Gillian Vance, USGA P.J. Boatwright Jr. Intern Interviews Jennifer Kupcho

Jennifer Kupcho started from a humble beginning and worked her way to the top the golf world; if you don’t know her name by now, you will soon. The LPGA Rookie is starting her first season as a professional golfer and is a force to be reckoned. Kupcho won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April and won the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship. Those victories, though extremely prestigious, don’t even scratch the surface of all of the accomplishments this young woman has achieved. One must wonder, “What kind of drive and focus must it take to reach this level?”

In an interview on August 9, 2019, the up-and-coming golfer explained her history with the game. “I have been playing since I was five years old and played my first tournament when I was seven.” Kupcho had help entering the game, as her family was involved in golf as well.

Kupcho grew up competing in the Colorado Junior Golf Association; participating in regular season tournaments and making a name for herself in the community. Ed Oldham, a teaching professional in Denver, Colorado has been her coach since a young age and has helped greatly with her development. Kupcho continues to receive instruction from Oldham to this day.

When it came time to think about a collegiate career, Kupcho had many options. However, her choice resided in North Carolina at Wake Forest University.

“Wake was just the best fit because it’s small, the practice facility is right on campus, and the weather is really good. It definitely got me out of my box and helped me out a lot.”

However, collegiate golf was no walk-in-the-park. Between practice, travel, a full-time academic schedule and finding time to relax – time-management became an essential skill. Kupcho’s time competing in the collegiate sphere prepared her for the experiences to come post-graduation.

I asked Jennifer to walk me through a day in the life of an LPGA Tour professional and her immediate response sounded nothing short of hectic.

“Oh man,” she exclaimed, “Well, I would say if I am just at home, I wake up and go workout first and then go practice. Practice depends on how I am feeling as well as the weather, but I will probably be out there starting at 10-11:00am either playing or practicing at least until dinner time.” Kupcho put the emphasis on “at least.”

“When I am out on Tour, I usually travel on Mondays and then go to the course to really get a lay of the land, register and hit a few balls.” Kupcho explained that being a rookie and showing up at these big events can be a bit overwhelming.

“I try to fit a workout in depending on what my day looks like, either before or after.” Kupcho elaborated on what her workouts consist of, “I pretty much do cardio and core,” she laughed, “I hate lifting weights, it’s awful!”

When it comes to superstitions, Kupcho mentioned just one you can catch any time you watch her on TV. Her nails will be painted perfectly.

Not only is she deeply committed to her nail décor, but the types of golf clubs she uses as well. “I have been using PING golf clubs my whole life.” The partnership with PING only made sense for the rookie due to her impenetrable trust in and loyalty to the brand. After all, why change something that’s worked well for 17 years?

With her nails painted, PING equipment in her bag and the great support system at home, Kupcho was able to grasp a T-2 finish just three weeks ago at one of the five LPGA Majors, the Evian Championship.

“I mean, I don’t think there were really many nerves because there were really no expectations, so I think that kind of helped relax me,” she remarked, “Whatever happens, happens. I am just going to go out there and play my best.” Playing with a focused, yet happy-go-lucky attitude has proven successful for the young golfer, even under the most pressured circumstances.

“I have learned that in golf, you really can’t play defensive. I go out there with a goal of what I want to shoot for myself. It’s kind of more of a competition against myself, instead of against other people.”

When it comes to future aspirations for the talented young woman, she understandably explained that she is taking things day-by-day for the time being. “It’s hard to get time to think right now.”

Kupcho juggles a heavy schedule and is just settling into the LPGA Tour lifestyle. It’s no wonder down time might be tough to come by.

It isn’t easy to comprehend the difference between the top one percent of golfers (men and women) and the rest. At a certain point, the difference becomes less tangible and more abstract. It is not something that one can pick out in a swing, but more of an aura that the athletes radiate in the heat of the moment. Some have what it takes and some don’t. Jennifer Kupcho proved this natural radiance of talent from a young age. She grew up as a big fish in a small pond in Colorado, but through the years, it has become apparent that she will become a big fish in any pond she encounters.

