Jennifer Kupcho fires stunning 65 to once again lead at NCAAs

Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film

Jennifer Kupcho fires stunning 65 to once again lead at NCAAs

College

Jennifer Kupcho fires stunning 65 to once again lead at NCAAs

STILLWATER, Okla. – Jennifer Kupcho is establishing herself as a postseason juggernaut. The Wake Forest junior became just the second player in NCAA women’s golf history to win a regional in consecutive years earlier this month in Tallahassee, joining UCLA’s Maria Jose Uribe. Kucho also owns a pair of top-six finishes at the NCAA Championship, taking a share of second last year at Rich Harvest Farms.

And this year? Well, the sixth-ranked player in the country brought Karsten Creek to its knees, tying the women’s course record of 7-under 65 set by Kent State’s Wad Phaewchimplee in 2014.

“I was kind of shooting for 2 under and it just kept going,” said Kupcho. “I was like ‘OK, here we go.’ ”

Only three players broke par in the morning wave in Stillwater, with Florida State’s Morgane Metraux finishing five back of Kupcho at 2 under and Kent State’s Pimnipa Panthong adding a 71.

Kupcho’s 2017 season took a freakish turn when she fell off a shuttle cart after a spectator got tangled up with her push cart. The incident pulled Kupcho to the ground, and her head snapped back, hitting the concrete path. The setback, however, didn’t stop her from setting a school record 70.61 scoring average. Neither did the loss of two star freshmen, who quit the team midseason, forcing head coach Dianne Dailey to bring up a club team player to field a team for ACCs.

Kupcho advanced to last year’s NCAA Championship as an individual and looked poised to take it all heading down the stretch, holding a four-shot lead through 13 holes. While Arizona State’s Monica Vaughn made a charge on the opposite site of the course, Kupcho still held a two-shot lead with two to play.

But then everything unraveled on the par-4 17th. Kupcho’s pitching wedge from 127 yards hit the bank and rolled back into the water. She recorded a triple bogey on the hole, and then lost her tee shot on the 18th right into another hazard. She ultimately lost by one.

The lesson: Play it safe.

“Just really focus in, don’t let the wind or anything frustrate you,” said Kupcho. “Just to go back to the last two holes – I really just need to be able to control myself on 18. I let No. 17 get to me.”

On Friday in Oklahoma, Kupcho chipped in for birdie on Nos. 4 and 13. She added an eagle on the par-5 ninth and hit all but one fairway.

“There is stuff all around the fairways and everything, but it just looks wide to my eyes,” she said, “so I think that helped me a lot.”

Kupcho’s three victories this season puts her in the conversation for the prestigious ANNIKA Award Presented by 3M, should she win this week’s NCAA Championship.

She knows as well as anyone though, that it’s a long way from over.

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