Of all the perks, national TV appearances and new-found fame that Jennifer Kupcho has received since Saturday, it was a small gesture by her music teacher at Wake Forest that she might remember the most.
Kupcho, a senior on the golf team who won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club, finally arrived back on campus Tuesday morning. She headed to Introduction to Western Music class, where her professor, Dan Locklair, made sure to acknowledge her major accomplishment.
“I had taken a picture at Carnegie Hall to show him what I was doing,” Kupcho said about her down time in New York City, where she spent Monday making appearances on The Today Show and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. “And out of nowhere he showed the picture in class and started talking about me, and I was about half asleep, but I looked up and that’s me on the screen.”
As class was winding down, Kupcho and her classmates got a nice surprise.
“At the end of the class he had bought donuts from Krispy Kreme and we kind of had a party, so it was amazing,” Kupcho said.
There was plenty of amazing going on for Kupcho, starting with her victory on Saturday where she birdied five of her last six holes to beat her friend, Maria Fassi, a senior at Arkansas.
Kupcho shot a 5-under 67 to finish 10 under and four shots clear of Fassi.
What many were focused on during the final round wasn’t just Kupcho’s play, but the sportsmanship the friends showed. Fassi was quick to give Kupcho applause when Kupcho hit a good shot.
“We we were cheering each other on, and that's kind of how golf is supposed to be,” Kupcho said about the great display of sportsmanship.
As for her best memory of the round, she said it was the walk up No. 18 fairway. “That was pretty cool,” Kupcho said.
Kupcho meet with local media for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, and while she is used to the attention by now she admitted she was exhausted. The trip to New York came after she spent Sunday helping with the Drive, Chip and Putt competition at Augusta National.
She got to meet Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed, the defending Masters champion, and along the way moved the needle when it comes to women’s golf.
Shortly after the win, she talked about the impact on the game her victory might have.
"It's going to be a big thing in women's golf,” she said. “This tournament has really been shown and shows how good we are and what younger girls have to look forward to.”
When she arrived back at her hotel with her parents on Saturday night, she finally got to check her phone and there were 164 text messages waiting. She also had 150 Instagram messages that kept her busy.
“I’m actually still getting messages today,” Kupcho said about hearing from Stephanie Neill Harder (who has 10 career wins for the Deacons to Kupcho’s nine), Lanny Wadkins and Curtis Strange.
Not only did Kupcho manage to get through the middle of Sunday’s round with a migraine headache that left her with blurry vision, she thrived down the stretch. Her laser of a second shot on the par-5 13th hole from 211 yards out was the shot of the tournament as she made the eagle putt to turn the momentum into her favor.
What Kupcho talked openly about on Tuesday was the fact she nearly didn’t play in the tournament.
When she looked at the heavy schedule that her Wake Forest team was playing this spring, she first declined to play at Augusta. But then by a stroke of luck Coach Kim Lewellen of the Deacons adjusted the schedule and eliminated a tournament.
This opened the possibility back up for Kupcho to play.
“I didn’t want to get worn out,” Kupcho said about making sure she’s fresh as the fifth-ranked Deacons chase an ACC title and a national championship. “So I just turned it down, and a tournament got canceled. I called up the (Augusta National Women’s Tournament) and asked if I could still play, and he said 'Absolutely, you have a spot' and just like that, I was back in it.”
One of the biggest reasons Augusta National opened its gates to amateur women was to grow the game. Now, the next step could be a professional women’s tournament at the famed course.
Kupcho and Fassi will both be on the LPGA Tour when they turn pro this summer.
“I know all the women pro golfers are trying to push for it,” Kupcho said. “I would love to see it, but in reality, Augusta National has two sets of tees — the members tees (6,300 yards) and the PGA Tour pro tees (7,500 yards). I just think seeing the members tees this week, it would be challenging trying to stretch them out for the LPGA Tour.”
“I think that’s where Augusta would maybe struggle with because they aren’t going to add a bunch of tees to make it playable for the LPGA Tour.”