07 April 2019: Jennifer Kupcho overcame a midround health issue and some determined golf by Maria Fassi to clinch the Augusta National Women’s Amateur championship by a four-stroke margin. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Kupcho was down by two approaching the 13th tee, but a timeless approach with a hybrid sailed to the foot of the pin for a comfortable eagle that turned the tide firmly in her favour. A birdie at the 18th was the perfect finish to a great and historic day in the game of golf.
Q: A heartfelt congratulations to you on this amazing accomplishment. Could you try to put into words what winning this event means to you and your family?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I think, first of all, for me to hit the first tee shot of the tournament, just to open it up, it was a great honor to be able to do that. And then to be able to hit the last putt and to win, it’s just amazing. It’s an amazing feeling, to have my brother here, to have my parents here, everyone out there supporting me. It was quite a day.
Q. So I’ve got questions about two specific shots, the putt on 10, the bogey putt, you seemed to really exhale after making that. Wondering what was going through your head there. And then the second shot on 13, wondering what your number was there and where that ranks among all the shots you’ve hit in your life, given the circumstances?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: So first, I actually got a migraine on the 8th green, and I couldn’t see like it was very blurry. I couldn’t see from like here.
Coming out of it with Maria in the final group with me, I think both of us kind of just wanted to send the message that golf is about having friends and to be out there with her, we were cheering each other on, and that’s kind of how golf is supposed to be. And to make it look fun; it is fun. So to make it look that way for everyone watching, I hope it encourages people to pick up a club and go play.
Q. What was the club on 13, and then also, can you take us through the 15th hole, second shot and kind of what you were thinking and taking into account with what Maria was doing.
JENNIFER KUPCHO: So both of them were 3-hybrids. On 15, I was actually trying to hit it into the right green-side bunker, or wall of it. I wasn’t trying to mess with the tree, but I think just with nerves and everything, that’s my tendency, is kind of to hit a draw and that’s what happened. It just drew around it.
Q. Could you also describe a little bit the shot on 13, how much the ball was above your feet, and was there any sense that this was, I wouldn’t call it a do-or-die moment, but two behind and taking on that shot, did you consider all the consequences of not pulling it off?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: At that point, since I was two back, I just kind of knew I needed to make a big move. So I never — when I walked up to the shot, I never even thought about laying up. And to have it on a huge slope, yesterday I hit a shot and it didn’t draw at all. So I didn’t really think much of it. I was just trying to hit it on the left side of the green.
Q. It was the only eagle of the tournament, and that means you’re the only one that gets crystal; do you know about that tradition, and are you excited about getting something in the mail in a couple months?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I actually didn’t know that. I didn’t know (laughing). I didn’t know I made the only eagle, but that’s pretty cool to be able to be the other person that did that.
Q. This has been a momentous day. How much of your feelings are those of a person who has played extremely good golf and won a golf tournament, and how much are your feelings now of someone that’s won a golf tournament that is a very unusual golf tournament at an historic place?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: It’s always a great feeling to win. I don’t think it’s set in yet. It probably won’t set in for a little while. But I think to win at Augusta National, just to get to walk the fairways and walk up 18 with as many fans as there were, it’s an experience like none other.
Q. I guess you’ve never played in front of as many people, have you?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: No, I have not. There was a lot of fans (laughter).
Q. I’m curious about what Maria said to you on the 18th green when you guys were hugging after the end.
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Yeah, so when she walked up to look at her chip, I said, “Hey, knock it in.” And then she obviously hit it right behind my ball marker, and she said, “I hope you go to school with this.” And then going back, I said, “I hope you’re a good teacher.” (Laughter). She was.
Q. Have you had an issue with migraines in your past before, and how many shots do you think that you hit with some kind of impaired vision?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: They have kind of stopped since my freshman year of college, but before that, I pretty much had them all through high school. And it would have been from 8 green to 11 tee, so my 11th tee shot was still with blurred vision.
Q. Was it hard to keep yourself calm, knowing the situation you were in and all of a sudden, this is coming on? JENNIFER KUPCHO: A little bit. But I think I’ve played through enough things, playing injured, playing with problems like that, that I was able to kind of take deep breaths and focus to where I could play the best I could.
