World No.1 Jennifer Kupcho and 16-year-old Zoe Campos found themselves tied atop the leader board with matching 68s after the opening round of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur on Wednesday.
Kupcho, who was accorded the honour of hitting the first shot in the history of the championship, compiled a bogey-free round of four-under-par at Champions Retreat Golf Club. She was later joined at that score by Campos.
Another invitee, South Africa’s Kaleigh Telfer, birdied the 9th hole – her last – from 15 feet to secure solo third place at three-under-par 69.
Spain’s Marta Perez, who made the first eagle in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur – an eagle-two, in fact, on the par-4 7th hole when she drove the green and made a nine-foot putt – is tied for fourth at 70 along with the 2018 ANNIKA Award winner Maria Fassi of Mexico, Alessandra Fanali of Italy and Maja Stark of Sweden.
The top-30 players at the end of second round on Thursday advance to the third and final round, which will be played at Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday. However, all 72 players get the opportunity to play a practice round at the course on Friday.
Kupcho, a 21-year-old senior at Wake Forest, who has deferred joining the LPGA despite finishing second in the Q-Series last year, has been in fine form coming into the championship. She won the individual titles at the Tar Heel Classic and Bryan National Collegiate in the last two weeks and was a combined 26-under par for her last six rounds entering today.
“I think this is the first time ever when I had no bogeys and hit 18 greens together … So probably the first perfect round I’ve played.” – Jennifer Kupcho
At Champions Retreat, she followed it up with what she called a “perfect round” – all 18 greens hit in regulation and no bogeys.
“I think this is the first time ever when I had no bogeys and hit 18 greens together … So probably the first perfect round I’ve played,” said Kupcho, who made just one birdie on her first nine, courtesy of a laser-guided 5-iron shot to seven feet on the par-3 8th, and three on the tougher second nine.
“Obviously, I could have made a few more putts. I had a lot of pretty decent putts, like 20 feet and in, so I could have made more, but you can’t ask to make everything on these greens. They are really hard to read.”
Kupcho said at the start of the championship that she has been concentrating on her lag putting ahead of playing at Augusta National Golf Club, and that effort seems to be paying off. Including her round today, she has now gone 83 consecutive holes without a three-putt, she said.
“I have always struggled with three-putting,” added Kupcho. “That was one of the big things when I was a freshman and sophomore. I was looking at Leona Maguire, and every time she would have less than one three-putt, she won a tournament.
“That's what I need to improve and that's what I've been working on a lot.”
Campos, from Valencia, Calif., made two bogeys, but six birdies ensured that the 2016 and 2018 AJGA Alison Lee Championship winner finished on top of the leader board.
“I had a slow start with my putting, but I got it going during the middle and towards the end. I also felt like my swing was on point today,” Campos said.
“My first birdie was on the par-3 6th hole where I hit a really good shot right at the pin and made a 10-footer. That was when I knew I was going to have a good day. I just kept rolling my putts and everything felt really good.” – Zoe Campos
“My first birdie was on the par-3 6th hole where I hit a really good shot right at the pin and made a 10-footer. That was when I knew I was going to have a good day. I just kept rolling my putts and everything felt really good.”
Campos felt the round was a result of all the extended hours of hard work she put into her game since receiving her invitation.
“Ever since I got that call, my practice started getting longer and more focused. It was more than just having fun out there,” she added.
“I would practice after school, like four to five hours a day. I always go and chip first and I go hit and then I go putt, each about like an hour-and-a-half. It would be a long day, but it was worth it.”
Telfer, playing with her Auburn University coach Andrew Pratt on her bag, credited the last birdie to her caddie.
“On the last, he told me, ‘Just finish strong.’ I hit three good shots and was 15 feet from the hole and he gave me a great read,” said the 20-year-old from Kyalami.
“It was a very satisfying first round, especially as I got a special invite. I was disappointed when the first list came out because I missed it narrowly. And then to get the call from Augusta National was amazing. I am so looking forward to tomorrow now.”
Seven players are tied for eighth place at one-under-par 71 as 14 players broke par on the opening day of the championship.
Australian Julienne Soo struggled in the first round, carding nine-over 81 after covering her first nine in seven over.