By the Numbers-

17 -Years playing golf

48 -Collegiate events

1 -Hole-In-One


U.S. Mid-Amateur Qualifying

The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship is set for action next month at Colorado Golf Club and four players earned their spot in the field at Moon Valley Country Club on Tuesday.  Sean O’Donnell, Mike Davidson, Tim Beans and Darren Fletcher will gear up to play in Parker, Colorado this September.

Sean O’Donnell fired a crowd-pleasing 66 to earn medalist honors and a spot in the field for his second consecutive year. O’Donnell, elaborated on his impressive round after the qualifier was set in stone. “At these one-day qualifiers you have to get it going early,” he explained concerning his slow start to the day. “Luckily, I knocked it on the green on number 3, made birdie and never looked back from there.” Not only did the 32-year-old kick it up a notch, but he continued to play the par fives at 5-under par for the rest of his round.

A fire was lit under O’Donnell after getting a taste of the USGA Mid-Amateur in 2018. He missed match-play by one shot and is setting his sights on a new goal and strategy for this year. “Instead of watching the cut-line for match-play, I’m just going to go out there and shoot the lowest score I can.”

There was a four-way tie for second place at 68, forcing a four-for-three sudden-death playoff between Mike Davidson, Tim Beans, Darren Fletcher, and Matt Neils. After the first hole, Davidson, Beans, and Fletcher earned their tickets to the championship. Neils and Mark Ewing will serve as first and second alternates.

Colorado Golf Club is making its championship debut this year, as it is the course’s first time hosting a USGA event. This will be the 39th US Mid-Amateur, the first originating in 1981. The age limits for the championship are 25 and older as well as a player’s handicap is to not exceed 3.2.

Full Results: Click Here


U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Qualifier

The USGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Qualifier has concluded and left us with four qualifiers to send to the championship at Forest Highlands Golf Club, in Flagstaff, AZ on September 14-19, 2019. Kim Eaton, who is no stranger to USGA championships, earned the qualifying medalist title with a score of 73. Mari Meizwa and Thuhashina Selvaratnam tied for second place and will be competing in the championship alongside fourth-place qualifier Katerina Prorokova.

It was a heart-racing start for medalist, Kim Eaton, as she made 3 birdies in her first five holes. Eaton found herself three-over-par after 12 holes, but fortunately took the wheel again finding two more birdies in her remaining six holes. After the sweltering-hot round, Eaton explained, “It seems like I like this golf course. I play it well, even though I haven’t played a course this long in some time now.”

This will be the seventh U.S. Mid-Amateur that Eaton has competed in after taking a seven-year break from the qualifying due to medical reasons. “This is the first Mid-Am I have attempted to play in since 2012; that was my last one.” Eaton explained, “I couldn’t walk. I just got the medical exemption two years ago.”

Mari Meizwa and Thuhashina Selvaratnam  bagged the second and third qualifying spot after carding an 6-over 78. With a 7-over 79,  Katerina Prorokova snagged the final qualifying spot.

To compete in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Am means a great deal, specifically because Arizona is the host state of the championship. The tournament location is just a hop, skip, and jump north in beautiful Flagstaff Arizona, at Forest Highlands Golf Club. The championship site last hosted a USGA event in 2014 for the U.S. Girl’s Junior Amateur. The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur originated in 1987, allowing women who were 25+ years of age and with a handicap of 9.4 or better to play.


Full Results: Click Here


Charlie Beljan Wins 76th Arizona Open Championship

Hometown Boy Charlie Beljan Captures the 76th Arizona Open

by: Southwest Section PGA

GOLD CANYON, Ariz. – August 7, 2019  – Charlie Beljan has played golf at the highest level on the PGA Tour with a victory and a runner-up finish but there was one tournament he always wanted to win – the Arizona Open. The wait is over as Beljan fired a 7-under-par 65 in the final round and outlasted fellow native Arizonans Zach Smith by one stroke and Michael Feagles by two at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club.

