Coloradan Kupcho fires 65 to take 3-stroke lead after first round of women’s NCAA nationals; CU in 13th place as a team
by Gary Baines
Put NCAA in the name of a tournament, and apparently it brings out the best in Westminster resident Jennifer Kupcho.
In her college career at Wake Forest, Kupcho has earned individual titles in two consecutive Women’s NCAA Regionals — becoming only the second player to accomplish that feat — in addition to placing sixth as a freshman. And she’s finished sixth and second in the NCAA Finals.
And on Friday in Stillwater, Okla., the Coloradan (pictured Friday in a Wake Forest photo) certainly showed no signs of letting up.
Kupcho, competing in the final college tournament of her junior season, made a 30-foot eagle on the last hole of her opening round of the NCAA Finals and shot a cool 7-under-par 65 at Karsten Creek, tying the women’s course record. Twice she chipped in for birdies. This comes 10 days after Kupcho fired a personal-best 64 en route to her NCAA Regional victory in Tallahassee, Fla.
Her Friday effort left Kupcho with a three-stroke lead with three rounds of stroke play remaining in the NCAA Finals.
“I was kind of shooting for 2 under and it just kept going,” Kupcho told Golfweek. “I was like, ‘OK, here we go.'”
The 2018 U.S. Curtis Cup team member finished the day with an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys.
Kupcho, who is attempting to become the first Colorado resident to win the Women’s NCAA Division I individual national golf title, is three in front of Janet Mao of Northwestern. And in third place, at 69, is Jillian Hollis of Georgia, who qualified in Colorado on Monday for the U.S. Women’s Open.
Kupcho, who sits No. 3 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings, owns six individual college wins, including three this season.
Last year, she led for the first 16 holes of the final round of the NCAA Finals and was up by two strokes with two holes to play. But a triple bogey on the 17th hole led to a runner-up finish.
Meanwhile, the University of Colorado, which is competing as a team in the Women’s NCAA Finals for the first time since 2012, shot an 18-over-par 306 in Friday’s first round. That left the Buffs in a tie for 13th place out of 24 teams, 15 strokes behind leader Southern California, also of the Pac-12 Conference. Likewise at 306 is Kupcho’s Wake Forest squad.
Sophomore Kirsty Hodgkins led the way for CU with a 2-over-par 74 after making birdies on her final two holes on Friday, which left her in 28th place individually. Sophomore Robyn Choi, who qualified in Colorado on Monday for her second straight U.S. Women’s Open, and senior Brittany Fan matched 75s for the Buffs.
The top eight team finishers after four rounds of stroke play will advance to the match play portion of the event, which starts Tuesday.
Women’s NCAA Division I Finals
May 18-21, 2018 in Stillwater, Okla.
13. (out of 24 teams) Colorado 306
28. Kirsty Hodgkins 74
35. Brittany Fan 75
35. Robyn Choi 75
111. Gillian Vance 82
111. Alisha Lau 82
1. Coloradan Jennifer Kupcho, Wake Forest 65
68. Coloradan Hannah Wood, Oklahoma 77