World No. 1 Jennifer Kupcho leads by one as players reset ahead of Saturday's highly anticipated final round at Augusta National
Did the hard part of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur just happen? Or is it about to come? The answer to the question likely depends on which side of the cut line your found yourself on Thursday evening.
For the 30 golfers who have one more round to play after 36 holes at Champions Retreat, the goal of playing the final 18 in two day’s time at Augusta National Golf Club had been accomplished. But Saturday is now set to become one of the most exciting/nervous/amazing/tense days in their competitive careers.
“I think for me, because I've played in the U.S. Open and the Marathon Classic, I've kind of been around that. So I think it wont’ be too bad,” said Wake Forest senior Jennifer Kupcho, whose Thursday 71 left her with a one-stroke lead over Maria Fassi at five-under 139. “I mean, it might be different when I get there, and there's all the fans watching us, but for right now, I think it will be OK.”
Of course, it beats the alternative, as 42 players will be left wondering what might have been. The list included some familiar names: junior standout Alexa Pano (four over), college All-American Dylan Kim (five over) and former NCAA champion Virginia Elena Carta (nine over).
To advance to Saturday’s you needed to shoot a three-over 147. And then you had to survive a 11 player for 10 spots playoff. The odd woman out, sadly, was Alessia Nobilio of Italy.
The consolation: All 72 players will get to play a practice round on Friday at Augusta National (with the forecast unfortunately calling for rain), as the competition pauses a day, allowing everybody to catch their breath.
Ten players was within five strokes of Kupcho, the reigning NCAA champions and the No. 1 ranked female amateur in the world, who bogeyed two of her last five holes, her only two bogeys so far this week, to bring the field back into the mix. Fassi, a 21-year-old from Mexico, shot a second-straight 70 to sit just behind Kupcho.
Two strokes off the lead is Sierra Brooks, Kaitlyn Papp and Pimnipa Panthong.
Each will try to glean as much local knowledge as possible on Friday in anticipation for Saturday’s final round, where four living legends of women’s golf—Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and Se Ri Pak—will kick off play with a special first-tee ceremony.
“I think it's amazing that not only I get to play at Augusta National, but I get to play it in front of the amount of people that there's going to be out there; that I get to play in front of people I admire so much as Lorena, Annika, Nancy, Se Ri Pak, they are all amazing. You can't choose one to be the most amazing one,” Fassi said. “So it's going to be really exciting to be out there, and hopefully we can put up a show for them and for everyone that's out there. I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I know I'll be having a lot of fun. So hopefully golf follows, and I post a good round out there, as well.”