Jennifer Kupcho emerged victorious from a three-way playoff with defending champion Nelly Korda and Ireland’s Leona Maguire to claim her second career title at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give on Sunday.

The American got off to a slow start, carding a double bogey on the par-4 third and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. Two birdies and a bogey on the back nine, however, buoyed Kupcho back into contention.

“I struggled a little bit at the beginning, so it tells me I can really come back from it,” said Kupcho. “I’ve always known I’m a back-nine player, and that definitely came into effect today.”

Kupcho’s comeback helped her finish at 18-under 270, matching Korda and Maguire to force a playoff. Korda dropped out of the playoff on the first extra hole after her three-putt par, while Maguire missed her three-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole to secure Kupcho the win.

“I fought my way back on the back nine and snuck into the playoff,” said Korda in her second-straight start since returning from surgery to address a blood clot in her arm. “Unfortunately, sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. If you told me I think three, four months ago when I was in the ER that I would be here I would be extremely happy.”

Sunday’s win marks Kupcho’s second career title, joining her trophy from April at Mission Hills.


RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Jennifer Kupcho, for her first LPGA victory, won the 51st and final Chevron Championship by two strokes at the Dinah Shore Course on Sunday.

Here are five takeaways from the historic moment in women’s golf.

1. A mixed farewell to the Dinah Shore Course

Golf Channel commentator Jerry Foltz welcomed a Chevron executive to the stand during the trophy presentation Sunday. The fans around Poppie’s Pond, in their final act of rebellion, booed the tournament host’s representative in frustration that so much history is being left behind in Rancho Mirage.

No longer will passionate volunteers like 80-year-old Judi Callaway, who makes 1,000 roses a year sitting alongside the 18th fairway, be a constant reminder of the stories of the tournament. Nor will players walk alongside the names of all the past champions of the event, on a path culminating in a statue of Dinah Shore, the tournament’s patron saint.

First tee announcer Ron Gilgallion, who’s called players’ names for the last 24 years, summoned three-time Chevron champion Amy Alcott on Sunday. Alcott started the tradition of the winner leaping into Poppie’s Pond in 1988, and she was on hand to call out the last name ever announced on the first tee, that of last year’s champion, Patty Tavatanakit.

“It’s bittersweet, but I’m glad the LPGA, I’m glad Chevron is stepping in,” Alcott said of the moment. “I’m glad they’re doing whatever they need to do to elevate the tournament for these great players. One door closes, another door opens.”

Judy Rankin, a television broadcasting pioneer, also wrapped up her final tournament working as a lead analyst for Golf Channel. Fans peppered the outskirts of the course with signs acknowledging her history at the course.

Since the event’s inception in 1972, Rankin has been an omniscient presence as both a player and a commentator. She finished tied for second in the inaugural edition of the tournament, which Jane Blalock won, and captured the title herself in 1976.

The Hall of Famer wasn’t willing to write off the LPGA returning to Mission Hills Country Club.

“I might be sticking my foot in my mouth — I believe the best golfers in the game will be back at Mission Hills in some shape or fashion,” Rankin said Sunday as Lexi Thompson walked onto the 18th green.

An hour before Kupcho’s final tap-in putt for victory, past champions Sandra Palmer (1975), Alcott (1983, 1988, 1991), Patty Sheehan (1996) and Patricia Meunier-Lebouc (2003) gathered to take a group winners’ leap into Poppie’s Pond. It served as a culmination of Chevron’s 51 years of history as title sponsor of the tournament.

“As a past champion, it is hard,” Meunier-Lebouc said, “because we have so many memories here, and I think it is an unbelievable tournament venue, people.

“We have to recognize that what the people in the community have done is tremendous. It’s not only what we lose, it’s what the community loses. I have to trust the LPGA and the Chevron people and what they’re doing. They better do a good job. If we go away from here, it has to be something big.”

2. Jennifer Kupcho’s putter delivers Chevron Championship

Kupcho walked to the first tee Sunday with a six-shot lead over Patty Tavatanakit, with her putter delivering 10 makes over 10 feet through the first three rounds.

The trend continued during the final round, with Kupcho making back-to-back birdie putts on the fourth and fifth holes to take the turn with the same six-stroke lead at 17-under par.

The 24-year-old’s momentum stalled briefly with bogeys on 10, 13 and 14. With four holes to go, Kupcho sat at 15-under par, while Jessica Korda, a group ahead of her, hit a bunker shot to two feet above the 15th hole.

