They made for a dynamic duo in match play at the 2021 Solheim Cup, a team whose diverse strengths and direct chemistry made them almost unbeatable. Now, Jennifer Kupcho and Lizette Salas hope to rekindle that magic in stroke play at the 2022 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. A lot has changed in the 10 months since Solheim Cup veteran Salas took rookie Kupcho under her wing and the team went 2-0-1 in Toledo, Ohio. They proved to be a bright spot during a bleak week for Team USA.
Salas and Kupcho came back from 2-down in their first fourball outing to defeat Carlota Ciganda and Sophia Popov. Then the Americans stopped the red-hot European team of Anna Nordqvist and Matilda Castren in foursomes. Were it not for an extraordinary (and a little bit lucky) birdie on the final hole by Mel Reid, Kupcho and Salas would have gone 3-0. In the final fourball match of the week, Reid hit an approach on 18 that caught just enough of the high grass to kick her ball to three feet. That birdie allowed the Europeans to tie the match.
“Well, this one [Jennifer] here is ice cold,” Salas said of her partner in 2021. “I don’t have to tell her anything. She was reading putts for me, just all around an amazing team player. I did what I could, and we got the job done together.”
“I definitely thrive under this [pressure],” Kupcho said of her first Solheim experience. “It’s so fun to hear the crowd roar. As a rookie, it’s super exciting for me. I love the sound of it. I’ll keep doing it, hopefully. I just kept telling myself that we can turn it around.”
At that time, Kupcho was talking about her Solheim Cup matches, not her career. But since then, she has gone from a winless, third-year pro with great ball-striking skills and a ton of potential to a two-time winner and major champion. She captured her maiden title at the 2022 Chevron Championship, held on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Then in June, she won the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give in a playoff with Leona Maguire and Nelly Korda.
Today Kupcho ranks fifth on the LPGA Tour in greens in regulation and is in the top 10 in birdies and eagles. That explains her meteoric rise from 53rd to 9th in the Rolex Rankings.
Salas is ranked 41st in the Rolex Rankings and has struggled much of the spring and summer. But, as the matches at Inverness Club proved last year, team golf is different. Given their history and chemistry, expect the team of Salas and Kupcho to be dynamic again in Midland.