Inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion Jennifer Kupcho believes the tournament will change the course of women’s golf after her victory at the home of the Masters.
Amateur world No.1 Kupcho became the first woman to win an event at 86-year-old Augusta National Golf Club – which did not have a female member until 2012.
The first two rounds of the 54-hole event were played at nearby Champions Retreat before the top 30 contested the final day on the famed Augusta layout on Saturday.
Australian Julienne Soo missed the cut after rounds of 81 and 77 but still got to play Augusta on Friday, as the full field of 72 players had the opportunity to play a practice round.
“I actually wasn’t that nervous and I ended up playing better than the last two days,” Soo told Golf Australia moments after the hike up the 18th.
The event was seen as a landmark moment for women’s golf and Kupcho’s performance was equally as special as she duelled with final-round playing partner Maria Fassi of Mexico.
Reigning NCAA champion Kupcho, 21, was two shots behind Fassi through 12 holes but she made eagle at the par-five 13th and added three late birdies to ice a four-shot victory.
“To be able to get the first win, it’s a feeling I can’t describe,” Kupcho said after her five-under-par 67 gave her a 10-under total.
Fassi shot 70 to finish second at six under, while the Philippines’ Yuka Saso (69) and Japan’s Yuka Yasuda (72) tied for third at two under.
The event was lauded a success by Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley, despite it coming under heavy criticism when announced at last year’s Masters.
Australian seven-time major winner Karrie Webb was among those who questioned why it would clash with the LPGA Tour’s ANA Inspiration – the first women’s major championship of the year.
Four amateurs eligible to play at Augusta declined in favour of the ANA in California, whose third round was played on Saturday.
“Why put them with such a [tough] decision?” Webb posted on social media at the time.
Kupcho and Fassi both earned LPGA Tour cards from qualifying school last year but deferred their status until later in 2019.
Kupcho said future editions of the Augusta event would influence more women to delay turning pro. “Yeah, I would think so. It said something that the top two players [at Augusta] were the two that decided not to turn [pro],” she said.
Kupcho was presented the winner’s trophy by Ridley in the Butler Cabin – the room in which the Masters champion receives the green jacket.
“You are now a part of Augusta National’s history, along with the great Masters champions,” Ridley said.
Kupcho believes the event will strengthen women’s golf.
“There were so many people [in attendance]; it’s really started a movement in women’s golf,” she said.