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Jennifer Kupcho shows off vast potential at Chevron Championship

Jennifer Kupcho hits her tee shot on the eighth hole at the Chevron Championship on Thursday. (Harry How/Getty Images)

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — For the second time in just over a month, Jennifer Kupcho is partnering up.

Six weeks after getting married in mid-February, the American polished a six-under par 66 in the opening round of the Chevron Championship to sit tied for the lead with Minjee Lee entering Friday. Kupcho got there grouped alongside Solheim Cup teammate and close friend Lizette Salas, who attended her wedding in mid-February. After hugging on the 18th hole, Salas asked Kupcho to be her teammate at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the LPGA Tour’s team event in July, writing the question on her scorecard.

Kupcho immediately accepted, and the friends walked arm-in-arm to the scorer’s tent.

“After that performance,” Salas said, “I’m not going to miss an opportunity to ask her.”

Kupcho’s work with her other partner, husband Jay Monahan, who caddies on the LPGA Tour, fueled her nine-birdie performance Thursday, including four consecutive birdies from the 11th to the 14th holes. During their training, they focused on making sure Kupcho takes her putter straight back and through, compared to when she used to cut across the ball, to attain more consistent results.

“I have been working on my putting a lot,” Kupcho explained. “I mean, as everyone in the world says, my putting is not my strong suit.”

She took advantage of the pure greens of the Dinah Shore course Thursday with 24 putts, matching her career-low from the first round at the 2021 ISPS Handa World Invitational and the second round of the 2019 Taiwan Swinging Skirts.

“I think it’s just being comfortable on this golf course,” Kupcho said, “I get here and I just feel comfortable. I love this place. Then getting to play with Lizette, who is my good friend, it was just all comfortable and really fun.”

The golfers’ camaraderie was on display for the entire round. On the 16th hole, Salas, who averages 18 yards less off the tee than Kupcho, outdrove her by a couple of yards. Salas turned to the gallery and said, “Hey, I just outdrove her,” to laughter and applause from the fans, and she remained jovial while shooting two-over par Thursday.

When they partnered together at the Solheim Cup, Salas, known for her putting ability, trusted Kupcho with reading the greens at Inverness.

On Thursday, the greens and the scenery of the Dinah Shore course also comforted Kupcho during her opening round. The layout and looming San Jacinto mountain range remind the 24-year-old of the desert golf in Colorado, where she grew up, and in Arizona, where she lives now.

“Just to see the same kind of grass and everything like that,” Kupcho said, “it’s just a comfort for me.”

Even after she missed the cut last week at the JTBC Classic, the pressure of major championships brings out Kupcho’s best. Salas, who described Kupcho at the Solheim Cup as someone with ice water in her veins, sees her fiery approach as what drives her success.

“She was a core of our team, our duo, and we complement each other very well,” Salas said. “She’s a fierce competitor. You can just tell. She hates making bogey. She just bounces back right after. That’s just how she is.”

Kupcho’s competitiveness has fueled her at some of the most significant events in women’s golf. In 2019, Kupcho outlasted 2019 individual NCAA Champion Maria Fassi at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Then, Kupcho blitzed up the leaderboard with a closing 66 at the 2019 Evian Championship, the fourth major on the LPGA calendar, to finish tied for second in the best major performance of her career. In Kupcho’s first Solheim Cup last summer, she went 2-0-1 in team play alongside Salas.

Now, as she sits atop the leaderboard entering Day 2 at the Chevron Championship, she’s in a position to contend to become the first American to win the event since Brittany Lincicome in 2015.

“I admire her,” Salas said. “Even though I’m a ten-year veteran, she’s someone I admire. Her game is awesome. It’s on point.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

San Diego Wave Parts Ways With Head Coach Casey Stoney

ex-wave fc head coach casey stoney in 2023
Casey Stoney joined Wave FC in 2022 from the WSL's Manchester United. (Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)

San Diego Wave FC announced on Monday that the organization has parted ways with head coach Casey Stoney. 

The announcement comes amid a seven-game winless streak for the Wave. Stoney joined San Diego from WSL side Manchester United a few months before their inaugural season, winning the 2022 NWSL Coach of the Year Award that same year. She went on to lead the expansion team to two trophies in three years. 

Just this past January, the club agreed to a multi-year contract extension that kept Stoney with the club through 2027, with a mutual option for 2028. 

Despite their prior success, San Diego currently sits ninth in the NWSL standings, one point out of playoff contention. Their last win came on May 8th, having most recently played to a scoreless draw against Houston over the weekend to cap off a three-game road trip. 

"We are immensely grateful to Casey for her commitment to our club and the positive impact she has had both on and off the pitch,” Wave president and former USWNT manager Jill Ellis said in an official team statement. "Over the past seasons, Casey has guided us to significant milestones, and her contributions have been instrumental in laying a strong foundation on which to build.

"The decision to part ways was very hard and not made in haste, but given the ambition of this club, and where we are in our season, we felt a change was necessary at this time."

The staffing change comes a little less than two weeks after the Wave brought on former Kansas City Current general manager Camille Ashton. Ashton resigned from her position with Kansas City in May of this year.

On Tuesday, Ellis commented that Stoney is "self aware" and called her a "complete professional."

"I don’t think you have to have a conversation when it comes to know where they are, she knew,” she said. “I think Casey knew results matter. Casey’s ambitious. And was she happy with where we were? Of course not.