“I’ve always wanted to win the Arizona Open being born and raised here in the state,” said Beljan. “There are some great past champions names on the trophy and I’m honored to be able to have my name on it now. It’s something I’m really proud of and couldn’t be happier to get this win.”

Beljan, 34, from Mesa, Ariz., began the final round two shots behind second round leader Smith. With 18 players within five shots of the lead starting the day, Beljan knew he needed to get off to a fast start and keep it going. With birdies on the first three holes and five birdies over his first seven holes, Beljan went from the hunter to the hunted.

“I got off to a dream start today birdying the first three holes,” Beljan said. “Starting two back of the lead you can’t ask for much more than that. After I birdied five of the first seven holes I tried to keep the pedal down. I didn’t want to know what anyone was doing and wanted to just play my own game.”

Smith, 23, from Phoenix, was in the final group, one behind Beljan, and was keeping tabs on what was happening in front of him. He also got off to a good start picking up two shots over his first four holes, including an eagle on the par-5 second hole.

As both players made the turn, Beljan maintained his one stroke lead over Smith, which never got higher than two for the duration of the back nine.

“I was watching the scores and saw that I was one shot behind Charlie pretty much the whole day,” said Smith. “As I was running out of holes I tried to play a little more aggressively but nothing too crazy where I would put myself in real trouble.”

About six groups and an hour ahead of Beljan and Smith was 21-year-old amateur Feagles who began the day at 5-under par for the Championship. The senior-to-be on the men’s golf team at the University of Illinois was tied for 19th and knew he had some work to do if he was going to put himself in contention.

“I was 6-under through 11 holes yesterday and squandered that one away,” said Feagles. “That put a little fuel in my stomach for today and I wanted to come out and shoot a real low one.”

If 9-under-par 63 is a “real low one” then Feagles accomplished his goal. After making the turn with a 5-under-par 31 that included four birdies, a bogey and an eagle, Feagles made consecutive birdies at Nos. 13-15 and had a chance at No. 18 for his second eagle of the day and his career low round.

“I was trying to get to 15-under; that was my mentality and in my head all day,” said Feagles who like Beljan and Smith, was born and raised in Arizona. “I thought 15-under could have a good chance to win or at least get me in a playoff. I had the chip on 18 to get to that and lipped it out unfortunately. I really wanted that one to go because 63 ties my tournament low round so 62 would have been awesome to set a new career low for me.”

Feagles, the 2017 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and three-time All-Big Ten First Team (2017, 2018, 2019), shot up 16 spots on the leaderboard to third place and the waiting game began hoping his 14-under total would be good enough for at least a playoff if Beljan and Smith had a misstep.

Beljan birdied Nos. 13 and 14 and parred the remaining holes coming in for the 65, and after signing his scorecard, headed to No. 18 to watch Smith finish.

After a birdie at No. 13 and pars at Nos. 14-17, Smith knew he needed an eagle on the par-5 18th to match Beljan and force the sudden-death playoff. He hit a great drive down the middle and his approach shot to the fringe at the 18th green. Knowing the chip would have to drop for the eagle, Smith gave it a great run but left the shot just inches short of the hole. He tapped in for birdie and Beljan breathed a sigh of relief as the one title he really wanted was now his.

“It doesn’t matter the level, winning any tournament is great but this one is very special to me being the Arizona Open,” said Beljan. “If it was another state open it would be great but to win my home state open is really something I’ve always wanted to do and I can’t wait to see that trophy in my house and return next year as the defending champion.”

With the victory Beljan becomes only the second person (Jim Carter) in the history of both events to win the Arizona Amateur Championship (2006) and the Arizona Open Championship.

Feagles, who was recently honored by the Golf Coaches Association of America as a PING All-America Honorable Mention, took home Low Amateur honors, finishing third behind Beljan and Smith.

