The inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur produced one of Augusta’s signature finishes: fireworks on the back nine.
This time, the pyrotechnics came courtesy of the top-ranked amateur in the women’s game: Jennifer Kupcho. The Wake Forest senior entered the day with a one-shot edge over Maria Fassi, a senior at Arkansas. But Fassi took the lead with a birdie on 8. Kupcho’s body language began to drop, and it looked like a mini-upset might be in the offing. Fassi led Kupcho by two when the players teed off on Augusta’s famed par-5 13th.
And then, as so often happens at Augusta, magic happened.
Kupcho split the fairway with her tee shot, setting up what should be remembered as the shot of the tournament. She took out a fairway wood and gave it a lash. Her ball tracked the whole way before landing safely on the green and trundling down to about six feet. Just like that, Kupcho’s body language changed. And just like that, she drained the putt to finish off the momentum-swinging eagle.
She stuffed another approach on the par-5 15th to set up a birdie. Then on the par-3 16th, Kupcho drilled a tee shot inside 10 feet and canned the putt. Fassi bogeyed the hole, handing Kupcho a two-shot lead with two holes to play. She slammed the door from there to win the title, capping it in style with a 30-foot birdie on 18 for a 67 and a four-shot victory.
Kupcho’s name will be etched onto the event’s fancy new trophy for posterity, and for an amateur who has already won NCAA Player of the Year honors, it’s a fitting way to cap what is likely the near-end of her amateur career. With the win Kupcho earned a spot in the next five Augusta National Women’s Amateurs, plus spots in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open and British Open. But Kupcho earned an LPGA Tour card at Q-School last fall, and while she hasn’t announced a decision yet, it’s hard to imagine she won’t turn pro in the coming months.
Which means next year, someone else will have a chance to provide their own magic moment on the back nine on Saturday.