DENVER — Before stepping in front of the hundreds of people she would talk to at Green Valley Ranch golf course Saturday, Jennifer Kupcho was wired with a microphone to be able to speak to the audience. Camera teams from the local television stations were also on hand, set up to shoot her interview and session at the course.
Call it another welcoming moment to the world of professional athletics for Kupcho.
A graduate of Jefferson Academy, Kupcho returned to Colorado for a break in her professional golf career to speak to local kids at the golf course about her career, turning pro and other tidbits in the game of golf she picked up. Part of the festivities included an interview with Altitude’s Vic Lombardi and a brief demonstration swinging the clubs on the driving range.
“I always love when we have Colorado people making a name for themselves in any sport, let alone in golf,” Lombardi said.
Kupcho, 22, recently turned pro after a successful collegiate career at Wake Forest. Her first NCAA accomplishment came in 2017 when she was the individual runner-up in the NCAA DI Women’s Golf Championship. In the 2018 season, she took the next step and won the NCAA individual national championship for the Demon Deacons. To close out her college career, her team finished as the runner-ups in the national championship this past season.
The journey to winning the national championship in 2018 is the one moment that stood out among the rest for Kupcho.
“It was amazing,” Kupcho said. “We didn’t qualify for the last round of stroke play as a team, but I was still playing because I was on the top of the leaderboard. (My teammates) were all out there cheering me on.”
College was not the only place where Kupcho made noise in her playing career. Also playing in amateur tournaments, she won the Colorado Women’s Open Low Amateur in 2014 and 2017. But her biggest accomplishment in her amateur career came a few months ago when she played in the first ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament. Playing on the same iconic course where the Masters professional tournament is played, she finished 10-under par to win the tournament.
“Playing in a tournament (at Augusta) is different,” Kupcho said. “When I played it two years before, showing up to it, you felt like it was a dream. It was unreal. At that time, I couldn’t believe I was doing it. It was so surreal.”
To make the win even more impressive at Augusta, Kupcho had to deal with a migraine during one of her rounds and played through it, admitting to Saturday’s crowd that her vision was blurry for the final three holes of the round. Instincts are what she used to power through to get the win.
“It all comes down to muscle memory at that point,” Kupcho said.
The win at Augusta helped Kupcho become the No. 1 ranked amateur women’s golfer in the world and more recognition. She made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to talk about her win, and she endured countless interviews and appearances since. The win also sparked the turning point in her career to turn pro and begin her next chapter in her golf career, which got underway just over a month ago.
Following the seminar on Saturday, Kupcho will travel on Sunday to begin playing a stretch of three professional tournaments, with the hopes of qualifying for two more major tournaments as well.
“I felt I had gotten everything I could out of amateur golf,” Kupcho said. “I wanted to play after college and didn’t want to pay a bunch of money to play in amateur tournaments and not make anything in return.”
The story of turning pro is one Kupcho hopes will inspire the kids who came out to watch her speak. She provided some pointers in her golf game, from her routine to drills she uses to work on her swing and demonstrated some of her shots on the driving range. There was also a period to answer some questions from the kids, take a group photo and sign autographs following the event.
Her young professional career just getting underway, Kupcho continues to show that she is adjusting to her new career and attention she will garner. But on Saturday, she went back to her original roots, hoping to leave an impact for the next generation of golfers that were in attendance.
“To have the support of Colorado and the support at Wake Forest has been great,” Kupcho said.