Q. Did you have a number in your mind before you started, as far as what you wanted to shoot, and talk about perhaps exceeding your expectations, if that were the case?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Last night, I was kind of thinking probably 4-under today would win it. I’ve got to be honest, I was not really thinking about that out on the course. Once I saw that it was just me and Maria, I was kind of focusing every shot the best I could and really just getting through my migraine.
Q. You mentioned last night. Was last night different than any other night you were leading going into a final round?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I would say no. I was just trying to focus on what I was going to do the next day. I mean, you can’t really think about it too much just because if you overthink it; I slept two nights on a lead, so if I was going to overthink it, I wasn’t going to be able to play my game.
Q. You’ve talked a lot about how much you thrive off of the support of your team. What’s it like when you’re going out and playing just purely as an individual at an event like this?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I kind of had the same thing happen at Nationals last year, when my team didn’t qualify. So to come out here, I knew they were all coming and I knew it was going to be a team experience. I know no matter what, they always have my back. So even though it was an individual event, I knew they had my back.
Q. How did the atmosphere today compare to what you kind of envisioned it was going to be like competing in the final round at Augusta National for the chance to win?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: There was just so many people, and to be able to really start a movement in women’s golf to where we’re probably going to start getting followed, I think it was a great experience to get to play with Maria as the two people that deferred their cards. I think that’s a big thing in and of itself, just to have that representation.
Q. Going back to those final moments on 18 with Maria, how meaningful was that moment, given the kind of relationship you guys share?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: It was amazing. I mean, all day we were kind of giving each other crap, encouraging each other. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to walk Augusta with anyone else on the final round. I know that we’re going to have a great time out there next year on the LPGA, and we definitely shared a lot of kind words after the round. It was just amazing.
Q. From my vantage point where I saw you at the 18th hole, you had legends like Nancy Lopez looking on, and I had three little girls in front of me waiting for autographs with brightness in their eyes. How did it feel to be in that situation, having legends look on, and then having the next generation look forward?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: That’s going to be a big thing in women’s golf. This tournament has really been shown and shows how good we are and what younger girls have to look forward to. Last night we got to listen to those four legends talk and I think it’s just a great experience and hopefully we can follow in their shoes.
Q. The overall tournament, did it meet your expectation? Did it exceed your expectations? Can you just talk about that? JENNIFER KUPCHO: I think it exceeded my expectations. Everything that they do for us here, this is the most organized tournament I’ve ever played in, and they make sure everything’s okay, all the time. If you ever need anything, they will get it to you in a second. So just to play here at Augusta and have that kind of treatment, I think the woman’s game is really going to come out stronger.
Q. You mentioned the kind words you said to each other on 18. Do you mind sharing what that conversation was? JENNIFER KUPCHO: I think I’m going to keep that between the two of us. I think it was just to know that we are both going to be out on Tour and we are going to have a great time and I think that’s going to be something that everyone will look forward to watching.
Q. Could you revisit for a second the decision to defer, and what that means to both the college game and to what it meant for you in your preparation to be a professional?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I just wanted to go back to Wake Forest and get my degree. Along with that, my team has always been great to me, and I know that I definitely set a good example to them and I know that they will definitely follow in my footsteps; and to compete alongside them, I wouldn’t want to leave them halfway through the season. Also, my assistant coach came back for my senior year, so I felt it was kind of my duty to come back for my final semester, and I think if Maria wouldn’t have deferred, I think it would have been a lot harder to be the lone sole that didn’t defer, and I think that’s what makes our relationship so strong.
Q. Do you think that this event will actually make women think about waiting to turn?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Yeah, I would think so. I think it definitely said something that the top two players were the two that decided not to turn. And I think that’s really going to show something big in the women’s game so that it will be more accepted of the people that defer.
Q. 5-under through the last six holes, were you always mentally tough, or did you find an extra gear today? JENNIFER KUPCHO: Can you repeat that? Sorry.
Q. I said 5-under through the last six holes. Were you always mentally tough, or today you found a new gear in your game?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Found a new gear — I think after I got through the migraine, it was kind of smooth sailing from there. I really knew that after I was going to get my vision back, I think I was — I think I knew I was going to be able to make some shots and rely on my caddie to help me read the greens.
Q. How was the atmosphere on the first tee for you today? Any nerves?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: I think I was a lot more calm than I expected to be. Obviously there was a lot of fans, so to have all that support, I think that really helped to kind of calm it, just calm the nerves just because I knew everyone was supporting us and it was going to be a big statement, what was about to happen for the rest of the day.