Match 11 at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards was a showdown between two former collegiate national champions, Emma Talley and Jennifer Kupcho. Talley got off to a hot start at Shadow Creek on Wednesday, notching birdies on holes 2 and 4 to take an early lead and went 4 up after a birdie on No. 8 and an eagle on No. 9. Kupcho made a par and a birdie on the next two to get a couple of shots back but just couldn’t regain her footing, falling to Talley, 2 and 1.
“I came out strong and that really helped the day, set the tone for myself,” said Talley who made four birdies and an eagle on day one, with match-play concessions. “Jen is a really good player and that gave me some confidence in the first few holes. I think I shot 5 or 6 under on the front nine which, man, I would take that any day. I did something I usually don't do. Last night I looked at where all the pins were and made a game plan just because then you don't have to constantly be thinking when you get up there because you got to think around this golf course. I played well today. Hopefully, that continues.”
Ahead of the week in Las Vegas, Talley found herself glued to her television Sunday afternoon watching fellow Kentuckian and University of Alabama alum Justin Thomas make an improbable comeback to win his second PGA Championship in a playoff over Will Zalatoris. Kentucky roots run deep and considering the two had comparable junior and amateur careers, it was extra inspiring for Talley to watch her friend win another major title on the PGA Tour.
“I was watching the last round, and I usually don't do this, but I listened to everything he said until he literally walked off the camera,” she said. “I looked at Patrick, my fiancé, and said, ‘Man, this gives me so much motivation.’ Up until when we turned pro, we were doing the same things and I think he has 15 wins now and I have zero, so I have a lot of catching up to do. But it's great watching him. I got chills watching his family. They're so sweet and it was so exciting to see a Kentucky boy win again.”
Tomorrow, Talley will face another major champion in 2023 U.S. Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis,who said in her pre-tournament press conference that she’ll be doing a little scouting this week in Vegas. Though she was a member of the 2008 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team, Talley has never made a Solheim Cup squad and is looking forward to the opportunity to impress – and maybe even beat – Captain Lewis.
“Stacy has been a mentor to me for a long time,” said Talley. “When I turned pro she took me out to dinner, her and her husband, and sat me down and gave me the ins and outs. The whole goal this year was to get on Solheim Cup. I'm pretty far out right now, but like I said, I feel good about my game. Excited to play against her and hopefully beat the captain.”