After piping a drive down the 15th fairway, Kupcho arrived at her ball with a smile. She had the exact same yardage and pin location as she did when she holed out at this point two years ago.

“To be able to have that, that’s what I thought about, and I think that is what made me hit such a good shot into 15,” Kupcho said.

“Then I was able to just coast in.”

Korda missed her short par look, and Kupcho arrived at the 18th green with cheers of “Jennifer” echoing off Poppie’s Pond.

“One of the biggest things I’ve fought over the last year and a half is everyone is out here cheering for Nelly [Korda] or Lexi [Thompson] or someone else I’m playing with,” Kupcho said after her win. “I don’t ever hear, ‘Go Jennifer.’ That was really special today to have that.”

Three years after Kupcho became the first woman to win at Augusta, when she captured the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019, she walked away Sunday as the last champion at the Dinah Shore Course. The Chevron Championship has been the LPGA’s closest equivalent to the PGA’s Masters at Augusta National, with its 51 years of history.

After Kupcho finished her press conference, she acknowledged the more than 20 girls standing outside the press room calling out, “Jennifer! Jennifer!”

After Kupcho’s performance this weekend, it’s hard to imagine those will be the last chants we hear for her.

3. Lorena Ochoa and founders earn overdue LPGA Hall of Fame induction

Last Tuesday, the LPGA announced it would remove the 10-year requirement for golfers to get into its Hall of Fame, making 27-time winner Lorena Ochoa eligible. The Mexican star is the first from her homeland to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“It’s an honor to receive this recognition,” Ochoa said. “It was unexpected and very special to me.”

The LPGA also granted an honorary bid to the eight founders not currently in the Hall of Fame — Alice Bauer, Bettye Danoff, Helen Dettwiler, Helen Hicks, Opal Hill, Sally Sessions, Marilynn Smith, and Shirley Spork. Spork, 94, was the last remaining and living founder not in the Hall of Fame.

“Getting into the LPGA Hall of Fame is the highest honor ever in our profession, so I’ve climbed the whole ladder and gotten to the top,” Spork said. “I hope I can sit up on that ladder for a few more years and enjoy it.”

Stacy Lewis, the former world No. 1, said last week that she worked behind the scenes to try to make this possible.

“Since Shirley is getting older, we needed to do it before we lose all of our founders,” Lewis said. “They should be in the LPGA Hall of Fame. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Membership expanded from 25 to 34 with the update. Under the new roles, a gold medal won at the Olympics also earns a player a point, retroactively granting points to Inbee Park from 2016 and Nelly Korda from Tokyo last summer.

Still, there are questions about whether the tour went far enough with the changes. Since the turn of the millennia, only five players have passed the 27-point benchmark to earn their way in: Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Inbee Park and Lorena Ochoa.

4. Jin Young Ko’s historic run ends

At the end of the first round Thursday, Ko sat a stroke outside of the cut line with her first over-par card in 35 rounds, marking an LPGA-record 34 straight rounds under par. After battling back with a second-round 68 to make the cut and sit two-under par and seven behind the lead, Ko opened up about how tired she felt after the JTBC Classic.

“I think last week was a tough course, so I used lots of energy on the course, and then [it was] hilly, so my body feels a little tired,” she said Friday.

Ko, the 2021 CME Group Tour Championship winner and LPGA Player of the Year, ended up at even par for a T-53 finish at Mission Hills. The result brought her run of 10 straight top-10 finishes to an end.

Ko hasn’t broken the top 50 now in her last two major starts, with this week’s finish following a T-60 at the Amundi Evian Championship last July. The South Korean said her goal is to accomplish the career grand slam of winning all five majors, and she checked two off the list in 2019: the Chevron Championship and the Amundi Evian Championship.

The World No. 1’s next event, as of now, is the DIO Implant Open in Los Angeles starting April 21.

5. Jessica Korda knocks on the major championship door

While the No. 2 player in the world, Nelly Korda, is out indefinitely with a blood clot, her sister took up the mantle over the weekend. Jessica pushed Kupcho with a Sunday 69 to finish in second, her best result at a major championship. For a brief moment, Korda trailed Kupcho by two with four to play, but she missed a short par putt on the 15th green to fall behind.

“Second place is not bad after being 3-over through 7, so pretty proud of myself,” Korda said.

The Kordas are one of three sister pairs to win on the LPGA, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam, and Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn. The tour, however, has yet to have a pair of sisters win major titles — Annika, Nelly and Ariya are the major champions of the bunch.

Jessica Korda currently has the most victories of any active LPGA player without a major title. With her second-place finish, she’s trending in the direction of making history alongside her sister.

