01 Dec 2022 | Australian Open |
Kupcho out to extend international dominance
by Australian Golf Media
By Tony Webeck
She is counting down the days to the end of a breakthrough season but American LPGA star Jennifer Kupcho first wants a special souvenir from her first trip to Australia.
Kupcho will tee off with Australian stars Minjee Lee and Stephanie Kyriacou in Round 1 of the Women’s Australian Open at Victoria Golf Club on Thursday afternoon before moving across to Kingston Heath on Friday.
Following her arrival into the country on Monday, Kupcho has been familiarising herself with the intricacies of golf on the Melbourne sandbelt, a style she concedes is foreign to anything she has played in her home country.
But if the best of the Aussies expect to have home-ground advantage, a look at the records shows otherwise.
Since the inaugural Women’s Australian Open in 1974, only three Australians have triumphed in the 29 championships contested.
Five-time winner Karrie Webb, Jan Stephenson (1977) and Jane Crafter (1977) are the only Australians to have lifted the Patricia Bridges Bowl and Kupcho shapes as a genuine threat to extend the reign of the foreign raiders.
The No.13-ranked player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking, Kupcho won three times on the LPGA Tour this year including the first major of the year, the Chevron Championship at Mission Hills.
The 25-year-old is becoming accustomed to featuring as a headline act but knows she will have to fight through fatigue to leave with the silverware.
“Obviously it would be an honour to win any golf tournament but definitely big names have won this tournament, especially back when a lot of LPGA players used to come,” Kupcho said.
“That would be super cool.
“I’m just really excited to be here. It’s quite an experience to get to come here, I’m blessed to be able to do this job but I’m definitely very tired. It’s been a very long year and I’m definitely looking forward to some time off and some rest and recovery.
“You look and I am one of the top names in the field but again I’m just really glad to be here.
“I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I’m obviously very tired and coming to the end of my year so if it doesn’t go well, it doesn’t go well but obviously always want to play well.”
Former international winners in the field include Korea’s Jiyai Shin (2013) and Dame Laura Davies, a two-time winner in 2004 (Metropolitan) and 2009 (Concord).
A four-time major champion, Davies won 87 times around the world and considers her two Australian Opens as among the highlights of her career.
“It’s a prestigious Open. I would say that obviously that the British Open, US Open… the Aussie Open is up there as a tournament you would really like to win.
“You would rather have it on your resume than not, I can tell you that for nothing.
“Any time you win a national open it’s pretty special, especially winning down here on the golf courses of the sandbelt.”
Galleries are expected to flood in to both Victoria and Kingston Heath to see current major winners Cameron Smith and Minjee Lee play in consecutive groups the next two days.
They will be cheering for a couple of local champions, just as Davies experienced in the hey day of Karrie Webb at the turn of the century.
“The galleries were huge. It was just really good fun. It was a good atmosphere,” said Davies of Webb’s wins in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2014.
“Obviously they all wanted Karrie to win but they were very respectful to the other international players that were trying to knock her off.
“Annika dusted her a couple of times around Royal Pines but it was always about ‘Webby’ and whether she could win or not.
“When she comes home she’s won a lot of tournaments down here obviously and it was fun to be involved with all that crowd and all the excitement that goes around Karrie.”
Other international players seeking their own slice of history include two-time major winner So Yeon Ryu, reigning AIG Women’s Open champ Ashleigh Buhai, two-time LPGA Tour winner Marina Alex and Kiwi Momoka Kobori.
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