Jennifer Kupcho sweeps Michigan LPGA titles in 2022 and finds chemistry with Lizette Salas at Dow

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Midland, Mich. – If our state ever seeks a new “Pure Michigan” narrator, Jennifer Kupcho just might have what it takes.

Kupcho picked up her second LPGA win in Michigan in just a month, teaming up with Lizette Salas, winners for the first time in eight long years, as the pair dominated the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational Tag Team Tournament at Midland Country Club. . Kupcho and Salas shot 9-under 61 in the final round on Saturday, to end the week at 26 under, good for a win in five strokes.

They held off several tough teams, including Stacy Lewis and Dow Ambassador Maria Fassi, who finished with a 59 in the final round, and the Korda sisters, Nelly and Jessica, who finished with a 60.

For Kupcho, 25, it’s her third LPGA victory all season, the first being a major – the Chevron in April – and the second last month just outside Grand Rapids, where she won the Meijer LPGA Classic in the playoffs. With Saturday’s win, she becomes the first golfer to win multiple tournaments in Michigan in the same year since Roger Chapman won the Senior PGA and Senior US Open in 2012 at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor and Indianwood in Lake Orion, respectively. .

“It sure does,” Kupcho said at the closing ceremony on the 18th green, crying when asked if he enjoyed golfing in Michigan. “It’s always been so comfortable for me.”

Kupcho is the first three-time LPGA winner this season.

For Salas, the Dow was his second LPGA victory, and the first since Kingsmill in May 2014 – a span of eight years, one month and 28 days. His best result on tour this season was a tie for 16th.

“It’s been a long time, and I couldn’t have done it without her,” Salas said, nodding at Kupcho. “It’s been a long journey, full of ups and downs. This is a great birthday present for me, so thank you.”

Salas turns 33 on Sunday.

The duo, named ‘Youth on Course’ after a favorite charity, were playing in the Dow Jones together for the first time, reviving their successful couple from last fall’s Solheim Cup group in Toledo. In the Solheim Cup, Kupcho, up to No. 9 in the world rankings, and Salas formed a rare partnership that flourished in the resounding victory for the European team. There they won two of their three matches, and halved the other.

“They developed really good chemistry last year, to the point that the first game they played together last year, they came out of the golf course and said, ‘Don’t tear us apart’,” he said. said Lewis, assistant captain in 2021, and chief captain of the Solheim Cup in 2023.

“I was delighted to see that they had decided to play together again.”

Lizette Salas, left, and Jennifer Kupcho enjoy bubbles after sealing their win at the LPGA's Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational at Midland on Saturday.

Interestingly, Salas and Kupcho barely knew each other before the Solheim Cup last autumn in Inverness, but were placed in a group of four together, drew together – and the chemistry was there, just like during the week at Dow. Salas pointed it out, the duo remain undefeated. Lewis even stood close to the bridge as they made their way to the 18th green.

This tournament was not match play, like the Solheim, but used similar formats, including alternate shot in the first and third rounds (68 and 64) and best ball in the second and fourth rounds (61 and 61). They took a four-stroke lead in the final round, and no team ever came within two strokes of the lead all day Saturday. Once Kupcho and Salas made the rounds, neither team was within four.

“I think it started with no music in the car,” said Salas, who was asked to describe the level of excitement in their run on Saturday, “and then towards the end we bumped heads, enjoying really the moment.

“It was fun going down the stretch.”

Lewis and Fassi were within two shots early in Saturday’s round, with six birdies in their first seven holes, and the Kordas were within two as well, as they were a scorching 9 under through 12 holes. Each time, Salas quickly birdied to push the lead to three shots. Then, after a birdie from Kupcho on the par-3 seventh and another birdie from Salas on the par-4 eighth, the lead was five, and the rest was a breeze.

After Nelly Korda hit the short par-4 12th to get to 9 under – she hit her tee shot straight on the stick and nearly got it, before driving the putt back right-to-left 20 feet – they parried five in a row to stop the return momentum. Nelly Korda hit it from 3 feet on the 18th for a birdie to cap a 10-under 60, 17 under for the tournament – ​​par in alternate shot, 17 under on best ball. On her own Saturday, Nelly Korda shot 61.

They finished tied for sixth.

Matilda Castren and Kelly Tan finished alone in second place at 21 under after a 61. They birdied five in a row to start the back nine, and birdied the 18th when Castren nearly made an ace.

“We’re not going to Burger King tonight!” shouted a friend of Castren and Tan as they made their way to the clubhouse after their game.

Lewis and Fassi finished third at 20 under, after an 11-birdie 59 on Saturday – matching the only run of the week. It was Lewis’ best result since his last victory, at the Scottish Open in August 2020.

Cheyenne Knight and Elizabeth Szokol are tied for fourth at 19 under after a 61, with Tiffany Chan and Haeji King after a 62. Narin An and Hye-Jin Choi are tied for sixth at 18 under, after a 61, with Pauline Roussin and Dewi Weber, who finished with 63.

Nelly Korda plays her approach shot on the fifth hole Saturday at Midland.

The two World Golf Hall of Famers on the course made the cut – Karrie Webb, 47, playing with Marina Alex and tied for 15th at 15 under, and Annika Sorenstam, 51, playing with Madelene Sagstrom , tied for 28th at 11 under. Sorenstam and Sagstrom were actually ahead after the first round at Midland, a first for Sorenstam on the LPGA since retiring in 2008.

Webb and Sorenstam, kickstarting their competitive careers a bit while refusing to use the word “comeback,” will kick off next week at the LPGA Senior Championship in Kansas, for women 45 and older.

“I love this format,” Sorenstam said. “We don’t get the chance to play as a team, and actually I really don’t play much, so playing as a team was really fun.

“It’s just great to be here.”

Kupcho, of Colorado, and Salas, of California, will split the top prize of $607,620. That check pushes Salas, ranked No. 40 in the world, to surpass $7 million in career earnings.

Kupcho and Salas shared a long hug after closing with a par, ending one of the tournament records. No matter. The celebration was officially launched, as fellow LPGA players showered them with champagne before signing their scorecards. Salas grabbed one of the bottles and took a big sip. A pipe band played on the 18th green ahead of the closing ceremony, with loudspeakers blaring Queen’s “We are the Champions” and then Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” as Kupcho and Salas hoisted their glass trophies in plain sight.

It was the third game for the Dow Jones, which debuted in 2019 and was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. This week the LPGA extended its deal with the Great Lakes Bay Invitational through 2029, thanks to a successful first run at Midland, which features big galleries, dancing and loud music behind the 18th green of the island, where each team is welcomed by its hand. chosen accompaniment song.

“I was a little nervous coming in today, just because I didn’t want to let her down,” Kupcho said. “At the end of the day, I think it really calmed us down to be around each other. It’s really amazing.”

The Dow Jones ended on a Saturday, rather than the traditional Sunday, to allow players an extra day of travel to France, site of next week’s LPGA major, the Evian Championship. However, another major tournament, the women’s British Open, takes place two weeks after the Evian, in Scotland. It’s far from my place.

Then again, Michigan is for many players too – not that it’s the case these days for Kupcho.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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