By SCOTT COTTOS
SYLVANIA — It was a matter of first things first for Jennifer Kupcho.
“I was just trying to make the cut, and then once I made the cut, (I was) kind of just thinking to double my score, hopefully to get to six under,” the 21-year-old amateur from Westminster, Colorado, said after her third round in the Marathon Classic on Saturday at Highland Meadows Golf Club. “Now I’m eight-under, so I’ll just go out and play my best tomorrow and see what I can do.”
After entering Sunday’s final round eight under par at 205 and three shots behind leader Brooke Henderson, Kupcho shot an even-par 71.
It wasn’t nearly enough to win on a day that saw Thailand’s Thidapa Suwannapura rally from three behind and then top Brittany Lincicome on the first playoff hole to claim her second career title.
But Kupcho, a rising senior at Wake Forest who received a sponsor’s exemption into the Marathon Classic after winning this year’s individual NCAA championship, wasn’t about to feel let down after ending up in a tie for 16th place.
“It was good,” she said. “I didn’t quite finish up today like I wanted to, but I’m out here competing with them and that’s just a great experience. I learned a lot this week.”
Her biggest lesson had nothing to do with the technicalities of playing the game.
“I think just, like, kind of realizing how hard it is out here,” Kupcho said of the learning experience. “Coming off my week at the Palmer Cup in France and then playing this week, it’s crazy how the pros can play every week and play so well. So, I just kind of learned that and what I need to do.”
It’s not as though Kupcho entered the tournament blind to the sport’s highest level.
She played in the 2016 and 2017 U.S. Women’s Opens before gaining her sponsor’s exemption for the Marathon Classic via her victory in the NCAA tournament at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
“I think it’s helped a lot just because it’s given me that confidence that I can do it at that level and come to this level and do the same thing,” said Kupcho, who plans to return to play for the Demon Deacons but also attempt to qualify for the tour in the fall.
It could have been heady stuff for her to think about trying to chase down Henderson, the world’s 16th-ranked player, but she did what she could to keep that from happening.
“I was trying not to think about it,” she said.
“I can’t really control what everyone else was doing, so I just focused on what I could do.”
BREAK TIME: The Marathon Classic was the last LPGA Tour event for Toledo native Stacy Lewis before she takes time off to prepare for the arrival of a baby girl in early November.
She generally was displeased with her play in the tournament before a final-round 66 sent her out with brightened spirits.
“It definitely makes walking away a lot easier, just posting a good number, finally, this week, and just really hitting it better,” Lewis said. “I hadn’t hit it that good all week. And, seeing putts go in and giving the fans something to cheer about.
“I was surprised to hit a par 5 in two. I hadn’t done that with this belly in a while, so I was pretty happy with that.”
Lewis said she’s had to adjust her putting stroke while pregnant, but the biggest issue was her stamina.
“This week’s been hard,” she said. “I’ve been having to compensate a lot and make a lot of adjustments. So, it’s time to shut it down.”
Her first stop after leaving the tournament will be Poppy Hills Golf Course in California, where her husband, Gerrod Chadwell, the women’s golf course at the University of Houston, will be recruiting.
Then it’s home to Houston to put together a nursery.
“I think I’ve been home a week and a half in the last three months,” Lewis said. “I ordered things, so it’s going to be like a baby shower when I get home.”