3 THINGS
Major Events Unfolding Throughout the Game April 8, 2019 By Ron Driscoll, USGA

2018 USA Curtis Cup Team member Jennifer Kupcho captured the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur title. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

The first women’s professional major of 2019 – the ANA Inspiration – went into the record books on Sunday, and the first men’s major of the season takes center stage this week with the 83rd Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.

That also means we are just nine weeks out from the 119th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. The U.S. Open Trophy Tour, presented by Lexus, is kicking into gear with a stop at Monday night’s San Francisco Giants game at Oracle Park. Before 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner takes the mound at 6:45 p.m. PDT, fans can take advantage of a chance to view the names on this iconic trophy.

The Giants’ game against the San Diego Padres is one of 18 stops on the tour, as the U.S. Open Trophy races from the Bay to Breakers to Laguna Seca, en route to Pebble Beach in a 2019 Lexus LX. It kicks off on Monday with an event featuring Hall-of-fame quarterback and Bay Area legend Joe Montana. Learn more here about the tour, as well as an opportunity to win hospitality suite tickets to the U.S. Open, June 10-16 at Pebble Beach.

Here are 3 Things to know about major events unfolding around the game.

Conners Captures Canada’s Attention

The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Wednesday, but on Sunday, Corey Conners gave Canada more reason to watch the Masters, starting on Thursday. The native of Listowel, Ontario, earned the final spot in the Masters field – and his second start at Augusta National – in dramatic fashion, capturing the Valero Texas Open title by two strokes over Charley Hoffman.

Conners, 27, is no stranger to USGA championships, having reached the final of the 2014 U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club, where he lost to Gunn Yang (earning his first Masters berth in the process). One year earlier, in the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., Conners helped to make history by reaching the semifinals. Although he lost to eventual champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, Conners joined Brady Watt and Oliver Goss, both of Australia, and Fitzpatrick, of England, as the only all-international group of semifinalists.

Conners, who has toiled on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, the PGA Tour Canada and the Web.com Tour, only got into the Texas Open by surviving a six-man playoff in the tournament’s Monday qualifying event. His weekend scores of 66-66 gave him his first PGA Tour victory and marked only the fourth win on Tour in the past 40 years by a Monday qualifier (Arjun Atwal in the 2010 Wyndham Championship was the most recent).


No Stopping Ko of Korea at ANA

Jin Young Ko, of the Republic of Korea, became the 15th player from that country to capture at least one women’s professional major championship on Sunday, earning a three-stroke victory over fellow Korean Mi Hyang Lee in the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Ko was already exempt into the 74th U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.) on May 30-June 2, thanks to her 10th-place finish on the 2018 LPGA Tour money list. With Sunday’s victory, she is now exempt into the championship through 2023.
 

She has only gotten better in 2019, having won two weeks ago at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and garnering top-three finishes in five of the six LPGA Tour events she has played this year, including this week. Her run of success has vaulted Ko to the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, which will become official on Monday.

The number 6 also came up big on Sunday at the ANA, as two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kristen Gillman shot a bogey-free, 6-under 66 to earn her first top-10 finish on the LPGA Tour – a tie for sixth place. Among those who finished in the six-way tie with Gillman were fellow two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Danielle Kang and Jeongeun6 Lee, of Korea. Why Jeongeun6? Because Jeongeun considers the number lucky, and she also wants to differentiate herself from the other five players who have competed on the Korean LPGA Tour with the name Jeongeun Lee.

Kupcho’s Augusta Adventure

Jennifer Kupcho knows a bit about Jeongeun6 Lee, having finished one stroke behind her in November at the the LPGA Tour’s Q-Series, a 144-hole marathon. That second-place finish was enough to qualify Kupcho for the LPGA Tour beginning in January, but she opted to remain an amateur and complete her college career at Wake Forest.

That decision allows Kupcho – the No. 1 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ – a chance to defend her NCAA individual title in May, and it also allowed her to compete last weekend in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, a 54-hole event with the final 18 at Augusta National.

Kupcho overcame a mid-round migraine headache to play her final six holes on Saturday at Augusta National in 5 under and outlast Maria Fassi of Mexico, a fellow college senior (University of Arkansas), and add another impressive accomplishment to her amateur career. Along with her NCAA title, Kupcho, of Westminster, Colo., helped the USA earn a 17-3 victory over Great Britain & Ireland in last year’s Curtis Cup Match, the most lopsided in its 40 playings.

Interestingly, Fassi also competed in the LPGA’s Q-Series event last fall, finishing 32nd and joining Kupcho in opting to defer her LPGA Tour dream to July 1, 2019. Sometimes, to contradict late rocker Tom Petty, the waiting is not the hardest part.

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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