LPGA-career-best 64 gives Coloradan Jennifer Kupcho 6-stroke lead with 1 day left in first major of 2022
By Gary Baines – 4/2/2022
Can you hear the knocking?
Can Jennifer Kupcho?
It’s opportunity rapping on the door, and Kupcho can answer on Sunday.
Almost three years into her LPGA career, the Colorado native has yet to win on the top women’s circuit in the world. But she’s been in contention plenty.
The champion at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur three years ago this week, Kupcho has 11 top-10 LPGA finishes to her credit. She owns three second-place showings on the LPGA Tour, one third, one fourth, one fifth, one sixth, one seventh, one eighth, one ninth and one 10th.
But glaring by its absence is no “first”.
However, that’s where the opportunity knocking comes into play — and in a huge way this weekend.
In search of LPGA victory No. 1, the 24-year-old went from trailing by one going into Saturday in the first major of the season, to leading by six at the Chevron Championship. And only Sunday’s final round is left in Rancho Mirage, Calif., before they crown the last champion in what is fondly remembered by some as “The Dinah Shore.”
So how did Kupcho manage to build such a big lead so quickly?
The Jefferson Academy graduate was 8 under par through her first dozen holes on Saturday en route to shooting an 8-under 64. While she’s carded a 64 before on the LPGA circuit, that was on a par-70 course.
This one put the 2020 CoBank Colorado Women’s Open champ at 16-under 200 through 54 holes.
How good was Kupcho on Saturday? Good enough that she needed just 14 putts through the first 12 holes before cooling off. Prior to bogeying No. 13 — where her approach finished near the collar of the green and she missed an 8-foot par try — she had gone 32 consecutive holes without anything worse than a par.
On Saturday, she racked up nine birdies, matching her total from round 1.
“It was a really fun round,” Kupcho said afterward, noting she’s trying not to think about the possibility of making a major her first LPGA victory. “I’m just out there playing my game. I can’t control what anyone else is doing. Someone else could do (on Sunday) what I did today.”
The former women’s NCAA individual champion will go into Sunday’s final round six ahead of Patty Tavatanakit, the defending champion who birdied the final hole Saturday to cut the deficit by one. Jessica Korda is another stroke back following a 67 on Saturday.
“I’d be surprised if (Kupcho) doesn’t play well tomorrow,” said Golf Channel analyst Judy Rankin. Saturday’s 64 “was earned. She played some round of golf.
“You know inside what a rare opportunity you’ve given yourself. If she’s in the bubble she was in today, I don’t think anybody can catch her.”
For all the scores from the Chevon Championship, CLICK HERE.
Sunday’s Golf Channel telecast from Mission Hills will begin at 3 p.m. (MT).
(About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was voted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2021. Email: ColoradoGolfJournal@mac.com)