Arkansas’ Maria Fassi and Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho, the last two winners of the NCAA individual championship, were already destined to be linked as they embarked on their professional golf careers. But the USGA made that even more so when it announced on Friday that the duo will be playing together as they each make their pro debut at next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston in South Carolina.
The full groupings for the championship will be released on Saturday. One of the few other threesomes announced was the pairing of last year's U.S. Women’s Open champion Ariya Jutanugarn will compete alongside Sung Hyun Park and Lexi Thompson.
Both Fassi and Kupcho just wrapped up their senior seasons in college this past week at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark. On her home college course, Fassi took medalist honors, the 10th individual victory of her college career, which also locked up WGCA national player-of-the-year award. Kupcho helped her team reach the NCAA finals for the first time in school history, the Demon Deacons then falling to Duke in the championship match.
Their parallel paths though go back to last fall, when the two competed as amateurs at LPGA Q Series last November. Each played well enough in the two-week, eight-round affair to earn an LPGA card for 2019, but they both defered membership to return to school for their final semester.
The decision to remain amateurs allowed both to accept invitations into the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, where they provided the tournament with a mesmerizing final-round showdown in the last twosome at Augusta National. Kupcho eventually pulled out the win with a closing 67, beating Fassi by four strokes. But both earned accolades for they friendly yet competitive spirit they displayed throughout the championship.
“Coming out of it with Maria in the final group with me, I think both of us kind of just wanted to send the message that golf is about having friends, and to be out there with her, we were cheering each other on, and that's kind of how golf is supposed to be,” Kupcho said after her finish at Augusta. “And to make it look fun; it is fun. So to make it look that way for everyone watching, I hope it encourages people to pick up a club and go play.”
The pair will hope to do more of the same next week at CC of Charleston.