Colorado roots shape game of premier women’s golfer


Jennifer Kupcho of Wake Forest won the 2018 women’s NCAA golf championship and then soared to No. 1 in the women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR), which she has held for 23 weeks dating back to last July.

And this is a golfer who developed her game in Colorado, where it is often difficult to keep all the basics of a competitive golf swing tuned during the winter because of elements like sub-freezing temperatures, snow, slush and ice.

“Yeah, it was a little difficult,” said Kupcho, who won two Class 4A girls state high school individual championships while playing for Jefferson Academy in Westminster. “I guess it was kind of good for me just because it is cold in the winter, so I played basketball pretty much my whole life. I played that during the winter and it kind of gave me a little time away from golf.

“I haven’t got burned out and that’s the main mistake with juniors nowadays. They just get burned out and don’t want to play later.”

Kupcho will be honored for her stellar 2018 accomplishments by the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame as the Amateur Athlete of the Year at its annual awards dinner on April 3 at the Hilton Denver City Center.

“Both my parents (Mike and Janet) play golf and I have an older brother (Steven) that started playing. It sort of became a family thing. My brother and I both loved it and we became pretty competitive. That’s how it all started.”

Last season she was a first team Women’s Golf Coaches Association All American, broke her own Wake Forest record with a 70.60 scoring average and became the first wire-to-wire NCAA champion since 2002. Kupcho was also a member of the victorious United States Curtis Cup and Palmer Cup teams.

Kupcho was the runner-up in the 2017 NCAA championships when she wound up losing by one stroke after recording a triple bogey on the 17th hole.

She was fired up and determined to prove herself during the 2018 season and followed through.

“It all started for me with me losing the national championship the year before,” she said. “That kind of lit a fire in me. That kind of developed all the goals to be on all the USA teams and then to win nationals as well. It was just me coming out with the fire and really wanting to prove to myself and my teammates that I could do it and I wasn’t going to go away with just taking second like the year before.”

Kupcho, a three-time Colorado Women’s Golf Association stroke play champion, has a scoring average of 70.94 in 16 rounds so far this college season and recently tied for second in the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate on March 8-10 with a 54-hole total of 3-under par 210.

She won her eighth individual college title on March 15-16 at the Tar Heel Classic in Case de Campo, Dominican Republic with scores of 66, 69 and 67 for a three-round total of 14-under par 202.

“That has sort of been the pattern for me while I’ve been in college,” explained Kupcho. “I kind of start slow and then get better as the spring season goes on. After playing so much during the summer, I come back and just want a break. Once I get it that sort of lights a fire for me. It would be really cool to win it (NCAA) two years in a row. Just going professional is going to be a big thing too.”

Kupcho has earned a Ladies Professional Golf Association card and will be turning pro after the college season concludes.

She won’t be able to attend the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame banquet because she will be playing golf in the Augusta National Amateur.

Newsworthy briefs

Some quick area updates about individuals and teams:

Mountain Vista cross country and distance runner Caroline Eck has decided to continue running next season at Vanderbilt … Boys volleyball is in its second pilot season and it has proven to have been a success for at least a couple area players who will continue to play in college. Chaparral’s Ryan Smith will play at Campbellsville University in Kentucky and Rowdy Martin of Horizon will enroll at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee and play men’s volleyball … Mountain Vista’s Grant Magill went 5-for-5 with four runs batted in on March 18 in a 10-7 win over Arvada West. The senior catcher was hitting .778 in the first six games he played this season.

Jim Benton


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