BREATHLESS FASSI EXCITED TO BE AT SHOPRITE LPGA CLASSIC
Maria Fassi has barely had time to catch her breath after a barnstorming run of success over the past two months and the Mexican is looking forward to taking next week off - hopefully after another successful outing at this week's ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Fassi finished second at the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur in early April, clinched the individual title for the University of Arkansas women's golf team just six weeks later at the NCAA National Championship, then finished a highly creditable T12 at last week's U.S. Women's Open on her debut as an LPGA Tour member.
"For me, it's been kind of easy, if you will, because I haven't really had time to think about anything," smiled Fassi, when asked how she had handled the transition from college life to the LPGA Tour. "It's just been so fast that going from one tournament to the other ... it just hasn't hit me yet. I'm taking next week off, and that's kind of when I'll have some time to settle in and actually realize that I'm on Tour now, that I'm playing in the big leagues and doing what I love most."
Fassi is itching to tee it up in her first regular LPGA Tour event as a rookie, especially given that the ShopRite LPGA Classic is a well-established tournament celebrating its 25th edition this week. "It just means a lot because I know how much history there is behind this event," she said. "I know (fellow University of Arkansas alumna) Stacy (Lewis) won it a couple times (in 2012 and 2014)... it's just nice to see Razorbacks winning and being part of the tournament's history. This week is going to be very special in some way to me...I'm excited."
Fassi tees off No. 10 tomorrow at 1:21 p.m. with Madelene Sagstrom and Austin Ernst.
KUPCHO’S FINDING HER WAY IN SECOND PROFESSIONAL START
After being thrust into the national spotlight as the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion, 2019 LPGA Tour rookie Jennifer Kupcho is still finding her footing in her second professional start this week at the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer.
After earning her LPGA Tour card through Q-Series in October, the 2018 NCAA Individual Champion at Wake Forest, deferred her LPGA status so she could complete her degree in Communications. Not only did she earn her degree, but she ended up leading the Demon Deacons to a conference title and NCAA match-play berth for the first time in school history and gaining what she deems invaluable experience over the four years.
“I definitely changed a lot as a person. I was very introverted, where now I'm pretty outspoken and outgoing. I think it changed a lot in my personality, and then my golf game improved so much just because you're required to be at practice at this time and do these drills, so it's really structured, and I think that's what I needed to have.”
Kupcho made the cut in her professional debut at last week’s U.S. Women’s Open finishing in a tie for 62nd and is looking forward to building on that experience and learning about life on Tour.
“It's just been like a whirlwind,” she said. “So many things going on, and really just -- it's unbelievable all the things that you have to do and all the travel plans and talking to people. It's kind of just a whirlwind and trying to keep focused on golf, as well.”
Kupcho will tee off the first round on Friday at 7:48 a.m. alongside sponsor invite Virginia Elena Carta and fellow Demon Deacon Cheyenne Woods.
VIRGINIA ELENA CARTA’S SUMMER BEGINS AT SHOPRITE
Virginia Elena Carta may be a sponsor exemption for the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, but she will not be competing without some friendly support. Carta will have a familiar face on her bag this week in Duke University teammate, Gina Kim. Kim, who earned Low Amateur honors at the U.S. Women’s Open and placed T-12 at -1, made the promise weeks before.
“I was telling her, ‘oh, I don't know who's going to be caddying for me at the ShopRite.’ And she just said, ‘oh, maybe I can caddie for you.’ And I did not expect her to say that just because I knew she was going to the U.S. Women’s Open, so I was pretty sure she was going to be a little tired,” said Carta. “It's just great that she wanted to come, and she was very excited about it, and she was out there with me at the pro-am yesterday, and we had a lot of fun, so it's nice to have a friend on the bag.”
Competing as an amateur since graduating from Duke, her road to becoming a professional on the LPGA Tour will take some time. Carta said her plan is to play in events this summer like the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana where she is a sponsor invite, the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the first stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament. But after a summer of golf, Carta will head to the University of Cambridge for 10 months to get her master’s degree in environmental policy, with a focus on sustainable development and small-scale farming.
Carta said she made the decision to go to Cambridge to pursue her passion in understanding development around agriculture within local communities. “I think it's a good time for me to just get a master's and then I think it's going to give me the opportunity to once I'm done, turn pro, and just being a professional golfer knowing that I have a master's degree in my pocket, and I think it's just going to give me much more freedom and just peace of mind for my game, as well. So I think it's a good combination,” said Carta.
For now, Carta will focus on doing well on the Bay Course this week, as she starts off her busy summer schedule. “It's definitely a different course than any course we play in college golf or as professional players than any other LPGA events. It has more of a linksey look for it,” said Carta. “Depending on the wind, because what I've heard is the wind comes from the bay in the afternoon, but in the morning it goes into the bay, so holes are going to be changing a lot.”
SPECIAL 25TH ANNIVERSARY TOAST TO THE SMUCKER LPGA CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER
As red and blue balloons bobbed and weaved around them, LPGA Tour mothers and their children raised a special toast to The J.M. Smucker Company on Thursday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its support for the LPGA Child Development Center, which in 1993 became the first traveling childcare center in the world of professional sports.
Former Rolex Rankings No. 1 Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller, Rachel Rohanna and Danah Bordner - along with their young ones - were among those who gathered in a spacious suite at the Seaview Hotel to thank The J.M. Smucker Company for their longstanding partnership with the LPGA before heartily tucking into an anniversary cake and several cupcakes.
"Gosh, there's no way I could do what I'm doing (on the LPGA Tour) without the day care," said Lewis, who started using the childcare center during the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in mid-January. "To have someone travel with you full-time or to have a nanny, it doesn't really seem possible. I know (her daughter) Chesnee is safe in the day care. I know that she's developed quicker because of being in day care, and there's just so many positives from it. I just can't thank Smucker enough."
The Smucker LPGA Child Development Center has provided childcare services to LPGA athletes and staff since its inception and has been invaluable in helping the LPGA's athlete moms continue their careers after having children. Three full-time credentialed child development staff members, led by the center’s director, Bardine May, travel to each LPGA Tour event in North America to provide consistent care and education for the children of players. The facility is also supported by temporary credentialed staff and volunteers. This year, the Smucker LPGA Child Development Center will travel to 21 LPGA tournaments in North America.
The timing could not be more perfect for the center's 25th anniversary celebration as the LPGA experiences a 'Baby Boom' with eight new arrivals being welcomed to the Tour family over the past two years. Eleven mothers are currently competing on the LPGA Tour and that trend is set to continue this year with Sarah Jane Smith, Jackie Stoelting and Brittany Lincicome all expecting babies in 2019. This week alone at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, eight mothers are using the LPGA Child Development Center where a total of 11 kids are being looked after by May and her colleagues.
NANCY STUHLER NOMINATED FOR AXA LPGA VOLUNTEER SERVICE AWARD
The AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award is a program launched in 2018 to recognize exemplary volunteers at each LPGA tournament. This week’s award recipient is Nancy Stuhler, who has assisted with the Girl Scout volunteers as the Chair for Girl Scouts.
After the 2019 season, the name of one AXA LPGA Volunteer Award recipient will be drawn in a random selection. That winning volunteer’s tournament charity will be awarded $10,000 on behalf of AXA.