Impending Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Jennifer Kupcho looks to get back on the winning track as 2024 LPGA Tour season awaits
By Gary Baines – 1/15/2024
Once the sports mountaintop has largely been reached — which is no small feat — the next trick is staying there.
Such was the situation Colorado native Jennifer Kupcho faced in the middle of 2022.
Kupcho had accomplished a remarkable amount in a short period. She made her first LPGA Tour victory a major by winning the Chevron Championship in the early spring of 2022. And, in a matter of just 15 weeks, she had three LPGA wins to her credit.
That left the Jefferson Academy graduate No. 9 in the Rolex women’s world rankings — very close to the mountaintop for females in the game.
But the desire to keep up — or surpass — the other players on that mountaintop may very well have led instead to a bit of a regression.
“I kind of struggled after I won my three events in 2022,” Kupcho said in a recent phone interview. “I made a switch of golf clubs, which I probably shouldn’t have done. … I think (I) was kind of overthinking it, trying to improve my game too quickly — trying to keep up with everybody else. It just kind of backfired, so I’ve kind of gone back to my fundamentals with the clubs I had played a couple of years with (and won with), which was kind of important. I took a step back and figured out what I needed to do to get back to where I was.”
The 2023 season was by no means a poor one for Kupcho, a three-time CGA Women’s Player of the Year. The former longtime Westminster resident posted two top-10 finishes — including a runner-up in a playoff with former amateur phenom Rose Zhang — and finished 39th on the LPGA money list. She was first on tour in eagles made (12), 14th in birdies (302) and eighth in greens in regulation (74.5 percent). On the other hand, her putting average ranked 137th (30.46 average per round).
It’s just that the 2023 season wasn’t nearly as outstanding as what Kupcho accomplished in 2022.
“I felt that pressure at the end of the 2022 season after I had won three times,” she said. “(I thought) ‘My game is here; why am I not playing good anymore?’ So I definitely had that pressure last year. But I did take second (after) getting into a playoff. That shows that my game was there. I didn’t succeed in winning that tournament but I was able to get into that playoff. That really helped boost my confidence for the rest of the season.”
Kupcho is looking to add LPGA career victory No. 4. (Photo: @jenniferkupcho X account)
And now comes the fresh slate that is the 2024 LPGA Tour season. By virtue of her wins in 2022, Kupcho will open the year Thursday through Sunday in Orlando at the Hilton Garden Vacations Tournament of Champions, which features a field of 36.
“I’m really excited to get going,” said Kupcho, currently ranked No. 42 in the world among women. “I actually took quite a bit of time off this offseason — I took a whole month off actually — but I’m excited to get back going. It’s been great having the time off and being able to take a mental break. But when I started back practicing the first of the year, I was very excited and ready to go. I went out and played nine holes because I was ready to go and excited about it. My mindset is where it needs to be and I’m excited for sure.”
The 26-year-old said that from the CME Group Tour Championship, which concluded on Nov. 19, through Jan. 1, she only hit only 20-30 shots — total, at two sponsor outings.
“Other than that, I did not touch my clubs,” she said.
“I felt I really needed the time off,” Kupcho said. “I was starting to get a little burned out at the end of the year. The last couple events of the season I was like, ‘I’m going to take this time off,’ and that really (helped) me be able to finish strong in those last two or three events (she posted top-30 showings in her final two tournaments). I was able to play and have fun doing it, knowing I was going to get a whole month off. I stuck to it.
“Golf is such a mental game and it’s such a grueling sport. We’re playing all the time — so many weeks in a row and so many weeks in a year that it’s super important to get excited to go out on the course every day.”
There’s much to look forward to for Kupcho in 2024. She said she’ll play about 25 tournaments, with the majors being the big highlights. That includes the AIG Women’s Open, which will be contested Aug 22-25 at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.
Beyond that, Kupcho hopes to make the U.S. Solheim Cup team for the third straight time, with this year’s event set for Sept. 13-15 in Gainesville, Va. Another goal is to make the American squad for the women’s Olympic golf competition, scheduled for Aug. 7-10 in Paris.
