrush Invite.
Clark and Oregon — the defending national NCAA champion — will get plenty of exposure this week at the East Lake Cup in Atlanta, where the Golf Channel will televise the action from 1-4 p.m. each day Monday through Wednesday (Oct. 31-Nov. 2).
— As for Wood, she’s also had a very consistent and impressive fall. Like Kupcho, she competed in the Landfall Tradition that concluded on Sunday, with Wood notching a seventh-place individual finish.
In four fall college tournaments for Oklahoma, Wood has three top-10 individual performances — two sevenths and an eighth.
And like Kupcho and Clark, Wood is ranked prominently two months into the college season. The OU junior was 46th in the women’s Golfstat Cup standings and 58th according to Golfweek, with both rankings coming before Wood’s latest tournament.
Kupcho, Clark and Wood aren’t the only Colorado residents currently ranked in the top 100 nationally among college players. Also earning that distinction are Colin Prater of Colorado Springs, a junior at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and Ethan Freeman of Denver, a senior at CU.
Prater, who won the 2016 CGA Amateur, is No. 16 in the Golfstat Cup men’s standings, while Freeman is 87th. At Division II UCCS, Prater owns four top-five finishes in five tournaments this fall, including one win. And at CU, Freeman has recorded four top-7 finishes so far this fall, with one coming in a three-team tournament.