"I think a coach also understands that sometimes this is the nature of the beast of coaching. It’s tough and hard at times."

Kansas City, Orlando Raise the NWSL Bar With Weekend Wins

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda in action during a NWSL match against Seattle Reign
Banda registered a brace on Sunday, bringing her NWSL total to 10 goals in just 10 games. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Pride star Barbra Banda continued on her historic NWSL trajectory this weekend, scoring twice in Orlando’s 6-0 win over Utah on Friday. 

She’s the first NWSL player to register 10 goals in their first 10 league appearances. It was also her fourth brace this season, and marked her first goals in two games after her first multi-game scoring drought.

"For me when I have an opportunity and a chance, I have to take it wisely," Banda said in her postgame remarks. "When I get a chance, I have to put the ball in the back of the net. If any game I didn’t score, I just have to go to my drawing board and work hard so that in the next game so I can find a goal."

Meanwhile, Kansas City also kept up their winning ways, beating Portland 4-1 behind a brace from midfielder Lo'eau Labonta on Sunday.

Later that day, the Washington Spirit, who sit just a point behind KC in third place, topped fourth-place Gotham FC in a decisive 2-0 victory.

And after drawing with Seattle, eighth-place Louisville has 16 points on the season — representing a growing gap between the league’s top and bottom teams. Bringing up the bottom of the ladder, both Seattle and Utah have yet to surpass 10 points this year.

Sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson Punches Ticket at US Olympic Track & Field Trials

Sha'Carri Richardson poses with her gold medal after winning the women's 100 meter final at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Track & Field Trials
Sha'Carri Richardson punched her ticket to Paris on Saturday by winning the 100-meter dash at the US Track & Field Trails. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Sha’Carri Richardson has punched her ticket to the Paris Olympics after finishing first in 100-meter final at the US Olympic Track & Field Trials over the weekend. 

Her time — 10.71 — sets a record as the fastest time in the world this year. After finishing, she dropped to one knee and bent her head to savor the moment.

"Definitely still confidence, still my exciting normal self, but more so overwhelmed with just emotions of joy," Richardson said of her post-race celebration. "I know that the hard work I've put into, not just physically on the track but as well as mentally and emotionally to grow into the mature young lady that I am today and that I'm going to grow into was a full-fledged surreal moment for me to actually embrace and be able to show to the world and on the track."

It was a statement-making turn in a comeback story that saw Richardson disqualified from the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC after that year's Olympic Trials.

"Everything I've been through is everything I have been through to be in this moment right now," Richardson said. "There's nothing I've been through that hasn't designed me to sit right here in front of you to answer this question."

Now, Richardson is expected to bring home some hardware from Paris, having grown into one of the greatest sprinters in the world. She won the 100-meter and 4x100-meter relay events at the World Championships last summer. And before this year's Olympic Trials conclude, she’ll look to also qualify for the 200-meter event. 

"In the past three years, I've grown a better understanding of myself, a deeper respect and appreciation for my gift that I have in the sport, as well as my responsibility to the people that believe in and support me," Richardson said. "I feel like all of those components have helped me grow and will continue to help me grow into the young lady that I have been divined and by God been blessed to be."

Rookie Angel Reese Shines in Sky’s Tight Win Over Fever

WNBA star Angel Reese of the Chicago Sky shoots a free throw during the game against the Indiana Fever
Angel Reese posted a career-high 25 points and 16 rebounds in the Sky's comeback win over Indiana. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty are now the top team in the WNBA, leading the league with a franchise-best 15-3 start to the season. 

Breanna Stewart leads the team in points (19.9), while Jonquel Jones leads in rebounds (8.7), and Sabrina Ionescu in assists (6.4). On Sunday, Ionescu had her fifth career game with 25+ points and 10+ assists.

Meanwhile, Connecticut stumbled over the weekend, suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season. They’re now tied for second in the league with a 13-3 record. 

Las Vegas's win over Connecticut began a two-win run for the reigning league champs, who look to regain their rhythm with the return of starting point guard Chelsea Gray. The team also became the first team in WNBA history to sell out all of its regular season home games. 

"I do think that the growth is just the beginning," Aces chief operating and chief financial officer Matt Delsen when asked about the surging ticket sales. "And I think that, you know, the viewership can and is going to continue to grow because these athletes are the best in the world at what they do."

On Sunday, the Chicago Sky got the tight 88-87 win over Indiana while Angel Reese posted a career-high 25 points and 16 rebounds in the win. Caitlin Clark was also impressive despite the loss, scoring 17 points and a franchise-record 13 assists, as well as six rebounds and four steals. 

"This is what I do: I come out and perform," Reese said after the game. "I do what it takes to win every single day."

A number of celebrities were spotted enjoying the matchup inside Wintrust Arena, including Chance the Rapper, Jason Sudeikis, Sheryl Swoopes, and Knicks star Jalen Brunson. 

"It's good for the game, good for women's basketball, but also good for women's sports," Reese said of the buzzy crowd. "You see NBA players, rappers, legends that played in the league for a great long time come out and show support. You know everybody's watching right now.

"I think this is one of the most important times right now, and we just continue to keep putting on. I think both teams tonight did an amazing job putting on a show. It was fun. I had a great time, I'm sure the other team had a great time. I'm just happy we won tonight."

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