Kupcho is currently No. 10 in the U.S. Solheim Cup standings. Twelve players will make the team, but only the top seven in the standings as of Aug. 25 will receive automatic berths. The other spots will be via the Rolex world rankings (2) and captain’s picks (3) by Stacy Lewis.
Kupcho led the LPGA Tour in eagles made in 2023. (Photo: @jenniferkupcho X account)
Asked about her goals for 2024, Kupcho said, “I’d definitely like to win another tournament. Another goal is to get on the Solheim Cup (team). I’m not super high on the points list for Solheim so I think that’s a goal that’s necessary to set.
“I can’t just sit back and expect that Stacy is going to pick me if I’m not up in the rankings. It’s important to show that I can still play, that I can follow up a good season from 2022 with a couple of strong seasons.”
As for the Olympics, that’s an even steeper hill to climb for Kupcho — a maximum of four Americans will qualify — but it’s still a priority.
“It would definitely be super special to represent the country,” she said. “The Olympics is such a big deal where really the whole world comes together. It’s always an honor to represent the U.S. whether it’s in the Solheim or anything else. To do it in the Olympics, that’s the biggest thing you can play in. It definitely would be really special.
“If I have a good year, I definitely could get into the Olympics USA team. That’s a goal — maybe a little far-fetched goal — but it’s in the back of my mind.”
Kupcho is certainly no stranger to representing the U.S. in international events. Besides competing in two Solheim Cups, the former NCAA individual champion and inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur winner helped American teams win the Curtis Cup, the Arnold Palmer Cup and the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship.
With all Kupcho has accomplished as an amateur and a pro — her first pro victory came at the 2020 Inspirato Colorado Women’s Open — a couple of big honors came her way last year. First, she was named the Sportswoman of the Year (for 2022, regardless of sport) by the Sportswomen of Colorado. Then she was voted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, becoming, at age 26, almost certainly the youngest inductee in the history of the organization. The induction will take place at a date and site to be determined later this year.
“It’s super exciting,” Kupcho said of the impending induction. “It’s a really big honor to get into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. To do it so young, it’s definitely a big honor. Colorado has always been my home — and it’s who I represent. Colorado shows up for me out on tour. It’s really exciting to be in the Hall of Fame and represent Colorado.”
These days, after a stellar college career at Wake Forest, Kupcho continues to live in Mesa, Ariz. But she and her husband, Jay Monahan, are expanding their home horizons. In October, they purchased a house in Iowa, a state where Monahan grew up. Specifically, it’s in Des Moines, where they’ll spend warm-weather months (when they aren’t traveling). They’ll stay in Arizona during the colder months.
“We’re pretty excited for that next chapter,” Kupcho said. “Being able to practice all times of the year in pretty decent weather instead of in the heat of the Arizona summer … And we have a bunch of friends there (in Des Moines).”
While Kupcho didn’t win on the LPGA Tour last year, Jay Monahan did — as a caddie. He loops for Allisen Corpuz, who won the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
“It was really fun to watch him do that,” Kupcho said. “I wasn’t there for it (she missed the cut in the Women’s Open), but it was exciting.”
Kupcho (right) played in a Solheim Cup four-ball match with U.S. Open champ Allisen Corpuz (center), whose caddie is Kupcho’s husband, Jay Monahan (left).
In fact, Kupcho and Corpuz (with Monahan caddying) partnered for a four-ball match during the 2023 Solheim Cup in Spain, earning a tie.
As for Kupcho herself, she’ll be working with caddie Patrick Smith for a second straight year in 2024. It was Smith who suggested, when Kupcho was hitting her drive a bit astray last year, that she should consider returning to the driver she used with so much success in the first seven months of 2022.
Meanwhile, another person on Kupcho’s team also remains intact as she continues to work with her longtime instructor, Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Ed Oldham.
As for Kupcho’s family, her mom and dad, Mike and Janet Kupcho, now live in Delta, Colorado, southeast of Grand Junction. And Jennifer’s brother, Steven, the 2012 CGA Player of the Year, Steven now lives about 40 minutes from Jennifer, in Cave Creek, Ariz., with his wife and young daughter. He works in the insurance business.
“Being able to spend time with (Jennifer’s niece) — and see him become a dad — has been really fun,” Jennifer said.
About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com