What it's like to watch your daughter play Augusta National
AUGUSTA, Ga. — What happened at Augusta National on Saturday was unlike anything women's amateur golf had ever seen. The course was packed. Patrons were jockeying for a spot to see the final pairing as if they were at a PGA Tour event. The cheers for eventual champ Jennifer Kupcho's eagle at 13 "Masterfully" echoed throughout the property. Same with those that accompanied Kupcho's icing-on-the-cake 18th-hole birdie to cap her four-stroke win.
Amid the huge crowds, however, was a subset of fans who weren't quite as exuberant as the rest. If you followed a group for a couple holes, you no doubt noticed them. They watch with a more sincere focus, they're not chit-chatting as much, they usually walk either fast or somewhat isolated—sometimes both.
Meet the parents.
The mothers and fathers of the competitors at the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur knew full well that this was would be the biggest event their daughters have ever played in. In turn, it was the biggest event they would ever see their daughters play in, as well, which means they too were attempting to process the fact that they were making history, playing Augusta National.
Suffice it to say, it was a lot for them to take in.
Walking down the ninth fairway, with her daughter tied for the lead, Janet Kupcho said this is the probably most nervous she's ever been watching Jennifer play. And that's including some very stressful NCAA Championships.
"I’m nervous. It’s tight, and this event is so big, there are lots of people," Kupcho said. "She’s played two U.S. Women's Opens, but the crowds here are unbelievable. It’s an incredible building block for women’s golf."
That's what parents are processing as they watch. There's the singular focus of watching their daughter play a tournament, and there's the historic significance of their daughter playing in the event. Both are a point of pride, but both can be a source of nerves. It's an emotionally charged day.
"It’s a dream come true, it’s something we’ve never imaged," said Kupcho. "These young ladies are fabulous golfers. They’ve become very close friends. After Jennifer hit one so close on six, they hugged. That’s what this is all about."
Michelle Moore, whose daughter Haley helped Arizona win the NCAA women's title last spring, understood the gravity of Augusta National Women's Amateur and used it to take a little of the stress off of her daughter, who started the day at even, and ultimately stayed there after shooting 72, finishing in a tie for seventh, 10 shots back of Kupcho.
"She’s been putting a lot of pressure on herself [in college], wanting to play well for the team and not let them down," Moore said. "I told her before her round that this was for her, individually, and that she deserved it. I wanted her to absorb this day and this week. I told her that whatever happens, you were one of the 30 to play Augusta National in the inaugural event, and that’s something to be proud of."
Moore said that she found herself oddly at ease on the grounds at Augusta National.
"I was exceptionally calm today. I’m normally a nervous wreck," Moore said. "I was more nervous the first two rounds. But then when she made the cut, I just wanted her to enjoy it."
Sierra Brooks' dad, Brent, had a closer look than most parents did—he was on the bag. He has caddied for his daughter, the U.S. Women's Amateur runner-up in 2015, in other events, and carried the first two rounds of this tournament at Champions Retreat. Before the final round at Augusta National, Sierra was considering using a local caddie instead of keeping her dad on the bag. Ultimately, she chose her dad and shot a four-over 76 to finish T-10.
"This is so different," said Brooks of his experience. "Golf is golf, it’s the same job as caddie, but the history being made here, that put more weight on it. Looking out from inside the ropes, the support of the fans was unlike anything we’ve seen. I was getting more emotional and sentimental than I usually would, at points I was tearing up."
At the end of a day as big as this one was, nobody's going to blame dad for shedding a few tears.