“It was awesome to finally be able to play in the Arizona Open,” said Feagles. “I haven’t been able to play in the past due to the dates and my college schedule but when I saw the dates this year I was super pumped. I remember watching Charlie when I was in high school, knowing he was an Arizona guy and I was cheering for him. To lose to him I’ll look back on one day and see it was pretty cool because he’s such a great player.”

Feagles’ 63 is a record for the final round, which he bested by two strokes. It was also the low round of the 76th Arizona Open Championship.

Smith finished second in his first event as a professional and took home $10,000 for the runner-up finish.

“All things considered, I’m pretty happy with the outcome,” said Smith following the round. “In my first tournament as a pro and with the level of players in the field I’m pleased at what I was able to do this week and where I was able to finish.”

Beljan earned $16,000 for the victory in one of the deepest fields ever to compete in the Arizona Open Championship.

“The level of talent here is legit,” said Beljan. “This week I shot 16-under and 200 total and won by only one shot – and I had to play some great golf just to do that. We had the Low Amateur (Feagles) shoot 63 today so the field top to bottom is very deep. These kids are coming out younger, better and fearless. It was a good week with a lot of great players and I managed to come out on top.”

Past champions Craig Hocknull, 44, from Gilbert, Ariz., tied for sixth and Brian Cooper, 52, from Phoenix, finished tied for ninth.

Long-time Southwest PGA Partner PING is the presenting sponsor of the 76th Arizona Open Championship. Their support helped raise this year’s purse to the highest level since 2008.

About The Arizona Open Championship:
The Arizona Open Championship is a 54-hole, state open golf tournament open to both professional and amateur golfers nationwide. Administered by the Southwest PGA, the Arizona Open and has roots dating back to the inaugural event held in 1937. This historical championship has been held annually since 1953 and boasts an impressive list of past champions including Johnny Bulla, Dale Douglas and Curt Byrum. Place-winners from qualifying events conducted throughout the month of July, along with those players exempt from qualifying, finalized the Championship field of 156 competitors.

About The Southwest Section PGA:
The Southwest Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in Arizona and Southern Nevada who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Southwest PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, junior golf programs and events, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With 1284 members and associate Professionals, the Southwest PGA is the fifth largest of the 41 regional entities or Sections that comprise the PGA of America.  For more information about the Southwest PGA, please visit our website and join us on social media at Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.


Fitzpatrick Collects Second Arizona Women’s State Stroke Play Title

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ.- Mikayla Fitzpatrick added a second title to her trophy case after winning the Arizona Women’s State Stroke Play Championship. Trailing by three shots heading into the final round, Fitzpatrick’s consistency helped her capture a second title.

The 2019 Xavier University graduate hit the ground running with two birdies on her first five holes. Carding a 38 on the back nine, Fitzpatrick finished with a solid 1-over par 72 for the day, one stroke ahead of Ariana Macioce and Courtney Vogel. She concluded the tournament with a three-day total of 216 (71, 73, 72).

“Honestly, there was really no secret, just fighting every shot, trying to hit the best you can, and scrambling out pars and birdies when you can.” The talented golfer explained more about what went well in her round. “I hit my driver pretty good today, I didn’t really have much trouble with the desert.”

The 2019 champion is gearing up for LPGA Tour Qualifying School at Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, California next week, in hopes of earning her LPGA Tour card. This AGA Women’s Stroke Play victory should send Fitzpatrick off to Q-School with an extra boost of confidence. There is no doubt the fierce competitor will perform with grace and composure, just as she did this week.

“I love this tournament and I love playing in it. It’s always run really well and I love all the people who help out here. It has been really nice getting to know them as well as all the competitors. It’s super fun playing with a bunch of college players that I grew up playing in junior golf tournaments with.”

Sue Clinch claimed the Overall Net Championship title for the Arizona Women’s State Stroke Play. Clinch shot a net score of 210 over three days of the tournament to secure her victory. She tied with Rebecca Red Horse at three-under and won in the USGA scorecard playoff.

When asked her secret to success, Clinch responded, “I trusted my shots well, went for everything I could and I just got lucky. It was a good day and a good three days.”