AUGUSTA, Ga. – Mike and Janet Kupcho took up golf early in their marriage, starting together on par-3 courses and eventually graduating to 36 holes a day on vacation. When their second child, Jennifer, came along, they’d put her in a jog stroller and throw the clubs on top, pushing her around the course while they played alongside son Steven.
Eventually the Kupchos bought a family membership to the Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield, Colo. They’d pack coloring books and a Game Boy for Jennifer when she grew tired of her clubs. Beat paying for a babysitter.
By the time Jennifer was 8 years old, a young local pro had declared her swing NCAA Division I-caliber.
That natural, enviable motion would yield not only an NCAA title, but success at what’s already the biggest women’s amateur event in the world – the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
PHOTOS: 2019 Drive, Pitch & Putt finals
After a low-key celebration pizza party with family, Kupcho returned to Augusta National on Sunday to help present trophies alongside 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed to winners of the girls 7-9 division of the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals.
It marked the first time young girls playing in the event could aspire to something more than competing on Augusta’s practice facilities. For them, the dream no longer ended at DCP.
“It’s going to be their main goal in life now,” Kupcho said of competing in the ANWA.
Jamie Radebach played golf at The Edison Club in Rexford, N.Y., on the day she was due with daughter Paige Alexandria.
“Everybody loves watching a pregnant woman swing a club,” she said with a smile. “I was quite the sight.”
Paige actually arrived during the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, and the Radebachs gave away their tickets to friends.
“I was born to golf because my initials are PAR,” said Paige, steps away from the big oak tree near Augusta National’s clubhouse. She’d just won the putting competition of the girls 7-9 division.
Before Paige even knew about Drive, Chip and Putt, she wanted to get to Augusta National, a place her parents had tried to get for years through the lottery.
Last spring Paige and her family were out to dinner with her new instructor, Casey Lubahn, men’s head coach at Michigan State and the dad of Paige’s best friends, when the Masters came on television.
“I said ‘Oh, I’m going to be there someday, right where that TV is,’ ” recalled Paige. “They were all laughing.”
Paige made it in short order, bringing Lubahn, her parents and grandparents south for an unforgettable trip.
Matt Radebach can’t imagine the emotions he’d feel should Paige one day qualify to follow in the footsteps of the 30 women who survived the 36-hole cut at the ANWA to make history as the first women to compete on the iconic course.
“Just the thought of her being able to do that would be unbelievable,” he said. “Before, this was it.”
Angela Zhang, a 9-year-old from Bellevue, Wash., won the overall competition in her age group on the strength of a 189-yard drive. The 4-foot-10-inch Zhang weighs 75 pounds.
“That’s insane,” said Kupcho, a 21-year-old Wake Forest senior.
“It’s kind of crazy how good the game is getting.”
Scores of fans have said the same after watching Kupcho strike that magnificent 3-hybrid from 211 yards to 6 feet on the par-5 13th, setting up the first eagle in ANWA history. That shot alone felt like a statement.
The women have arrived at Augusta National. Generations are following suit. Gwk