RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Jennifer Kupcho made the final leap into Poppie’s Pond as the sun slipped behind the mountains surrounding the Coachella Valley on Sunday evening. And as the shadows grew long across the 18th green of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course, the past champions who had gathered there to witness the final playing of the Chevron Championship, made one last plunge into the pool.
As the LPGA Tour closes what had been a formative chapter in the early years of the organization’s growth, with its move away from Mission Hills, it seemed only fitting that Kupcho, whose young career has gone hand-in-hand with history, would be the final champion in Rancho Mirage.
Kupcho’s victory came just three days shy of the three-year anniversary of her win at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. It took nearly all that time for Kupcho to begin to grasp the significance of her win in Augusta and it could take years before the 24-year-old can begin to fully understand what it will have meant to become the last winner at Mission Hills.
“It's surreal to be able to say that I was the last person here and first person at Augusta,” Kupcho said while swaddled in a white, fluffy robe and matching slippers following her leap into Poppie’s Pond.
For the season’s first major championship, Kupcho painted her nails green in recognition of her win at the home of The Masters Tournament. She had found her own way to celebrate the win she had often been reluctant to discuss as she was eager to make a splash in the professional ranks.
“I think that's the biggest thing about it all was I kept getting asked about Augusta three years later. It's like, have you not seen what I've been doing out here?” Kupcho said, eager to be recognized for her growing prowess as a professional.
One day after Kupcho watched the final round of this year’s playing of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur on television she captured her first major title. Kupcho’s two biggest victories are the bookends to some of the most significant moments in women’s golf.
“I'm not sure I've actually embraced it, but I think I started to become more okay with it when I started getting closer to winning out here,” Kupcho said about her victory at Augusta. “Not that Augusta is not special, but now I'm a major champion. To add that to the list is something I've been wanting for a few years now.”
With her win, Kupcho joins Leona Maguire, Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Atthaya Thittikul as first-time winners in 2022. The newly minted major champion will have a week to bask in the joy of her long-awaited victory before the Tour returns to the sun-soaked island of Hawaii for the LOTTE Championship, which is being played for the first time at Hoakalei Country Club. And just over the horizon lies the season’s second major, the U.S. Women’s Open, which returns to Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in June.
As darkness fell over Mission Hills Country Club on Sunday, the LPGA Tour closed a chapter in its long and storied history. And while it’s tough to grasp what the new phase of this beloved major could look like in the years to come, with the new home of the championship in Texas still unknown, there's very much an optimism amongst the players. A sense of anticipation about what could be. And there’s comfort in the familiar, knowing that the sun will rise again, high above what will be the next chapter of the Chevron Championship.