“I’ve always been hungry. If you’re not hungry, you’re in the wrong place,” she said.

“I’ve been close a bunch of times, and sometimes it just needs to be meant to be, and currently it hasn’t been.”

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.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — The 51st and final edition of the Chevron Championship at the Dinah Shore course started with a celebration of the end of the longest-running women’s major.

Jennifer Kupcho shot an eight-under 64 on Saturday, setting the 54-hole tournament scoring record to take a six-stroke lead and sit 18 holes away from her coronation as a major champion.

“Everything was working,” Kupcho said, “I mean seriously, this week I think my putting is definitely the props. I have putted really well, and you got to make putts in a major championship.”

After watching the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in the morning to keep her mind off of what was ahead of her, Kupcho scorched the Coachella Valley. She birdied the second and third holes to move into a three-way tie for the lead at 10-under par alongside Patty Tavatanakit and 36-hole leader Hinako Shibuno. From there, the rout was on.

Kupcho birdied the fourth and fifth holes to make it four birdies in a row, with her 10-foot putt on the sixth narrowly sliding by the low side of the cup and keeping her from extending the streak to five.

Kupcho posted a five-under 31 on the front nine, giving a quick wave to the fans after dropping an eight-footer on the eighth for birdie.

The 2019 August National Women’s Amateur champion continued to pour it on from there, birdieing three in a row on the back nine to pull away at 16-under and threaten the tournament-record 62 Lydia Ko set in the final round last year.

Kupcho carded a birdie, a bogey and four pars the rest of the way to sign her card. The 24-year-old’s 200 total strokes earned her the 54-hole scoring record and bested the previous record of 202 set by Tavatanakit (2021) and Pernilla Lindberg (2018).

Kupcho couldn’t quite pinpoint where this round ranks among her all-time best, but she credited her mental game and her putting for helping her make history.

“It’s all a blur,” Kupcho said, “You’re just out there grinding shot by shot. I think that’s one thing I’ve really done well this week, is taking it shot by shot and not thinking about the end result.”

Instead of sports, Kupcho plans to watch “Bridgerton” ahead of her Sunday afternoon tee time. If she polishes off the victory Sunday, she will become the first American to win the Chevron Championship since Brittany Lincicome in 2015.

Tavatanakit, the defending Chevron champion, sits in second at 10-under par, a bit of a disappointment given how she started the day. The Thai native hit two birdies on the first two holes to get to 10-under with 16 to play. She struggled to maintain her momentum from there, carding three bogeys to fall to six back of the lead.

Tavatanakit will need a near historic comeback to reenter the winner’s circle Sunday. The most strokes a player has overcome to win the Chevron Championship was seven in 2006, when Karrie Webb, the Australian Hall of Famer, holed out for eagle on the 72nd hole to force a playoff against Lorena Ochoa.

Tavatanakit said she was up for the challenge.

“I like chasing,” Tavatanakit said, “Better feeling. You play without fear, and I love doing that.”

If Tavatanakit were to pull it off, she would be the first golfer to defend her title at the Chevron Championship since Annika Sorenstam in 2001 and ’02.

Entering Sunday, Jessica Korda is the only other player within seven strokes of Kupcho. The 29-year-old’s five-under 67 came from a clean front nine, where she went bogey-free for four-under par.

A six-time LPGA winner, Korda has the most victories on tour for a player without a major championship on her resume. Despite the drought, Korda has learned from experience that there is always a chance. She need look no further than last year, when Ko cut into Tavanakit’s 54-hole lead with a final-round 62.

“I was three-over through, like, seven on the first day,” Korda said. “I’m never out of it.”

Shibuno, the leader after 36 holes, said she felt nervous at the start of her third round, especially on her drives and approach shots. The 2019 AIG Women’s Open Champion shot a five-over par 77 on Saturday and sits four-under entering the final round.

“My shots were left, right, to the left,” Shibuno said through her translator. “Tough day today.”

The day concluded with the sun setting over the looming San Jacinto Mountains, giving off purple and yellow hues one last time at the Chevron Championship.

From the LPGA’s 51-year history at the course, the players will remember the swaying palm trees, the burning desert heat and the roars of crowds. And whoever comes out on top Sunday will walk away with their name etched into the final slot of the tournament record books at Dinah Shore.

“I mean, just to be out here, I love this place,” Kupcho said. “I love stepping on this property. You just get positive vibes. It’s such a beautiful course, so I think I’m just taking it all in.”

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.

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.